- Northeast Sustainable Energy Association 1st Place 2004
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) (Residential projects can apply for LEED certification under the commercial building program. LEED
The Felician Sisters convent is located at the top of a hill overlooking Montour Run. It is a traditional site for a convent building of this era. The community was living in two buildings, St. Joseph Hall, a 1960s infirmary building, and the 1930s motherhouse, which also housed the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School.
The original building, completed in 1932, had many outstanding architectural features. After completing a planning study, which investigated building new or relocating and selling the site, the decision was made to renovate the motherhouse and consolidate the community under one roof. The motherhouse with its amazing chapel, hardwood floors, clear fir moldings and solid wood doors and transoms, was the symbol of the community for many Sisters.
With the full participation of the community, the 150,000-square-foot convent house was re-arranged into 10 households. The households are comprised of clusters of individual rooms with private baths arrayed around a living room, kitchen, and dining room. The building was also modified to give the 70 sisters greater access to the outdoors. In addition, the building includes a chapel, dining room, offices and conference room, library, auditorium and kitchen.
The goals of the project were to retain the original character of the building, to support aging in place for the Sisters, to provide a fully handicapped accessible building, to be environmentally responsible, to reduce operating costs, and to lower maintenance costs. In addition, many of the Sisters suffer from respiratory ailments and were interested in good air quality. Members of the high school wanted lighter, brighter classrooms, and individual thermal controls. The project also required an eye to the future when the Sisters might not utilize the entire building themselves.
The architect assembled a team of professionals interested in sustainable design and introduced the idea of a green building. The team optimized the spatial and building program needs of the Sisters while meeting the envionmental goals. Saving money on utilities and maintenance was a priority of the client, as was durability of materials, and independent control of systems. The team decided to apply for a LEED rating, and agreed no point would be pursued if unnecessarily costly or difficult.
Working through the project and environmental goals, the team soon realized the value in the resources that the building contained. Many of today’s environmental strategies were standard practice when the building was originally designed. This is most evident in the narrow footprint, large operable windows and transoms above doors that promote daylight and natural ventilation. There were many materials that had been installed in 1930 that were in excellent condition and, if the Sisters wanted low maintenance and durable materials, they could not buy new materials that would perform as well as the old materials. Consequently, as much of this material was reused as possible.
Due to involvement of the entire team including the architects, consulting engineers, contractor, subcontractors and client, the team was able to accomplish unique innovations and deliver the project well within the $22 million budget.