North Central / Regional Reports

Geothermal Energy From Lake to Save Hospital $1 Million a Year

June 16, 2008
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ELGIN, Ill. - Illinois contractor Mechanical Inc. was made the mechanical contractor of choice for Sherman Hospital’s $310 million replacement hospital in Elgin, Ill. Scheduled to open in late 2009, the hospital will be mainly heated and cooled by geothermal energy from a 15-acre artificial lake next to the facility.

“The geothermal lake was a wise choice, both economically and ecologically,” said Brian Helm, president of Mechanical Inc. “The lake is projected to decrease Sherman’s gas and electric costs by nearly $1 million annually.”

Helm added that Mechanical Inc. is installing the hospital’s intricate heating and cooling system, including 275,000 feet of two-inch piping in the geothermal heat exchanger - a component which uses the lake’s natural geothermal properties to heat and cool the hospital. Mechanical Inc. is also installing the medical gas piping and the plumbing in the facility.

Mechanical Inc. is working with Walsh Construction Co., the construction manager for the replacement hospital. Project Executive Larry Voss is overseeing the project for Mechanical Inc.

“Sherman Hospital will be the first hospital in Illinois to build a geothermal lake,” said Selena Worster of Mechanical Inc., project manager for the geothermal lake. “This lake will also be the largest of its kind in the nation.”


According to Worster, solar energy is absorbed by the surface layer of the 17-foot deep geothermal lake, resulting in a natural thermocline and a relatively consistent temperature at the bottom of the lake.

The lake will have a natural clay liner and be filled with rainwater. Water and methanol-bearing coils of piping, or heat exchanger rafts, are stationed at the lake’s floor. The steady temperature at the bottom of the lake will be the heating and cooling source for the solution passing through the coils. This solution, in turn, is circulated by a lake loop heat-pump system.

When the circulating solution reaches the water source heat pumps, the energy is converted to warm or cool air to regulate the temperature of the majority of the hospital’s rooms. The emergency room and surgical suites will employ a traditional heating and cooling system, since they require cooler temperatures.


Worster has a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois, is a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional, and holds a Green Contractor certification from the City of Chicago. She is co-chair of the USGBC Chicago Chapter’s State and Local Government Committee, and a member of the green building steering committee for the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of Chicago.

She advises businesses to do their homework when selecting a contractor for a green building project. “You should request proof that the company is involved with the green building movement,” Worster said. “The contractor should be actively pursuing green projects and have LEED Accredited Professionals on their staff. You should review their past green projects and find out if they are performing well as energy-efficient buildings.”

Worster sees this project as the beginning of a greener future for the Midwest, and ultimately, the nation. “More and more businesses are embracing green building,” she said. “Hopefully this project will inspire other businesses to pursue their own green solutions.”

Founded in 1968, Mechanical Inc. consistently ranks as one of the top 50 mechanical contracting firms in the nation. The company has completed projects up to $25 million in 23 states across the nation. For more information, visit

Publication date: 06/16/2008

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