Glessner House Getting Ready for D-Day


Next month is D-Day for the Glessner House in Chicago – D for Dig. The much-awaited installation of the building’s new geothermal system is about to begin! Engineers from ACE (Architectural Consulting Engineers) are putting the finishing touches on the design for the new system, which will be state-of-the-art in terms of energy efficiency and performance. Although the Glessners’ 1887 house was visionary for its time, its owners could scarcely have foreseen that air conditioning and heat would come from a system of 500-foot boreholes drilled into the ground in the walled-in courtyard south of their house, and water circulating through a series of pipes inserted into the boreholes.


The underground pipes will enter the building through the basement, and will connect to heat pumps in the basement and upper floor (attic). From there, depending on the season, the water will either cool or heat the house, which is now a museum and wedding venue. Humidity control will be an added bonus from the upgraded equipment.


In anticipation of the new geothermal system, project engineers wearing miner’s lights spent several months poking around the museum's closets, attic, and chimneys, checking locations of air vents, ductwork, and electric and water pipes, and making final decisions: Should new grillwork match the old? Are there any ducts already in place that can be reused? Dataloggers measuring temperature and humidity were installed throughout the building. In the basement, the ceiling was removed and lead paint was abated.


It will take about three weeks for the excavation of the 4,700-square-foot courtyard to be completed and for the conduit to be installed. After that, several more weeks will be needed to set up all the related apparatus inside the building, and iron out any glitches. Once the system is up and running, though, the building should be much more comfortable, especially in summer. If the Glessner family had had geothermal climate control, they might not have felt compelled to leave each June for their second home (The Rocks estate) in New Hampshire, since their rooms would be kept cool from a “loop field” dug deep beneath the earth’s surface.

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