Building Community around Clean Energy: Finland Community Center Geothermal Project


by Kathleen McCarthy • August 2011
The Finland Recreation Center under construction

Finland, a small town in Northeastern Minnesota, wanted a new space for community members to gather, teach, learn, and hold meetings for their community. The previous recreation center, which doubled as a community building, was becoming run down and not worth repairing. The idea for a new green, energy efficient building was brought up and widely supported by the community.

Honor Schauland, a leader of this project, maintained motivation in organizing the community support and participation in the planning of this building. “A few forward-thinking members of the local government and community spearheaded the project,” Schauland shared.
“These folks began a community planning process that involved almost the entire community in planning for the new building and the future of the town. After that, the entire project has been community driven. Citizens are constantly giving input and approval to the project.”

She said there has been broad community support for a geothermal system in the building, with the hopes of adding other renewable energy technologies in the coming years.

“Currently, Finland’s closest example of a geothermal system is the one at the Co-op Light and Power facility which is not set up as an educational tool,” said Schauland.

“Because a wide range of visitors will be using the new community building, we see this as an opportunity to educate people in the region about a range of alternative energy systems by including systems in the new community center and providing educational and informational signage throughout the building to inform people who enter and use the building about its approaches to energy reduction,” she explained.

To make this a truly green building, the construction crew was able to salvage and recycle 1/5 of the building materials from the old recreation center. The architects for the project were able to incorporate the recycled materials into the design of the new building. “Wagner-Zaun, [the design architect], was both sustainable and affordable,” Schauland noted.

Other partners in this project include Foster, Jacobs and Johnson, a mechanical and electrical engineering firm; Coop Light & Power; Lake County Highway Department; and other local experts who have helped with preliminary soil tests. The community center was able to be built because of generous donations from businesses, organizations, families, and individuals in the community.

While the installation of the geothermal system has yet to be started, folks at the Finland Community Center are so excited to have a new space where people can meet and share ideas. When asked if any other projects were started because of this, Schauland reported, “Yes, we will be developing programs to be held at the new center, hopefully some educational classes on the alternative energy components of the building. We are also talking about a green building plan for the township, as well as some other projects.”

Probably the most exciting part about the new building is its estimated heating and cooling costs compared to those of the old recreation center. The energy efficiency calculations from Wagner-Zaun estimate the heating cost for the new building to be around $2,000 per year. This is in marked contrast to the old recreation building, which cost as much as $900 a month in the winter time and was less than half the size of the new facility!

“We really appreciate the encouragement and advice as well as the funding, and we hope to host a CERTs tour of our new community center at some point in the not-so-distant-anymore future!”

Project Snapshot:

  • Purpose: Geothermal community recreation center
  • Benefits: Public demonstration of an energy efficient and clean energy building
  • Location: Finland, MN along the North Shore of Lake Superior
  • Funding: Generous donations from businesses, organizations, families, and individuals in the community; $3,200 from Northeast CERT

For more information regarding Finland’s Geothermal project, please email Honor Schauland at, or call 218-323-7738.

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Minnesotans building a clean energy future


    CERTs Partners:

Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission