Soldiers & Sailors receives grant, plans green renovation

By Jennifer Hirsch

Executives at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum plan to retool their lighting… Executives at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum plan to retool their lighting system, in hopes of saving thousands of dollars. .

The Oakland landmark received a state grant as part of Gov. Ed Rendell’s energy plan for Pennsylvania.

The memorial hall will receive $84,000 of the $20.5 million grant allocated for 40 projects throughout the state.

During the next few months, Soliders & Sailors will see a complete remodeling of its lighting system, said John McCabe, vice president of the memorial.

The hall originally wanted to install a “green roof,” but results from an energy audit determined that remodeling the lighting system would be most effective — the planned green roof would have had grass to help grow plants, insulate the building and drain water from the roof.

So instead, they focused on lights.

“Our light fixtures are energy sappers,” McCabe said.

They will replace the older lights with LED energy-saving bulbs.

Motion-activated light sensors will also be added to the museum display cases to reduce unnecessary use.

Other improvements to be made include a complete remodeling of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and the installation of variable speed drives, McCabe said.

Variable speed drives regulate the speed of motors on different utility systems, slowing them down when not in use.

The improvements will reduce the memorial hall’s costs of operation, in addition to making the landmark more environmentally friendly.

Soldiers & Sailors expects to see carbon dioxide emissions reduce by 321,874 pounds per year. This will save $37,174 per year in energy and fuel costs, McCabe said.

“There will be an outlay of cash, of course, to do these improvements,” he said, “but we will recoup that money over time.”

Improvements have been made since McCabe began working about a decade ago, yet few affected energy consumption. With the 100th anniversary of Soldiers & Sailors approaching in October, McCabe said he recognized the need for serious change ­—“especially today with everyone ‘going green.’”

His sentiment was echoed by Alyssa Hopper, a research and resource specialist at the Green Building Alliance and a Pitt graduate.

Hopper, who has worked on green building projects, explained that updating to a more efficient system doesn’t require a complete overhaul, but instead improvements to what’s already in place, like lighting fixtures and heating and cooling systems.

When it comes to historical buildings, there is always preservation to consider.

“You are preserving the past,” Hopper said, “and you want to do that in a very careful way.”

During the upgrades, Soldiers & Sailors will remain open to visitors, with minimal impact on the hours of operation, McCabe said. Constuction is expected to begin this fall and last 18 months.

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