“What are those things on your ceiling?” is a regular comment we hear from guests. On Earth Day, we thought it would be fun to explain the mysterious metal plates on our ceiling.

When we bought our building ten years ago (has it been that long?!), we wanted to make an environmental statement with the renovation. We didn’t have the budget for LEED certification, but our new home had to be energy efficient, practical, and a space our staff wouldn’t mind working in every day.

Aside from using sustainable materials and methods, and incorporating amenities like showers to encourage biking to work, we’re most proud of our energy system. We figured if we’re encouraging clients to consider environmentally-friendly features, we need to walk the walk. Designed and installed by a now-defunct local company, our system is — we are told – the only one of its kind in the world. And it made the budget because of tax credits from Ameren and the federal government.

During construction, 15 geothermal wells and a 3,000 gallon storage tank were placed below our parking lot. The old building’s walls, roof and windows received extra insulation. On the roof, solar thermal arrays heat water in glass tubes. When we poured our new floor throughout the building, radiant heat tubing was embedded in the cement. Arrangements of chilled plates — the pieces so many guests comment on — hang from the ceiling around the office, and an 8-foot diameter fan in the Collaboration Area provides the necessary air circulation in the office.

The wells temper the water to around 50 degrees, and in the summer, that water is pushed through the chilled plates that hang in our office. The fan in the center of the office pushes the warm air to the plates, and the plates cool the air. In the winter, water from the wells is pumped through the thermal arrays on the roof, and that heated water runs through the radiant tubing in our floor to make a warm and cozy office. We’re happy to report that the system works beautifully, providing even and consistent heating and cooling (there’s not a drafty or hot seat in the house), and we have incredibly low electric bills for the size of building we have.

Interested in seeing this in real life? Stop by anytime — we’re happy to show you around. Happy Earth Day!