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Efficient and Renewable Energy Systems

The Motherhouse had been exceptionally well-maintained prior to the renovation, but in spite of that, the building systems ran into the end of their useful lives or, like the electrical system, were sized for different needs. The scope of the renovation included replacement of all building systems with the most energy-efficient systems possible.

Geothermal system

Geothermal energy uses the Earth’s temperature for heating and cooling. Our 232-hole, closed-loop system provides efficient, renewable, and lower heating and cooling costs to the Motherhouse. The system takes advantage of the Earth’s steady 55-degree underground temperature. Water that is constantly circulated through the 54 miles of pipe is warmed or cooled by the Earth. In essence, the Earth is being utilized as a large radiator.

The geothermal system at the IHM Motherhouse is among the largest in the country. It reduced gas usage by 82 percent between fiscal years 1999-2000 and 2011-2012.

Energy-efficient heating system

We incorporated a number of strategies to insure an energy efficient approach to heat. Heat recovery units are located throughout the building. Anti-scald shower and bath fittings protect residents from water that is too hot. We selected glazing to balance the need for light transmission with desired insulating and shading performance. We optimized HVAC system efficiently by avoiding the oversizing of plant equipment.

Energy-efficient electrical technologies

The integration of energy technologies allowed us to achieve synergies not possible in a piecemeal approach.

In addition to the geothermal heating and cooling system, we also implemented electrical technologies to reduce the demand for electricity. These technologies include maximum use of daylight, high-performance lighting, compact fluorescent lighting, natural light control and programmed lighting.

Graywater recycling system

A separate piping system collects used water from sinks and showers in the Motherhouse. The pipes route the water to a constructed wetland on the campus. Mimicking nature’s purification system, the wetlands cleanse this water and recycle it back into the Motherhouse for flushing toilets.

In spite of adding 305 new bathrooms to the Motherhouse, the graywater system and the use of high-velocity, low-flow fixtures and fittings have reduced overall fresh water consumption by about 80 percent. Additionally, heat recovery units are located throughout the building. Anti-scald shower and bath fittings protect residents from water that is too hot.

Land Stewardship

Eleven acres of lawn were converted to meadow and prairie, improving the bio-diversity of the site and protecting existing natural habitat. (In 2010, The National Wildlife Federation declared the grounds as an official “Certified Wildlife Habitat” site.) The reduction in costs associated with mowing lawns results in lower consumption of non-renewable energy. In the parking lots, vegetated swales handle the storm water runoff.

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Understand why

Read about our commitment to sustainability and our long-term vision for the campus.

Take the tour

If you or your group would like to schedule a tour of the IHM Motherhouse, please contact Sharon Venier at
734-240-9754 or by email.

Learn with us

Our Campus Greening Committee continues to explore sustainable business practices.