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Unity Temple Tour to Offer a Rare Glimpse Underground

Tour will marry Frank Lloyd Wright's past plans with iconic Oak Park building's green future.

Unity Temple Tour to Offer a Rare Glimpse Underground

Volunteers and officials with the restoration effort at Frank Lloyd Wright's in Oak Park are inviting the public to a fundraising tour of the building's underground tunnels.

It's all part of the push to bring a new energy system to the iconic building at 875 Lake St. Here's why:

Frank Lloyd Wright designed a forced hot air system based on a coal‐fired boiler and electric fans. Underground tunnels zigzagged below the building, to carry warm air from the boiler room below the kitchen to Unity House and Unity Temple. Unfortunately, the system never worked properly, and after the first winter, steam radiators were installed.

But officials with the restoration effort say those radiators are clunky, loud and inefficient. What's more, they say, the existing heating system uses lots of natural gas and electricity, which sucks up energy in the winter. And in the summer months, there's no A/C to keep the place cool.

All of which means the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation is trying to raise awareness, and money, to help not only modernize the system but to also do it in an environmentally responsible way.

On Saturday's tour, led by mechanical engineer and geothermal expert Mark Nussbaum, guests will learn about the planned geothermal system that could reduce heating costs upward of 50 percent and cut down on overall energy consumption by up to 70 percent. They'll also visit previously unseen sites within the Unity Temple.

The system carries an estimated price tag of $1.5 million.

More on the UTRF's geothermal project

Tickets for the tour, which takes place from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, cost $45 and can be purchased here.

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