Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries announces its first geothermal system building, to commemorate Earth Day 2011

“Off the grid” building offers a host of design, construction and operation learning experiences; one of only a dozen commercial installations of its kind in Toronto

Toronto, April 21, 2011 – Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries (MPGC) is pleased to announce the official opening of its first geothermal system powered building, a columbarium* at its York Cemetery location.  

One of only a handful of commercial installations using this technology so far in the Toronto region, the York geothermal building takes advantage of the fact that although outdoor temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons, underground temperatures remain relatively constant year-round, beginning at a point four to six feet below the earth’s surface.

The York Cemetery Columbarium capitalizes on these constant temperatures with the use of a buried “earth loop”; in the winter, fluid circulating through the system’s earth loop absorbs stored heat and carries it indoors. An indoor heat pump unit then compresses the heat to a higher temperature and distributes it throughout the building, warming the premises. In the summer, the system process reverses, pulling heat from the building, carrying it through the earth loop and then depositing it in the cooler earth. System pipes were driven 250 feet deep into the earth in the case of the earth loop system for the York Columbarium.

The building also uses energy from the sun, in the form of roof-mounted solar panels, to generate electric power to operate the heat pump unit’s fan, compressor and pump, as well as the building’s lighting and other electrical features.

“The York Columbarium was conceived as a prototype for MPGC, both as a learning experience on how to take facilities at our numerous locations potentially off-grid, and also how to service remote sites at our properties, with minimum disruption to the design and use of our cemeteries” said Glenn McClary, president and CEO, Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries. “Along with our recently completed LEED designated Visitation Centre building at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the initiative also continues MPGC’s 185-year tradition of environment design excellence and innovation.”

Lessons learnt from the first winter of operation of the Columbarium have been encouraging: compared to a conventionally designed and heated and cooled building of the same size, the York Cemetery building has fully relied on its geothermal heat pump to warm the building, resulting in no use of the natural gas furnace, while the roof solar panels have generated an impressive 70% of the electricity needed, during a particularly snowy and overcast winter, to run the heat pump and other electrical devices. MPGC will conduct a thorough review of the system’s performance, in an effort to increase the power output of the solar panels during the next winter, while also

having a full summer worth of experience with the cooling function of the geothermal technology during 2011.

*A columbarium is a building structure lined with small niches in which urns containing cremated remains can be stored in perpetuity.

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