The Guardian brings the news that when the Benedictine nuns of the Conventus of Our Lady of Consolation went in search of a new nunnery, they placed green measures right at the top of the list:
Among the £4.7 million building's green features are solar panels to provide hot water, a woodchip boiler that will be fuelled by locally-sourced trees and a roof covered in sedum grass to better insulate the buildings and attract local wildlife.
Rainwater from some of the roofs will be collected and used to flush the toilets and, instead of an electrically-driven waste water treatment plant, the architects have installed a reedbed sewage system. The effluent from the monastery will filter through the reedbed and, after it is processed through natural anaerobic digestion, the resulting water will trickle out onto the surrounding land.
And the basic materials for the building – everything from timber to stone – have been sourced as locally as possible.
The Cloistered Monastery as The Planet
So, a new green building, what's the big deal? Well, the interesting thing is how project architect Gill Smith of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, described building a green nunnery:
For them it was thinking about buildings in the way we think about them, and for us it was getting to grips with the monastic life. The building is their whole world, they're there 24 hours a day all their lives and there's no other building [we have built] that has to meet that challenge. You have to provide everything they could want in life, which is hard. You really want to create a variety of different worlds within it.
A cloistered monastic environment is a microcosm of the world, a perfect example of how we all should be thinking about the planet more broadly. We are all currently confined to the cloister of the planet we are on; it has rather strong boundaries and limits. In every single action we take we must consider those limits, work within in them and ensure that our actions don't threaten the planet's functional integrity. Perhaps that's a bit grave example (or even obvious for some...), but apropos nonetheless.
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