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Earth Center

Earth Center

Earth Center building

The Sisters of Saint Joseph Earth Center hopes to model ways of living in harmony with all of creation.

The "Green" Renovation

In renovating the House of Loreto Chapel, the Sisters of Saint Joseph used an already existing stone building which is the first step in “green” construction. Reusing the structure  prevents unnecessary waste. The original beautiful oak floor was restored. The stain glass window was removed, restored and replaced where it allows sunlight to stream into the building. The original “reredos,” the altarpiece flown here from Loreto, Italy, was cleaned and placed above the Black Madonna  against the wall. The Statue of the Black Madonna was restored by the people of St. Athanasius/Immaculate Conception Parish and placed on the shrine-like shelf where it can be honored and viewed with the Center. The roof, although too shaded for solar panels, was painted white to reflect the sun and to help to keep the building cooler in the summer. The floor that was laid in the loft is made of pure oak and was not removed from rainforests.

Freshman class planting around Earth Center

The landscaping around the Center uses native plants and the back patio serves as a meeting place in warm weather.

A storm water garden helps reduce storm water runoff. CHC students volunteered to plant the native plants.

Thick Insulation Helps Seal Building
Insulation pad

Thick insulation keeps the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Insulation  was blown into the walls to increase the capacity to hold heat and cold within the building. Sheetrock was then put in place to hold it.

Insulation can be added to attic spaces, around pipes, water heaters, boilers and in crawl spaces to keep the heat or cold contained. Checking for leaks around windows, doors and ceilings can save on utility bills.

Geothermal Well in Place and Working
Geothermal well

One of the major environmentally sensitive features of the renovation is the installation of a geothermal well for heating and cooling of the building. Already the geothermal heating is at work. A simple explanation of the principle behind the geothermal well is the use of the heat within the earth to heat the interior in winter and to cool it during the summer.

This alternative form of energy use is a demonstration of what can be done to reduce the carbon footprint of burning oil or gas.

Rainwater Captured and Reused

Rainwater that falls on the roof of the House of Loreto will flow through the columns to an underground cistern that will store the water for use on the grounds. A hose will be attached to the cistern for watering the gardens. This will assist in the mission of capturing rainwater to avoid erosion of soil and runoff into the Wissahickon. The Philadelphia Water Department and the Wissahickon Watershed Alliance have worked hard to reduce the amount of water lost by poor drainage and impermeable paving.

The Philadelphia Water Department charges for impermeable space.

Center’s Close Proximity to Public Transportation
Walk lined with trees

One of the points of a “green” building is its accessibility to public transportation. The S.S.J. Earth Center is in walking distance from the SEPTA bus #23 and the L bus passes right by the front gate. It is also close to the regional rail Chestnut Hill East and West. It is in close proximity to a walking trail in the Wissahickon  the Bridle Path. People  can ride bicycles and park them easily within the campus of Chestnut Hill College.