The Drumm Farm Institute is taking big steps to save on utilities, be more eco-friendly and free money to provide more services to children in foster care.

The Drumm Farm Institute is taking big steps to save on utilities, be more eco-friendly and free money to provide more services to children in foster care.

The institute on Lee’s Summit Road in Independence is installing a geothermal system as part of renovations to Swinney Hall, the original dormitory and classroom building when the old Drumm Farm was started as a home for orphaned boys in 1929.

The idea of the geothermal system is simple: 6 feet down, the earth stays at 55 degrees year-round. Running water through pipes that deep provides cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

Assuming energy costs rise 5 percent a year, the Drumm Farm Institute figures the investment will pay for itself in seven and a half years.

“It’s more expensive, but it pays off,” said Lindsey Steele, an intern at the institute.

Last week work crews dug 18 holes as part of the project.

“We are hoping to have it in there by the end of the year. They are working hard,” Steele said.

There have been local fundraising efforts to save Swinney Hall, which was built in 1885 but has been unused for years. Now the renovations are coming along, and efforts are being made to save as many original items as possible, such as a downstairs fireplace and a staircase that matches its style.

“They restored everything that they could,” Steele said.

The Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association is Drumm Farm’s partner on the campus, and there are resources such as a food pantry and a clothes closet.

There are about 20 children in foster care on campus, and the renovated Swinney Hall will include, among other things, apartments for about four young men making the transition from foster care to the adult world.

Spending less on energy bills means more money for serving young people.

“It actually frees up quite a bit of funds. ... These are older buildings,” said Heather Saak, social services program manager.

“We eventually plan to do this for all the buildings on campus,” she said.