Posted in projects on February 26, 2014 1:11 pm EST

Case Study: LEED with Vision

A Wisconsin-based women’s monastery sets a clear standard in sustainability

Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton, Wis., received LEED Platinum Certification, setting a high scoring record under LEED-NC v2.2. The project cost was $246 per square foot.  /  Launch gallery (in new window)











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TAGS: green, sustainability,


By Carolyn Heinze

They didn’t start out to set a record. Not at first, anyway. At first, they just wanted to do the best they could. But when they realized they could do their best—and set a record to boot. And set a record they did, raising the bar for anyone who argues that the greener you go, the more expensive it is.

“People say, ‘If you build green, it costs way too much.’ Our experience was that it did not.” -- Sister Mary David Walgenbach, Order of Saint Benedict, Prioress, Holy Wisdom Monastery, Middleton, WI

However, when the Benedictine Women of Madison enlisted Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction Inc. in Appleton, Wis., to design and build their new monastery, going green was definitely among their primary objectives. “We told them that we wanted to build it as green as we could afford,” relays Sister Mary David Walgenbach, Order of Saint Benedict (OSB), prioress at Holy Wisdom Monastery, “and it proved to be economical that way. That was a big learning experience for me. People say, ‘If you build green, it costs way too much.’ Our experience was that it did not.”

Inner and outer convergence

Nestled into 130 acres that includes 100 acres of restored prairie land, a glacial lake (also restored to its original size), oak savannah and several buildings, the 34,000-square-foot Holy Wisdom Monastery reflects the ecumenical Benedictine Women of Madison’s values of incorporating prayer, hospitality, justice and care for the earth into a shared way of life. Its design, then, needed to provide an uncluttered space that was conducive to quiet contemplation, worship and community events in a sustainably built facility that was respectful of its natural environment within a responsible budget. Very early on, as Hoffman was addressing these needs during the design process, it became clear that Holy Wisdom could attain LEED Platinum certification—which it did, earning 63 out of a possible 69 points, setting a record under LEED-NC v2.2. The project cost per square foot was $246.

One of the most striking aspects of Holy Wisdom’s interior is its relationship with its exterior surroundings. Boasting an enormous number of windows and skylighting, 99.5% of the facility’s regularly occupied spaces enjoy a view to the outdoors, and 85% of them are day-lit. This was extremely important, since, as Walgenbach explains, one of the design objectives was to invite Creation in. For Catherine Cruickshank, senior project designer at Hoffman, this connection became increasingly evident as she spent more and more time in the space. “I got a sense of the passing clouds and a real connection to the outdoors, even if I was not looking outside, because I could sense the changes in light,” she recounts. “If you’re in a building that has artificial light, even if there are windows, you don’t sense those passing clouds. It’s been interesting for me to see how much more of a connection to the outdoors you have with natural light.” And, the decreased need for artificial lighting helps to conserve energy.  continued >>





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