Geothermal System to Heat and Cool St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The system is able to heat and cool different spaces around the cathedral and neighboring buildings at the same time.

Cathedral drills 2,200 feet for green energy.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral has activated a geothermal plant as part of a larger upgrade for New York City landmark.

The system is able to heat and cool different spaces around the cathedral and neighboring buildings at the same time.

The innovative engineering plan for the system was carried out by the cathedral’s design team, Murphy, Burnham, & Buttrick, Landmark Facilities Group, PW Grosser and Structure Tone of New York, which 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 geothermal plant is comprised of 10 wells drilled along the north and south sides of the cathedral to a depth of up to 2,200 feet. 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 BTUs per hour of air conditioning and 3.2 million BTUs per hour of heating.

“At the outset, we evaluated a conventional HVAC system, but determined it would pose too many challenges for this historic building,” said 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 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.

“A consistent ethic of life does not compartmentalize these issues,” said cathedral Rector Monsignor Robert T. Richie. “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.”


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