Case Studies

LANE Associates Inc.

Iconic NYC church drills deep for climate control

A century and a half ago, Archbishop Hughes of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral stood before worshipers and proposed “for the glory of Almighty God” that a grander church be built “worthy of our increasing numbers” in an area of near-wilderness that has since become downtown Manhattan.

The cornerstone was laid in 1858, and the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral was completed in 1879. It has long since been recognized as a religious and cultural landmark. As of spring 2017, it will also be a technological forerunner, thanks in part to the good work of LANE Associates Inc.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The firm, for four decades the HVAC contractor of choice for the iconic cathedral and 76,000-square-foot campus, is finishing the installation of a campus-wide geothermal heating and cooling system that will regulate temperatures both in the cathedral and its adjoining structures.

The geothermal plant, the largest of its kind in New York City, was designed by three firms: Landmark Facilities Group; Murphy, Burnham & Buttrick, and PW Grosser. In the early stages, it involved drilling 10 wells, up to 2,200 feet deep, along the north and south sides of the cathedral.

LANE Associates and its team have orchestrated the complex heat recovery system and building management systems (BMS), a task complicated by the expansive cathedral ceilings and robust construction of these historic buildings that make heating and cooling challenging, even with the latest of systems.

“This was a very exciting project,” says Michael Star, president of LANE Associates. “There are very few geothermal plants in Manhattan. With such a progressive technology in such a preserved and iconic architecture, we are proud to be part of it.”

Its own history

LANE Associates specializes in designing and maintaining HVAC and BMS systems. Since 1944, it has provided energy services for hospitals, commercial buildings, retail chains, hotels, and, of course, churches, doing so across the New York metropolitan area, as well as in Long Island, Westchester, Rockland Counties and New Jersey.

In 2016 alone, the contractor finished installing an HVAC system for the historic Longacre Theatre, a Broadway theatre located in midtown Manhattan owned by the Shubert Organization, and a design-build project for Century 21 Department Store, which included a chiller, fan coil units, piping, ductwork, wiring and controls. In both projects, it was essential that the upgraded system integrate seamlessly with stylized interiors.

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LANE Associates has contracted with St. Patrick’s Cathedral since the 1970s, performing preventive maintenance, repairs and emergency services. When LANE Associates was awarded the opportunity to work on the project in 2012, Star says the company was thrilled to be at the intersection of history and innovation.

Besides overseeing the installation of the heat pump, heat exchangers, air handlers and fan coils that are responsible for extracting and redirecting the heat, LANE Associates also replaced every chilled and hot water pipe.

“Working in a building like this, we had to coordinate many trades, but our ability to collaborate with the entire team involved really helped the finished project, and, in turn, the cathedral,” Star says.

Turning a city landmark green

After partnering with St. Patrick’s Cathedral for so long, Star says the firm was well briefed on its quirks and daily operations, including masses.

“It’s a high profile and operating cathedral in the Archdiocese of New York, so we always have to prepare and make provisions with special events, VIPs, tourists and visitors,” says President Michael Star. “On top of that you have 140 year old construction with extremely thick concrete walls and limited pathways.”

Star and his team understood that the priority was to maintain the aesthetic of the American neo-Gothic style church—technology was not to distract from the stained glass windows, mosaics and lace-like carvings along the walls and ceiling.

“All of our work had to be as hidden as possible,” he says.

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LANE Associates was also employing new technology in the cathedral. Unlike traditional geothermal plants that expel excess heat, St. Patrick’s geothermal plant is capable of simultaneous heating and cooling, as well as heat recovery.

“These components mean that we can capture heat being removed in one part of the building, and repurpose it elsewhere, instead of rejecting it into the environment,” Star says.

The keystone of the technology, known as a dedicated heat recovery chiller, will allow the cathedral to save on energy costs and help the central plant generate 2.9 billion BTUs per hour of air conditioning and 3.2 million BTUs per hour of heating.

“We believe in doing our part to better the environment,” Star says. “It’s something LANE Associates has always been conscious of, and we try to reduce as much electrical and fuel consumption as we can in the buildings that we work in.”

Combining controls with mechanical

When LANE Associates joined in the work in 2012, it had the additional task of helping St. Patrick’s design team understand the components they would need to maintain the controls for the complicated system.

Collaborating with their controls distributor, Universal Supply Group, Lane Associates designed a network of panels, controls, sensors, switches and relays that will collect data throughout the cathedral campus to automatically adapt the mechanical systems.

“We believe in doing our part to better the environment. It’s something LANE Associates has always been conscious of.”

“It’s one of the things about LANE that we’re so proud of. We’re both a mechanical contractor and a controls contractor, so we know how to marry the controls components with the mechanical systems,” Star says, allowing LANE Associates to deliver more customized and consistent service on every project, from centuries-old cathedrals to national retail chains.

“We’re trusted with maintaining the comfort and environment of a building’s occupants. If systems aren’t working properly it can really have a negative impact because a core component of any business is making sure their teams and processes are comfortable,” Star says.

However, St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s geothermal plant represents more than renewed comfort for worshipers and visitors.

Predating parts of New York City’s history, the cathedral is symbolic of change and growth as much as history. State-of-the-art sustainable energy technology continues that legacy.

Published on: June 8, 2017

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