Building History

FLI building

601 S. Main Street was built before the turn of the century (1860s) as a college chapter house for Sigma Phi. It housed various fraternities until 1955 when it was vacated. The property was then sold by the Colleges and became a rental property. In 1987 the building was repossessed by the city of Geneva after falling into disrepair. In 1991 HWS purchased the building and it remained condemned until its renovation in 2003.

The building was reopened as the Finger Lakes Institute in June 2004 and dedicated in October 2004. Funding for its renovation came through the support of numerous individuals including NY State Senator Michael Nozzolio and US Congressman James Walsh.

FLI lab

Today, the FLI houses several laboratories and spaces used for scientific research by HWS students, faculty and FLI staff. These include the first floor Baker Water Quality Lab used primarily for nutrient and chlorophyll analysis, a classroom used for public outreach and teacher trainings as well as a mercury and wet chemistry laboratory in the walkout basement.

Building Design and Energy Efficiency

HWS Students designed the energy systems used in the FLI building to operate completely on renewable energy resources.

The FLI interior temperature is regulated by a geothermal heating and cooling system, also known as a “geo-exchange system.” Geothermal heating and cooling systems work by moving heat, rather than by converting chemical energy to heat like in a furnace. A total of 20 wells, drilled to the depth of 100 feet, were installed to use the earth’s constant temperature, 55 degrees F, as a heat source or heat sink, depending on the season.


The heat pump system for the FLI consists of six units. These pumps use electricity to move heat from the geothermal source to the surface. The US EPA has concluded that the geothermal heating and cooling system is one of the most favorable technologies to use in terms of operating efficiency and economics. Although geothermal heat pumps cost more to install than conventional space conditioning systems, the additional investment can be recovered in three to five years through lowered heating and cooling bills and minimum maintenance expenses.

In 2009, the Finger Lakes Institute received the EPA ENERGY STAR Small Business Award for increasing the energy efficiency of its facility through energy management improvements over a two-year period. Only six other small businesses across the country received the same honor in 2009.

To learn more about other sustainable practices on the HWS campus, visit the Sustainability webpage.