A Bright idea: LSTC begins large-scale energy conservation project June 25, 2014

The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago is making some serious changes. The seminary is undertaking extensive building improvements that will conserve 172,000 kilowatt hours per year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this is the same as taking 25 cars off the road or planting 3,041 trees.

Funding for this upgrade comes from LSTC’s senior class gifts, as well as other groups. On April 30, LSTC secured a year-long grant through the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation for $25,781, a dollar amount that is based on how much energy the proposed project would save. LSTC also leveraged utility incentives from local energy company ComEd for an additional $23,000. These sources will collectively fund nearly two-thirds of the project, with the remaining third coming from the school’s operating fund.

This investment is expected to pay for itself in less than two years. At current prices, these updates eliminate nearly $17,000 in electrical costs annually. By beginning these types of repairs, LSTC moves closer to reaching the goal it set in 2008, which is receiving Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Future plans include replacement of the school’s boiler and HVAC system.

Energy efficiency for sustainability

The upgrades have been part of LSTC’s plans for years. The seminary’s senior classes of 2008, 2010 and 2013 gave a total of $10,000 in gifts initially intended for the purchase of solar panels that would help power the school. Sustainability coordinator Jim Schaal and master of arts student Chris Anderson worked together in 2012 to do a feasibility study. What they determined was that solar power would not be as effective as hoped if the energy created was being wasted.

“We did a lot of homework and realized that if the bucket is leaking, it makes much more sense to fix it before you put it down the well. If you’ve got an inefficient building, the first goal should be to make our use of energy more efficient,” Schaal said.

Partners assist with upgrades

In light of this study, LSTC partnered with Elevate Energy (formerly the Center for Neighborhood Technology), a Chicago nonprofit that aids in preserving the environment by helping organizations like LSTC wisely and affordably access the energy they need. The seminary had previously worked with them to secure grants for insulating student housing. That project was completed in 2013 and has improved the buildings’ sustainability.

“It’s a very fruitful set of partnerships we’ve developed. It’s a nice example of how LSTC can reach higher when we reach out,” Schaal said.

Elevate Energy helped LSTC uncover $92,000 of potential work in the seminary’s main building. They recommended upgrading the school’s nearly 800 outdated light fixtures. Decades-old halogen and incandescent lights will be replaced on a case-by-case basis with either LED or fluorescent lights, which bring energy use and costs down to a fraction of what they have been.

Erin Koster researched and wrote this news release.


Jim Schaal
Sustainability Coordinator

Jan Boden
Director of Communication and Marketing

The Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) is dedicated to bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Based in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, it is the leading urban Lutheran seminary training students for purposeful vocations in the global community. Aligned with its Lutheran heritage and built on a foundation of intellectual rigor, LSTC’s innovative, nationally recognized curriculum gives students skills for visionary Christian leadership in the public sphere.

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