Eco-design has developed such a following it could almost be considered a religion. Fittingly, the green and the Godly have joined forces in Upper Manhattan to create a environmentally friendly convent, the Community of the Holy Spirit St. Hilda's House, which may be the only green convent in New York. The 60-year old establishment is continuing its charitable ways in the community by now also spreading the love to the environment with its new building designed by BKSK Architects.
The 11,000 square foot convent, coincidentally located on Convent Avenue, is one of a kind. Designed by BKSK Architects (famous for the Queens Botanical Gardens visitor center), nearly every aspect of the building is sustainable. The convent’s solar hot water system consists of 216 square feet of solar collectors that provide more than 60 percent of the domestic hot water needs, saving a whopping 12,400 lbs of CO2 emissions.
The main draw to the top of the home is the roof garden where a relaxing terrace with various plant beds allow the sisters to plant their favorite vegetables for sustainable cooking. Another roof level contains a compost system and a beautiful and bountiful array of sedum flowers, and rainwater collection tanks harvest and distribute fresh water throughout the building.
Indoors, the convent is made almost completely of recycled and local materials. The kitchen and residential floors are comprised of coconut palm, while the more heavily trafficked floors are made from recycled cork and rubber for durability. Nearly all of the brick, glass, and concrete for the building are from local origins to conserve natural resources and minimize the environmental impact of the new building.
Completed in the fall of 2010 and consecrated by Bishop Catherine S. Roskam in December, St. Hilda’s House is not only a center for community gatherings and worship, but also a leading example in sustainable living. The sisters may enjoy the deeper connection with nature and religion in their home, while sharing with the community how we can all live in communion with Mother Earth.
Photos by Jeff Goldberg/Esto, used with permission