Tales of Yesteryear & the Future

By Eileen Malloy, Director of Operations

I have been in communication with Paul Kloppenburg, who installed the golden tser togs on the roof back in the old days. 1986 or something like that. So when the contractor and architect for the roof asked me, “How did they get them up there?” I could with a straight face state that members built a set of steps on the roof and carried them up. I get a big kick out of that. Also makes me quake in fear for their lives, or the life of anyone who ventures up on our roof.

I’m glad our roof replacement is starting in early September, when the fiercest hot weather should be over, though that is two months behind schedule. We selected a deep shade of green, four shades darker than it is now, a shade known as Evergreen. Should fade to what I call Park Service Green, but what is more commonly known as Forest Green. It won’t be exactly the same. But hopefully it will be beautiful, as it has been.

But back to the tser togs. It was such an accomplishment, of physical prowess, of nerve, of intelligence, of determination, of community. I applaud you, Mr. Kloppenburg, and all those who helped you.

Community members gold-leafed the tser togs themselves. Marcia Usow reports that she and other community members sat in the PMH of the main shrine room and applied the gold leaf there. Such a romantic accomplishment, to install four-foot plaster gold leaf steeples on a highly pitched metal roof.

Here and now, Mr. Dan Sosalla, Project Manager for the roof, has graciously agreed to do the gold leafing that’s currently required to return the tser togs to mint condition. He’s a tradesman, a carpenter, a community member, and a rock climber. So who better? Jean Westby put me in touch with the gentleman who did a lot of the gold leafing on the stupa, and he referred me to three other sangha members, so we will have explicit instruction on how to do it right.

Today we face a task almost as heroic as those tser togs in getting solar panels up on the roof. The dragon guarding that gate at the moment is a very reasonable, efficient, sharp and intelligent woman named Anne McCleave, with the State Historical Fund. She is the gatekeeper because we are under covenant to the State Historical Fund, who partially funded the roof replacement. I offer a bow to her. I hope she approves the solar panels.

Next challenge would be attaching them to the roof. That’s something like 52 holes in the new roof. I’m probably overstating that. Still, we can name the roof St. Sebastian for all the holes punched in it, a year after its installation.

Not to mention the geothermal/air sourced heat pumps that community member David Takahashi is gunning for. That is another spectacularly daring and highly idealistic project, on a par with the tser togs. It means replacing the existing gas boilers (which are failing) with an underground heat exchanging system. I would joyfully give up the solar panels if we could have geothermal, but it’s really both together that makes the most sense, because geothermal HVAC pushes the electricity bill up, and solar panels push it back down.

Neil Kolway, a renewable energy professional for SWEEP (Southwest Energy Efficiency Project) and a community member, says we should get a nice, high efficiency gas boiler and just stick with a gas-powered system. To that I say, if/when they finally get around to regulating fracking, the cost of gas is going to skyrocket.

A geothermal HVAC system would cost on the order of $200,000. We don’t expect it will cost anything to get a basic feasibility study and then conduct a financial analysis to see if we can do it without any capital expense, thanks to tax credits that investors can reap. Just to say, doing all this without capital expense is like building steps up a high steep metal roof.

A cheaper option for HVAC would be air sourced heat pumps. You’ll be seeing those on more and more houses as time goes by. The problems with air sourced are 1) it’s less efficient—you get fewer btus out of it for the electricity you put into it. And 2) it requires “cassettes,” or big white boxes, to hang on the walls of virtually every room in the building.

First we’re determining feasibility and penciling out the financials for geothermal and air sourced solutions. By we I mean initially Suter Du Bose, Jeff Wilzbacher, David Takahashi, Christine Lincoln, George Ramsey, and myself, along with a consulting engineer named Steve Morgan. Of course in the absolute sense, “we” means the sangha.

It’s going very slowly, mostly thanks to a kind of standoff between not knowing enough to invest money and not being able to get the knowledge without investing something. A leap is required. It’s going slowly because everything we learn has to be vetted and re-vetted, to prudently proceed without taking inordinate leaps. I give us 70/30 odds that the effort will continue well in the next year. But we are giving it our best attention in the meantime.

If you would like more information on any of this, please do contact me, or anyone on the Green Team.