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The Sisters of Charity: Stairway to Efficiency

Forget the stairway to heaven. The Sisters of Charity are utilizing their newly retrofitted energy efficient elevators to climb the way to comfort and efficiency thanks to the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program.

In December 2012, the Sisters of Charity took advantage of the Energy Alliance’s program to improve the efficiency and durability of commercial buildings. Through the Energy Alliance’s assistance, they were able to make some very important energy efficiency improvements within their Mother Margaret Hall facility. The building’s two main elevators were retrofitted with new, energy efficient mechanical and control systems.


“The performance of the elevator is improved tremendously. It’s quieter, softer, [and] there’s more flexibility. Because we are a nursing home, the elevator needs to be more sensitive to the residents in the building, on top of saving a lot of energy.”

Jim Franz, plant operator

Sisters of Charity

The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati is an apostolic Catholic community of women that was founded in 1809 by Sister Elizabeth Bayley Seton. For over two hundred years, the women of this community have actively chosen to live simply, even in the complex world we now inhabit, and they work to “heal our global home.” The sisters embrace cultural expansion and work in solidarity with the poor.

In their later years of their life, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati reside in Mother Margaret Hall, a nursing and assisted living facility built in the late 1940s. Until recently, this 7 floor building had been operating with two fifty-year old outdated elevators with obsolete parts, creating energy waste for the facility and generating unwanted noise, friction, and air contaminants of carbon dust. Through the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program, this environmental, health, and financial problem was quickly and easily solved.

Efficiency, Safety, and Comfort

After consulting the Energy Alliance and American Elevator, Jim Franz, the plant operator of Mother Margaret Hall, recognized that replacing those obsolete parts was a high priority for the facility. The elevator retrofit was an to improve the efficiency of the elevators, but also to improve the safety and comfort of the elevators as they transport nursing and assisted living residents.

Jim applied to the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program to help determine the best course of action for Mother Margaret Hall. Ultimately, Jim decided to retrofit the facility’s two elevators with the newest technology available.

The energy conservation measures of the Sisters of Charity’s elevator retrofit included new mechanical parts and new electrical control systems. Regenerative disc brakes were one of the most important mechanical elements replaced in the elevators. The regenerative brakes work similarly to mechanisms in a hybrid car: they capture energy as the elevator descends and utilize that captured energy to bring the elevator back up.

The new control systems of the elevators work with the mechanical technology to help prioritize elevator requests and pathways to best conserve and regenerate energy and to respond to the needs of floor requests.

An additional mechanical improvement was to install a gearless and “brushless” magnet-operated motor. The gearless motor is not just more efficient; it is quieter and healthier. Unlike the old electric motors, the new motor operates without friction. This results in better indoor air quality for the facility because carbon dust is no longer created from the operation of the elevator.

Global Philosophy

Because the efficient technology and improvements provided through the Energy Alliance’s support are earth friendly products, the elevator retrofit was in alliance with the philosophy of the Sisters of Charity. Most importantly, however, the elevators became safer, healthier and more comfortable for the delicate residents of Mother Margaret Hall.

Because the new motor and regenerative brakes don’t create friction, heat, carbon dust, and unwanted noise, passengers are transported in greater comfort and safety. On top of all that, the improvements deliver real energy savings.

With the installed efficiency measures, the Mother Margaret Hall elevators became an estimated 20% more energy efficient, created 17% less heat, and 22% less noise, and reduced carbon dust. The Sisters of Charity are riding in safety and comfort and at a greatly reduced operating and environmental cost.

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