New York's Nuns are Green and Holy

bksk chapel exterior image

The Episcopal Sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit are looking forward to living in a new convent which will be green and environmental; they see it as a natural outgrowth of their spiritual life. "It's a question of stewardship," said a Sister, "Of responsibility."

And this building which will have rooftop gardens, water heated by solar, rainwater collection, natural light and ventilation and environmentally sensitive building materials will be deep in the heart of West Harlem (on 150th Street and Convent, for all you New Yorkers).

bksk-chapel interior image

The Sisters hired BKSK Architects to come up with the design which will reflect their spiritual commitment to the environment. Explained one Sister: "We began talking more deeply amongst ourselves about how spirituality and ecology are linked, how we could more fully appreciate that the universe is a creation of God,"

The building itself will be very urban, located as it is in Harlem. It will be four storeys with two rooftop gardens. The vegetable garden will be on top of the nuns' bedrooms, helping to keep the rooms cool.

After much consultation with the 8 nuns who will be living there, "many of the internal surfaces will be made of recycled concrete and glass, and the two-story chapel, which is set off in the back of the building, will have clear glass skylights to allow abundant sunshine to filter in."

The subject of whether the toilet will be compost or not is still up for debate.

Going green has been an ongoing mission for the Sisters. They have been using Zipcars and serving Fairtrade coffee and growing their own vegetables for years. They are working to develop more "earth-friendly" habits (robes) which would be made of organic cotton. New York Times
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