“Why can’t I turn the lights off?
This is a question I’ve frequently heard when touring the new monastery building. Usually we’re just leaving the food service area and one of our energy conscious guests asks this question. The answer I offer is that I forgot to point out the large solar tube in the center of the room. Solar tubes direct outdoor light down a reflective tube to brighten interior spaces. Even on a cloudy day there is enough solar lighting to make people think the lights are on.
One of the characteristics of the new building is the use of natural light. Every occupied space in the building has a source of natural light. That’s why there are windows in the hallways, a skylight over the baptismal font, clerestory windows high above the reception area and assembly room and solar tubes in the serving area and hallway by the sisters’ offices.
Even on a partly sunny day, most areas of the building do not need to have lights turned on. On sunny days, we often see people trying to turn lights off that aren’t on.
I even had a conversation with someone who was reflecting that before electricity, people had more creative ways of getting the natural light into buildings. Perhaps we’ve come full circle in this attribute of energy efficient building design.