Courtesy of Hoffman: Photovoltaics produce 13 percent of electricity needs now, with flexibility for expansionDecember 2011 - Perhaps greenness is next to godliness, because the Benedictine Women of Madison required no convincing that Holy Wisdom Monastery should embody the most sustainable outcome their money could buy. By the time the Sisters had tapped Hoffman to design and construct the new monastery, they had already converted 95 acres of their 130-acre Middleton, Wisconsin, site from farmland to natural prairie, and dredged a glacial lake of the silt caused by agricultural runoff.
There just wasn’t that much money to spend, in part because an underutilized 60,000-square-foot former boarding school was still costing the Sisters $100,000 annually in operations. Hoffman’s assignment was to design and build a green and lean replacement for the energy-guzzling Benedict House, which would encompass spaces for prayer, residential living, events, and administration.
Figuring square footage was the first major decision impacting the ecological and financial footprint. “We backed into the solution, balancing wants and needs with a very modest budget,” says Hoffman’s owner and president Paul J. Hoffman. Over two years of conversation, the Sisters made trims throughout their program and, in particular, eliminated guest-room space. Their internal tradeoffs yielded a 50 percent reduction.
Hoffman then employed its own tradeoff process for making the most of every remaining square foot. Explains the company namesake: “We look at individual systems or products and evaluate them for quality and performance, including environmental impact. If the most sustainable carpet is three times more expensive than the second most sustainable carpet, then we may use the less expensive carpet and apply the savings to something with greater benefit, like a geothermal well field.”
He specifies two examples. The Sisters’ goal was zero-net energy, but reaching that target using photovoltaics would have cost them $1 million more than the solution they chose, in which PVs produce 13 percent of electricity needs now, with flexibility for expansion. read more>>>