The Episcopal Parish of St. Paul, 1135 Walnut St., Newton Highlands 02461

Annual Green Report

Sunday, December 11 was a special day in the life of our parish: the sanctuary was heated by our new double-boiler, gas fired heating system, replacing the faithful, but deteriorating 70-year old oil-fired steam system.

In October 2015, the Vestry authorized a team to come up with viable options for replacing the boiler.  Our team, later dubbed “The Green Heat Team” consists of Jon Swalboski, Margaret Hummel, Anne Goldman, Amy Radin, Ken Anderson and Eliza Blay. Our team quickly got to work and laid out a plan to get the information needed for the Vestry to make its decision.godly-footprints

At last year’s annual meeting, the Green Heat team’s recommendations were laid out in the Annual Report and presented to the congregation.  Those included the pros and cons of the two most viable options, a list of possible funding sources and the hiring of Norian/Siani to manage the specifications and bid process.

As 2016 began, the Vestry voted to hire the engineering firm Norian/Siani to provide specifications for the new heating system, manage the bidding process and provide oversight during the construction process.  The team also recommended that the current domestic hot water heater be replaced by an on-demand system.  That recommendation was approved by the Vestry, and Margaret Hummel and Eliza Blay put together a Green Grant application for the new system.  The diocese approved the grant of $5400, which covered the complete cost of the project.  Under the guidance of Ken Anderson, the system was installed by Jonasson Company and became fully operational in March.  Instead of a 50-gallon tank being constantly heated, the new configuration includes a gas-fired on-demand system that supplies the kitchen, pantry and upstairs bathroom and a smaller electric unit for the basement bathrooms.

Norian/Siani made several visits to the church and met with the Green Heat Team to fine-tune the specifications, which included several zones, a mix of three radiator types: Runtals for the sanctuary and high-visibility areas, and slant-fins for lesser used areas such as the basement.  The specifications were finalized and on April 15, bids were solicited.

Specifications went out to several firms, and a few made site visits before submitting their proposals.  Bids were opened but the proposed costs were substantially in excess of what Norian/Siani had led us to expect.  Additionally, asbestos was found in the crawl space underneath the parish hall, where new pipes would be installed.  This increased our original estimate for asbestos removal and remediation.  Another complication was the deterioration of the fire brick in the old boiler.  Jonasson recommended not using the boiler as it posed a fire hazard.  Even a ‘band aid’ fix to the fire brick would have cost several thousand dollars, and made squeezing one more year out of the current boiler impossible.

We asked the bidders to come back with their “best and final” cost, and proposing ways the cost could be brought down without substantially deviating from the original Norian/Siani specifications.  Only one firm, Aalanco, appeared to be interested in seriously reducing their original bid.  The Green Heat team recommended that the Vestry retain Aalanco and continue to investigate ways that the cost could be reduced, including delaying the construction work from September through October. After much negotiation, the contract was signed with Aalanco in August, with construction to begin in October, and finishing by Advent.  The modifications to the original design were:

  • Reducing the number of heating zones from 10 to 4.
  • Reuse of a few existing radiators
  • More use of slant-fin radiators, and using the more expensive Runtals for the sanctuary and Parish Hall.
  • Removal of the Rector’s Office, Administration Office, and Choir Room from the heating plan. Heat pumps would be installed and air conditioning would be provided for these spaces.

We were also fortunate to be granted a low-interest Diocesan Green Loan for the maximum amount of $100,000. Thanks to Eliza Blay and Margaret Hummel for putting the exhaustive loan application together.

During September the asbestos remediation work began, and the demolition of the old boiler was accomplished.  Both these major tasks were accomplished with little to no interruption to the activities in the church or parish hall.  These tasks were required before any construction could begin.

Construction of the new system began in early October after the asbestos remediation work was completed and certified under the supervision of Amy Radin.  We did hit one bump along the way: the delivery of the Runtal radiators, which would be used in the Parish Hall and Sanctuary.  Because these are custom-made, the delivery time on these was longer than anticipated.  Fortunately we were blessed with a relatively mild fall, and fortified by blankets.  The Rector’s Office, Administrator Office and Choir Room all had the heat pumps installed in mid-October so heat was available in those areas.  The basement heat became operation in early November as that area was using the readily available slant-fin radiators.  Parishioners on December 11 were treated to a toasty-warm sanctuary, as the heating system became fully operational throughout the entire church.  The wait for the Runtal Radiators was worth the wait, as the blend in beautifully with the architecture on the church.

There remains a “punch list” of items that need to be completed before the project is closed out, such as providing documentation on how to operate the system, and putting lock boxes on the thermostats.

The work of the Green Heat Team is not complete. We will be planning a dedication of the new heating system sometime this winter or spring.  Details will follow.  Also, as a requirement for the Green Loan, we need to provide energy usage data to the Vestry on a regular basis.  Margaret Hummel will take on that task.  We also need to provide information to the congregation on how to be more “green” in our own homes and businesses.

This team did a fantastic job in moving a long-awaited overhaul forward.  Although a lot of money was put into this project, we are leaving a legacy of a modern, efficient and clean heating system for those who follow us.

Respectfully submitted,

The Green Heat Team




Green Heat News!

Green Loan Approved

We received good news! The Diocesan Committee approved our application for the Green Loan for the maximum $100,000.  This low-cost loan is crucial  for our financing of the heating system replacement, and enables us to move forward with all phases of construction.  Kudos to Margaret Hummel and Eliza Blay for their diligence in preparing and submitting the application, and providing follow up information to the committee.

Construction Begins

img_0886-3green-heat2-for-10_23_16Aalanco began construction on October 1, and the new boilers have been installed in the furnace room. The new units are far more efficient than the old system and take up considerable less room.  New copper piping has appeared throughout the undercroft area, and the slant-fin radiators have been installed in that area.


The Boiler is Gone!


After 70 years of faithful service, our cast iron boiler has now gone to that scrap metal yard in the sky.  The boiler was demolished and removed by ESI in late August.  Much of the piping, including the head-banging duct in the Godly Play room, has been removed.  The boiler room is empty and spotless, awaiting the installation of the new gas boilers.

ESI has completed the asbestos remediation of the heating pipes that run underneath the stage of the parish hall and the parish all itself.  The removal of the boiler and the asbestos remediation was necessary before any construction of the new heating system can begin.

This is a major step on our journey of installing a modern, clean and efficient heating system.




We Have Green Hot Water

The on-demand water heater was installed in the downstairs kitchen and now provides hot water for the kitchen, pantry, and large bathroom. Gone is the oversized tank in the kitchen! A smaller unit now supplies warm water for handwashing in the two bathrooms at the end of the undercroft. Thank you Ken Anderson for supervising the installation by Jonasson Plumbing and completing this part of the total Green Heat project.

Thanks to hard work by Margaret and Eliza the application for the $100,000 Diocesan Green Loan was signed by the wardens and submitted to the diocese last week. We expect to hear within 6-8 weeks.

                  Submitted by Anne Goldman on behalf of the Green Heat Team.

Vestry Approves Construction Plans

In a major milestone for the Green Heat project, the vestry voted this week to move forward on five fronts by:

  1. Selecting Aalanco as the contractor for the heating system replacement part of the project. They lowered their bid by using a later start date. The team will continue to work with them to see if other economies are feasible. Carl Jonasson has volunteered to advise on possible cost savings.
  2. Accepting the Jonasson bid to replace the hot water heater with an energy efficient on-demand system. Our Green Grant will pay for this, and the installation will start ASAP.
  3. Accepting the asbestos abatement proposal by ESI. The abatement must be completed before construction for the heating system can begin. During the abatement, it will be necessary to limit access to the parish hall to contain the environmental hazard, and we will announce the schedule as soon as it is known.
  4. Approving the submission of the application for the Green Loan. Margaret and Eliza are putting on the final touches on the bulky application packet. Thank you for doing this monumental work.
  5. Approving applying for a diocesan Stokes Loan to provide additional funds for the project. This application requires supporting documents that are similar to those for the Green Loan, so it can be relatively quickly assembled.

                  Submitted by Anne Goldman on behalf of the Green Heat Team.

Green Heat Limbo

Last week we received four bids for the heating system replacement, two of which are under consideration by the Vestry. Unfortunately, both are significantly higher than the preliminary estimate we received earlier, but both companies have been invited to resubmit with lower cost alternatives, for example by starting construction after “peak summer season.” Once a contractor is selected, the Vestry and Green Heat team will negotiate with the contractor to find ways to reduce the cost of the project without sacrificing significant functionality.

Also being considered are two bids for the asbestos abatement that must be completed before any construction can begin. This mainly involves safely removing deteriorating asbestos from the pipes that run the length of the crawl space under the Parish Hall, as well as a little from the old boiler and some pipes in the nursery.

The Vestry is committed to the Green Heat project and is examining various sources of funding in addition to the diocesan Green Loan.

                  Submitted by Anne Goldman on behalf of the Green Heat Team.

Greener Hot Water

The Green Heat Project made huge progress this week, on Earth Day, no less:

  1. We were awarded a Diocesan Green Grant for $5,645 to cover the cost of installing the on-demand gas hot water system. We are particularly pleased as the number of applications was unusually large, in this the last year of the initiative. Mr. Jonasson, our plumbing shepherd, is in charge of installation.
  2. The specifications for replacing our heating system have gone out on bid. Responses from interested contractors are due May 12. When the contractor has been chosen by the vestry, we will apply for the Diocesan Green Loan to help cover the cost. Margaret and Eliza have worked hard to get the application ready, but still need bids from at least two contractors and a final budget before send off.

Submitted by Anne Goldman on behalf of the Green Heat Team.

Brand New Radiators!

This week the vestry chose radiators and “heat-zones” in the 3/15 recommendation by the Structural Engineer and also the Green Heat Team, except for a few minor adjustments. In summary, two types of radiators have been chosen (see images below):

  1. Brown “Runtals” in the sanctuary, parish hall, and two vestibules—the color matches the existing paneling nicely and are skinny enough to fit on wall without moving the pews (except during installation).
  2. White “Slant/fin baseboards” throughout the entire undercroft, first floor bathroom, sacristy, choir room and pantry—a safe choice around children.


Slant Fin

The electric baseboards will remain in the rector’s office.

Meanwhile, the GH Team is reviewing the highly technical preliminary construction drawings. When finalized and approved (4/19), these drawings will be the basis for the completed design, which will go out to potential contractors for bidding. The bids are due on 5/17, after which we will apply for partial funding by a Diocesan loan.

                Submitted by Anne Goldman on behalf of the Green Heat Team.



Hot water only when we need it

Although the last blog post was about a month ago, that does not mean the the Green Heat team has been idle. Most significantly, we have applied for a Diocesan Green Improvement Grant for $5,440 (Thank you Eliza and Margaret). This grant together with an expected energy rebate of $800 will cover the cost of replacing of our hot water heater, as described on the first page of the application:

Summary. We plan to replace the current water heater with a more efficient on-demand system. The 80-gallon electric heater which now provides all our occasional hot water needs will be replaced with two efficient on-demand units. Instead of the tank now in the undercroft kitchen, a gas-fired on-demand heater will serve the kitchen and additionally the pantry and main bathroom located immediately upstairs in the parish hall. A second small electrical unit will provide hot water for hand-washing in the two remote lavatories at the other end of the undercroft.

Mr. Jonasson, our faithful plumber who has kept our ancient heating system functioning for many years, will be installing the system. Those who are interested in considering a similar system for themselves can find an excellent write-up by MIP&L on the Creation Care bulletin board and also on the POSP Creation Care website (

Other significant progress has been made in the overall project:

  • The vestry signed an agreement with Norian/Siani Engineering to oversee the heating system replacement. We will receive the preliminary design of the new hot water heating system before the end of March.
  • An inspector has evaluated the need for asbestos abatement during the removal of the old boiler—a report is due this week. (Thank you Amy)
  • Mr. Siani has given us a preliminary time-line for completion of the project. We are hoping to shorten the time frame by being very efficient in our response to various decision points so as to reduce the chance of cold Sunday mornings in the fall.
  • Margaret and Eliza have already started on the application for the Diocesan Green Loan to partially fund the heating system. Many of the supporting documents are identical to those required in the grant application, but we still need: a complete project design plan and its vestry approval, bids from contractors for the work, and a budget for the project.

Submitted by Anne Goldman on behalf of the Green Heat Team.

Forging Ahead to a Greener POSP

At the POSP Annual Meeting on January 31, Margaret Hummel reported on the Green Heat project, standing in for our leader, Jon Swalboski. For the full text of the report see P57-59 of the Annual Report (

A lively discussion followed the report and much of it concerned the decision of the Vestry to replace the current oil-fired steam heat and delivery system with two efficient gas-fired hot water boilers and new pipes and radiators. The cost is high (estimated at between $167,000 and $200,000), but would result in an estimated 36% reduction in the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of our fuel use and a 24% reduction in the heating fuel bill. It was pointed out that merely replacing the oil-fired steam boiler with a more efficient gas boiler would be much cheaper (~$60,000) and still result in some savings in fuel use and GWP.  Adding solar panels to the roof of the parish hall would cost ~$43,0000 and would provide solar generated electricity about equal to our current use.

Although installing solar panels is considered highly desirable at some future date, the decision has been made to focus on the full replacement of our heating system, for now.   The team thinks that this system best fulfills the primary mission of the Green Heat project: “to reduce the carbon footprint of our buildings as a public witness of our congregation’s commitment to creation care and to educating our community.”  In addition, the practical reasons are:

  • The hot water system is more efficient, more dependable, includes increased zoning of the space, and may allow covering the asbestos tiles in the undercroft with radiant heat panels.
  • All our expert consultants cautioned that not replacing the 75-year old pipes and radiators would be risky and unwise.
  • In addition to using our savings and a possible capital campaign, we will apply for a “Green Loan” from the diocese at a favorable interest rate. The diocese will not grant such a loan for a new steam boiler.


At the meeting, brief mention was made of the additional plan to replace our electric hot water heater with a gas-fired on-demand system. Since hot water is only used episodically at POSP, this project should result in reduction in electricity use. Application for a Diocesan Green Grant to fund (most or all) of this project is due March 15 and is underway.