Posted in projects on October 1, 2017 2:13 pm EDT

Century-Old Convent Takes a Green Approach

A holistic efficiency historic renovation initiative brings an historic building into the 21st century, helping a New York convent achieve an estimated 60% energy savings.

The Convent of St. Dominc serves as the headquarters of the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt in Blauvelt, N.Y.











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TAGS: cost savings, energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, renovation, sustainability,


By Church Designer Staff

Founded in 1878, the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt is a religious congregation in Blauvelt, N.Y., a northern suburb of New York City. The more than 150 professed sisters and associate members serve throughout six states and are actively involved in education at all levels.

Their ministries include social service programs for the developmentally disabled, services for children in foster care, shelters for the homeless, housing for persons with HIV/AIDS, programs for the mentally ill and chemically addicted, and health care services for the poor.

To achieve so much, the sisters reportedly run each element of the organization like a well-oiled machine. They concur with the mantra, "Waste not, want not," conserving resources and applying their efforts and funding where it will best serve the Lord.

While the 100-year-old convent is absolutely pivotal to the convent's existence and operation, its energy consumption had reportedly been a concern for a number of years. The congregation knew that maintaining and fueling the existing heating and cooling systems were draining them of funds that could and should be applied elsewhere.

"By bringing cost-effective and conservation-minded equipment to our building, we’re keeping with Pope Francis’ call to care for the Earth and care for all that has been given to us.”

—Sister Catherine Howard, Convent of St. Dominic, Blauvelt, NY

Conserving to better serve

The Convent of St. Dominic is the headquarters for the sisters' housing administrative offices, a convalescent wing, and a large chapel in Blauvelt. The 100,000-square-foot, five-story brick building was being heated with an archaic steam system. In addition to operating expense, the lack of heating system control was a problem -- especially in the hospital and living quarters. Only 40% of the facility was air conditioned, provided by window units.

“We needed to make a change,” says Sister Catherine Howard. “There was a lot of potential to better serve the community, increase comfort, and become better stewards of the planet.”

Howard continues, “This project not only allows us to better serve our ministries, but also increase our sustainability. By bringing cost-effective and conservation-minded equipment to our building, we’re keeping with Pope Francis’ call to care for the Earth and care for all that has been given to us.”

Seeking improvement

In early 2015, with a charge to make major building improvements, the convent’s director of property management, David Reeves, approached Steven Winter Associates Inc. (SWA). The building performance consultants have offices in New York City, Norwalk, Conn., and Washington, D.C.

Michael Flatley, senior engineer and director of commercial projects at SWA, completed the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Flexible Technical Assistance Program (FlexTECH). FlexTech provides objective, site-specific technical assistance and analysis to inform the implementation of clean energy technologies. This helped determine what kind of energy conservation measures could be taken to reduce energy bills and minimize the carbon footprint of the convent.  continued >>