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New Chiller System at Motherhouse Helps Adrian Dominican Sisters Become More Sustainable

February 22, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – This summer, when Adrian Dominican Sisters and Co-workers enjoy their cool rooms and offices, they might be further comforted in knowing that the air-cooling system is also helping the environment – and taking the Congregation a step further in its sustainability plan.

By April, a new, more energy-efficient chiller system is expected to be completely operational. The system will cool the buildings through water cooled by ice manufactured by the chiller during times of less demand. Manufacturing the ice during the off-peak period realizes a significant savings over making ice during the daytime hours, when the costs per kilowatt hour are significantly higher.

Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Adrian Dominican Sisters Director of Sustainability, and Joel Henricks, Director of the Motherhouse Facility and Grounds Department, took time recently to explain the former heating and cooling system and the new system.

“The bottom line is, we’re replacing two old chillers with one new chiller that creates ice during the night to save large electrical costs during the day,” Joel said. The chiller acts as a thermal storage system, which, like a battery, creates and stores the energy – in this case, cool air – during the off-peak time of the day to be used during the hottest periods of the day, when the electricity would cost more. Read a detailed explanation of energy storage.

The former system involved three chillers – one large, air-cooled chiller that ran constantly to serve the needs of the Maria and Weber Center buildings, and two water-cooled chillers, which worked only in the warmer months to serve the Regina residence building and the Madden Hall, which houses administrative offices. In the colder months, the Regina and Madden buildings were heated with a boiler.

Heating and cooling for Regina and Madden were handled by two pipes, one to push the heated or cooled water to the buildings and one to return the water back to the chiller or boiler. This caused some problems when the weather changed, Joel explained, because of the complexity of changing from the boiler to the chiller – and because of the natural time it takes for water to cool down or heat up.

Joel said the water-cooled chillers were 27 years old, at the point of having to be rebuilt or replaced. This gave the Motherhouse the opportunity to opt for a more environmentally friendly and efficient system, Joel said. The old water-cooled chillers made use of the R22 refrigerant, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined depletes the ozone, adding to global climate change. “The new units are made with a more environmentally friendly refrigerant – 134A,” he added.

Work on the chiller project began in December and is expected to be complete in April, Joel said. The work was contracted through Adrian Mechanical, which has worked with subcontractors such as Krieghoff-Lenawee.

This summer, while the boiler is offline, it will be made more sustainable through a stack economizer, Joel said. Currently, he explained, the boilers blow off 350-degree air as an exhaust. “A big heat load is wasted and blown off into the atmosphere,” he explained. “The new system puts another heat exchanger in the exhaust stack to pull the exhaust heat out and use it to heat water.” Currently, water is heated through use of steamers. The new system will be more efficient and will reduce the use of fossil fuel, Joel said.

The work on the chillers is one of the projects recommended in a 2017 meeting on ways to make the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse Campus more sustainable. The meeting was in response to one of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s 2016 General Chapter Enactments, to “sacrifice to mitigate significantly our impact on climate change and ecological degradation.”  

Symposium to Focus on Resilient Communities

February 12, 2018 – A March 12 symposium at Weber Retreat & Conference Center provides an extraordinary opportunity to hear what five national thought leaders in community development have learned is vital to creating and sustaining resilient communities. The event is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday, March 12, 2018.

Speakers will talk about the role of vision, financial empowerment, racial equity and social justice, environmental justice, and collaboration in creating resiliency. Then attendees will break into small groups to participate in more in-depth discussions with the speakers. A panel conversation among the speakers, facilitated by Root, Inc. CEO Jim Haudan, will complete the dynamic day.

Creating and Sustaining the Vision
Nick Tilsen, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and Executive Director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, has worked for 15 years with nonprofits and tribal nations on projects to create social change. By providing resources and support to leaders of positive social change in North American communities, he serves as a bridge between governmental and philanthropic partnerships. 

Economic Empowerment as a Pathway to Resiliency
Janie Barrera, founding president and CEO of LiftFund, has received nationwide recognition for her work at this nonprofit micro- and small-business lender. Since its founding in 1994, LiftFund has disbursed more than 18,000 loans, totaling more than $222 million, with a 94 percent repayment rate. Because of her accomplishments, Janie was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Advisory Board on Financial Capability.

Resiliency Through a Racial Equity Lens
The Reverend Starsky D. Wilson is President and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation, a pastor, philanthropist, and activist pursuing God’s vision of community marked by justice, peace, and love. In 2014, Jay Nixon, Governor of Missouri, appointed him to lead the Ferguson Commission to study the underlying conditions and issues that brought about the tragic death of Michael Brown Jr. and to make public-policy recommendations to help the region progress through the issues involved in that tragedy.

Environmental Justice and the New Economy
As the U.S. and Canada Regional Coordinator with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Ahmina Maxey works to support communities that oppose polluting industries and advocate for zero-waste alternatives. A 2011 Green for All Fellow and the 2014 recipient of the Sierra Club’s Bunyan Bryant Environmental Justice Award, she was included on Grist’s 2017 list of 50 emerging green leaders.

Partnering to Move Edgy Ideas to Mainstream Action
Michael Rozyne is the founder and “evangelist” of Red Tomato, a regional food hub based in Plainville, Massachusetts, that sources from 45 mid-ranged fruit and vegetable farms. In 1986, he co-founded Equal Exchange, a fair-trade coffee company and worker-owned cooperative. He began his work in the area of organic farming by working on conventional and organic farms in Maine and as buyer and marketing manager for Northeast Cooperatives, a natural-foods warehouse.

Registration for the March 12 Symposium – $45 per person, including lunch – is now available on the Weber Center website. Those who prefer registering by phone and those needing accommodations should call the Weber Center at 517-266-4000. Space is limited, so early registration is encouraged.

Weber Center is on the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse, 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive, Adrian.



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