|Mount Olive’s 2017 Renovation
We begin the story of Mount Olive’s 2017 renovation—an outgrowth of the congregation’s commitment to be carbon-neutral by 2030—in the church’s parking lot at 31st Street and Chicago Avenue.
|Parking spaces are now surrounded and separated by trees and planted areas. Efficient LED lighting makes it a safer space at night. But there is much more here than meets the eye.
This lot is also the heart of an ecofriendly geothermal heating and cooling system for the church building across the street.
|Deep below the surface of the lot are forty-eight wells, each more than 250 feet deep. A mixture of water and glycol continuously circulates through almost five miles of pipe buried in those wells. The mixture is warmed in the winter and cooled in the summer by the earth to its year-round temperature of forty-eight to fifty-five degrees, providing free, clean energy to heat and cool the church.|
|Weeds and Bees
The center section of the lot is a pollinator garden with native plants to attract and feed bees and butterflies. Urban areas are hostile to these vital creatures, but here they have a home each summer.
Carefully selected trees around the lot convert CO2 to oxygen.
|The lot is carefully graded to direct rainwater toward the Chicago Avenue driveways, where grates are located. Rainwater is collected in rain garden ponds on site, rather than flowing into the municipal storm sewers.|
|The geothermal wells, pollinator gardens, trees, efficient lighting, and rain gardens are all part of Mount Olive’s effort to care for the earth.
|Pipes and Pumps
But back to the geothermal system. From beneath the parking lot, the geothermal liquid is pumped to the church through large pipes deep under 31st Street, entering the building in a subbasement that once housed the huge boilers that heated the building, first with coal, then oil, and finally natural gas.
That equipment is all gone. What was known as “the boiler room” for more than eighty-five years is now a maze of pipes and pumps that distribute the earth-temperature geothermal liquid to eleven reversible heat pumps.
|In the winter, these units extract the energy provided by the earth to deliver warm air to the building. In the summer, the heat from the building is delivered to the cooler geothermal liquid, which eventually is cooled by the earth.
Two small, high-efficiency (98 percent) boilers that support the geothermal system and an equally efficient water heater are the only devices that use fossil fuel.
All these components are managed by a sophisticated computer program that keeps them operating at maximum efficiency.
|Sun and Stewardship
Another element of the renovation story is the array of solar panels on the Parish House roof. Especially during the summer, the panels produce more power than the congregation uses. Each year we return to the electrical grid about 21,000 kilowatt hours, substantially reducing the church’s energy bill.
|All this amazing technology helps us be better stewards of God’s creation and Mount Olive’s wonderful historic building.|