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Miracle on 64th Street

Remember those holes to China that American children used to dig, one hand going down down down until the arm had disappeared to the shoulder? Imagine drillers digging farther, making two holes deeper than New York's World Trade Center is tall - no less than 1,500 feet into the warm bedrock of Manhattan. That's where a new 64th Street building will get its heat, an environmentally benign source appropriate for the nonprofit-foundation tenants. Appropriate also for a building intended to demonstrate the economic benefits of energy-saving technology.

By circulating water into and out of the holes, a geothermal system will provide heating, cooling, and hot water. It's a spectacular example of what's happening at thousands of other sites, where the heat stored in rock provides temperature stability. It recalls the old American "vernacular" architecture of settlers who built houses into the side of hills. As fossil fuels cloud the air elsewhere, it might be called a miracle on 64th Street.

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