The Milwaukee Community Sailing Center, a non-profit sailing organization on Lake Michigan’s waterfront, is seeking to raise the bar for sustainable design among community organizations.

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The organization’s new two-story facility, designed by HGA Architects and Engineers, Milwaukee, utilizes a geothermal heating and cooling system and incorporates green building design and construction materials into its new lakeshore home.

Located in Veterans Park at the south end of the McKinley Marina, MCSC provides sailing instruction and opportunities for all Milwaukee-area residents, including youth, inner-city groups and the disabled.

The new design and construction was funded through private donations, without aid from federal stimulus grants or state monies. Volunteer time and energy also helped reduce the amount of money necessary to finance the project.

One of a handful of buildings in the Midwest to utilize a geothermal system for heating and cooling, MCSC will see a return on its investment in geothermal technology in 11 to 15 years, says Barbara Velez, MCSC’s development director.

“Besides the significant energy savings,” she adds, “installing a geothermal system was the right thing to do to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint.”

To achieve high levels of energy efficiency and resource conservation from the ground up, HGA integrated a variety of creative sustainable design strategies, technologies and materials into the design of the facility.

Because natural gas was not available at the lakefront site, HGA suggested a geothermal well system as an on-site alternative energy resource.

The geothermal system is composed of 14 wells dug 300 ft deep, where the earth’s temperature is a steady 55 degrees, and provides the energy exchange for all of the building’s heating and cooling needs.

In winter, pumps extract underground heat from the system’s closed water loop and water heats both a first-floor radiant slab and an air system for both floors.

In hot summer weather, 55-degree water from the closed loop is used to cool the building.

Another sustainable strategy was to super-insulate the building to retain heat in the winter and keep the building cool in summer. The walls of the structure’s wood frame are packed with spray-in foam insulation.

“These super-insulated walls minimize energy loss; increasing the efficiency of heating and cooling via the geothermal system,” says Balistrieri.

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