Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Gekod's Report of 2015 Improvements at Tsegyalgar East PART 1

[Divination Soups Photo by Paula Barry]

Despite some financial challenges, 2015 proved a productive year for making many improvements to Tsegyalgar East including both the Yellow Schoolhouse and Khandroling properties. These are summarized in Jeremy Keaton's, the Gekod at TE, in a report below.

In addition to the following improvements, new initiatives for practice and online resources such as webcasting all monthly pujas began in 2015. In keeping with Losar, we  bring to a close the past year and look forward to an active Year of the Fire Monkey. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our report for activities scheduled for 2016. 

2015 RECAP from the Gekod:


My primary focus for the Schoolhouse in 2015 was to focus on energy efficiency improvements in the most optimal way possible by using primarily any materials we already have in order to have the largest impact on saving money in the long term, to make sustainability of our community more possible. Many of these things didn't cost us anything and others very little.

• Attic: Everything stored in the attic has been taken out. Removed the old cistern and dismantled the chimney to a few feet below the attic floor. Built a frame to seal off the chimney to prevent air leakage and heat loss. Floor was sealed off from the chimney to the back of the building above the crawlspace to stop heat loss and so it can hold insulation. Improved the ventilation of the attic. Finally, inside the attic floor was insulated and the insulation in the walls of the second floor were topped off. These things will make huge differences in our heating bill and reduce stress on the heating system here. It will also help to prevent future ice damage and leakage. The bricks will be sold.

• Replaced all 9 thermostats in the building with programmable thermostats. They cost nearly nothing. This was primarily done to ensure that the heat is turned back down to 50 degrees automatically, since it is common that people forget to do this, even though there are signs. Please continue to remember to turn the heat down when you leave by pressing the down buttons to set the heat back to 50 degrees.

• Added a large amount of pipe insulation to the heating system, which reduces our heating bill, protects pipes from freezing and stops condensation from cold pipes in the summer which mitigates some mold formation.

• Dormitory ceiling was repaired. The dorm closet was repaired and finished, making it air tight to prevent heat loss into the attic, insulated and hid the pipes behind a wall and a dropped ceiling to keep heat where we want it to be. The closet in one of the bedrooms was finished and sealed as well for the same purpose.

• All new energy efficient LED lighting was installed in the entire Schoolhouse. All brand new LED tube lights replaces the fluorescent light bulbs, new fixtures and covers were installed and dimmer switches installed in the Gonpa to reduce brightness and save money. Here are a little bit of statistics involving the lighting in the Gonpa:

1. - There are 144 bulbs in the Gonpa. Changing them from fluorescent (if 144 bulbs were on) to LED bulbs cut the power usage cost of lighting in half in the Gonpa when at full brightness.

2. - If all 144 bulbs are on and dimmed to the lowest setting of 30%, they use less power than 7 incandescent 100 watt screw-in bulbs. That is an 85% reduction in costs of electricity for lighting in the Gonpa.

• Much thicker vinyl was cut for all of the windows in the Schoolhouse. This vinyl is now being used for its second year and will likely last a few more years. This saves costs in covering the windows each year, costing only tape and staples, and acts as a thicker insulating and air leakage sealer. This saves money on our heating bill, and reduces drafts.

• Many of the windows leak air primarily due to the tops of the windows sagging down. Some descend faster, some slower. Strong wooden dowels were primed and installed in these windows to prop up the top parts of the windows to prevent sagging. In 2015, 3 different times I had to push many of the windows up so they would seal properly. Many people who are familiar with working on the building know what I am talking about. This problem is essentially solved and simplifies the Geko position with the dowels installed.

• Other many more smaller air leakage blockage and energy efficiency related work has been done as well.  As a result of all of the above, costs have been reduced and we burn less propane for eating, even with increasing activity. The Schoolhouse holds heat significantly better than in the past, is more comfortable for visitors, and there is less stress on the heating systems, effectively extending the life of the systems and likely reducing the cost of maintenance and repairs over the life of the system.

Other Schoolhouse work in 2015:
• Switches were installed for the string lights in the Gonpa, making available softer lighting.

• New shelving was installed in the library, as well as LED lights for the work stations, a tea station, new curtains, and a computer. Cataloging, archiving and digitizing library materials is ongoing and much progress was made in the library in 2015.

• A reception area was created in the building foyer with a couch and some comfortable seating along with small tables were moved into the main hall of the Schoolhouse for anyone who comes to visit.

• Repointing of the foundation brick around the Schoolhouse was finished as well as some patching of the parking lot around the edge of the Schoolhouse.

• Nary built and tested a Hugelkulture bed to grow lettuce and vegetables for anyone staying at the Schoolhouse to eat, as well as the lettuce and food planted in any of the flower beds around the Schoolhouse. This design has been begun on Khandroling.

• The most used mandala on the floor of the Gonpa was repaired and repainted.

Archivist/Librarian, Marit Cranmer for many months has worked to develop storage systems for the library holdings developed over thirty years and to create an inviting environment to study in. The library was outfitted with drapes, new bookshelves and repairs as needed.  She is currently digitizing many practice and teaching tapes onto the Library computer as a resource for listening to Teachings in the library. Collections of dharma publications have grown significantly. Today there is a "Reserve" shelf for SMS related texts quoted in The Precious Vase.                                                                                                                             
I rebuilt essentially the entire computer network system here in the Schoolhouse. When I first came, there were many problems. As time went on, more problems manifested and the network started collapsing in large sections, one after the other. In summary, I hard wired everything I could, ran new wires to replace old wires that were faulty or damaged, threw away all 3 old routers and bought 1 new, secure, strong router to replace them all, installed switches where there were old routers (switches are very cheap and generally are more durable). We also got a new gateway. In brief, approximately 90% of the networking in the building is brand new, save a few wires.

Dark Retreat Cabin:
• Thoroughly cleaned and restored to good working condition so that people can do retreat in the cabin again. New door installed. Blockage of some mice entry and air leakage.



• A new section of road was built between the pond and the Vajra Hall.

• Siding on the bathhouse was finished.

• Togal cabin foundation partially stabilized.

• Wood finish applied to the inside walls and ceiling of the Togal cabin to prevent further mildew formation.

• Wood chip piles were spread around to create a path to the Guardian cabin from Bathhouse, to Rinpoche's cabin from the new section of the road, and to create a new walking scenic path from the Pond cabin to the Vajra Hall.

• Repainting of the Guardian cabin steps and the Endless Knots.

• We cleaned out underneath and around all of the cabins. There was very much extra wood and materials underneath the cabins that were relocated to one spot so we can see clearly what materials we have for future development. T=

-Jeremy Keaton

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