February 21, 2017
SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL ANNOUNCES THE LAUNCH OF A STATE-OF-THE-ART GEOTHERMAL PLANT
St. Patrick’s Cathedral inaugurated the final phase of the restoration with the full activation of a state-of-the-art geothermal plant this month. The February launch of the geothermal plant is the first in a series of upgrades slated for 2017 intended to adapt one of New York’s earliest and most impressive landmarks to the structural and environmental standards of twenty-first century urban life. The innovative engineering plan for the plant was carried out by the Cathedral’s design team, Murphy, Burnham, & Buttrick (“MBB”), Landmark Facilities Group, and PW Grosser, who developed and repurposed the existing infrastructure to harness clean, renewable power from an underground system of wells in order to regulate the temperature of the Cathedral and adjoining buildings with increased efficiency and a considerable reduction in CO2 emissions.
The Cathedral’s newly active geothermal plant is comprised of ten wells which have been drilled along the north and south sides of the Cathedral to a depth of up to 2,200 feet. This prodigious drilling project, which included four wells on New York’s 51st Street and six wells on 50th Street, was overseen by the prominent construction management firm, Structure Tone of New York. At the heart of the system is a Dedicated Heat Recovery Chiller which extracts thermal energy from the underground system of wells and distributes it throughout the campus for heating and cooling purposes. This is accomplished through a standing column hybrid open loop system. Structure Tone worked with Lane Associates to oversee the installation of the heat pump, as well as the sophisticated distribution network of heat exchangers, air handlers, and fan coils that extract and redirect heat through the 76,000 square feet of space. While most geothermal plants alternate between their warming and chilling functions, this plant is designed to automatically split its cooling and warming functions in order to simultaneously heat or cool the diverse areas it services. When fully activated, the central plant will be able to generate 2.9 million BTU’s per hour of air conditioning and 3.2 million BTU’s per hour of heating.
The engineering and design team of MBB, Landmark Facilities Group, Silman, and Langan Engineering, in close collaboration with Zubatkin Owner Representation, LLC and the construction manager, Structure Tone, Inc., were tasked with installing a comprehensive geothermal heating and cooling system while maintaining the rigorous standards for the historic preservation of one of New York’s most iconic structures. “At the outset, we evaluated a conventional HVAC system, but determined it would pose too many challenges for this historic building,” says Richard A. Sileo, Senior Engineer with Landmark Facilities Group. “We conducted a feasibility study and found that a geothermal system let us meet our goals with the smallest impact.” Work on the project commenced with the drilling of the wells in June 2015. The plant was finalized and ready to launch by February 2017.
The Archdiocese of New York and St. Patrick’s Cathedral saw in this project the opportunity to lead by example in choosing a sustainable energy solution. The geothermal plant represents not only the cleanest and most cost-effective long-term option for power, but also the most responsible. Cathedral Rector Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie noted, “A consistent
ethic of life does not compartmentalize these issues. It prioritizes life and the preservation of life at every level. One of the most basic ways in which we are called to do so is through responsible stewardship of our natural resources.” The decision on the part of the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Archdiocese of New York to pursue the geothermal option articulates a vision of restoration and preservation that extends beyond the celebrated walls of America’s Parish Church; one that will, hopefully, encourage business leaders and institutions to also consider renewable energy solutions.