When FCNL installed 27 solar panels on top of the Quaker Welcome Center (QWC) in December 2019, it might as well have planted 118 trees. Since the panels became fully operational, FCNL has prevented the equivalent of more than 15,000 lbs. of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of 118 trees.
In 2020, the total electricity generated by the QWC’s rooftop solar panels was 8.9 megawatt hours (MWh). With one MWh potentially powering as many as 900 homes, this means that the QWC’s solar panels generated enough electricity to power 8,000 homes for one hour.
These year-old solar panels are one way that FCNL continues to live into its commitment to seeking an earth restored. With an emphasis on sustainability and stewardship in its buildings on Capitol Hill, FCNL is putting its faith into daily practice.
FCNL’s main building, facing 245 2nd St., was the first Silver LEED certified structure on Capitol Hill. FCNL earned this accolade after its renovation in 2005. Last year, the building was upgraded to Platinum LEED, the highest award in the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. The program measures and defines what a green building is.
FCNL’s current site and its two adjoining Civil War-era townhouses were acquired in 1958. By the early 1990s, the townhouses needed to be rebuilt.
The FCNL General Committee decided that the new building must reflect Quaker values of simplicity and environmental sustainability. They selected a firm experienced in green buildings and appointed a woman as project architect.
The renovation, completed in the mid-2000s, included a green roof, a geothermal heating/cooling system, bamboo flooring, and large energy-efficient windows to maximize natural light while still providing needed insulation.
Although the Quaker Welcome Center was not submitted for LEED certification when it was completed in 2017, it follows the same green building principles architects adopted for the main building, including recycled materials and energy-efficient windows. Today, FCNL’s buildings offer more opportunities for additional green innovations, like the new solar panels.
Geothermal systems like FCNL’s can cut energy bills by up to 65%.
FCNL’s 245 2nd Street structure is not only the first LEED-certified building on Capitol Hill—it is also the first to be heated and cooled by geothermal energy. FCNL’s geothermal system includes 10 wells, each plunging 350 feet down into the earth, to use natural heat to keep the building warm in winter and cool in summer. Its living roof, covered by sedum plants, also helps cool it in the summer.
Geothermal systems like FCNL’s can cut energy bills by up to 65% compared to traditional heating and cooling units. In 2011, a cooling tower was installed beside the QWC patio to improve its efficiency.
In 2018, FCNL’s geothermal system was examined by consultants to see what more could be improved. Many of their recommendations are being implemented. Ato Stephens, facilities coordinator, reports that in addition to the solar panels, FCNL has made substantial advancements in recycling old electrical equipment and improving indoor air quality.
More projects are on the works this year to further improve the sustainability of FCNL’s buildings. The buildings stand as effective witnesses for an earth restored as FCNL lobbies Congress on energy and environment issues.