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Big european style monastery permaculturized...any ideas?  RSS feed

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Hello Permaculture friends! This my first post here on permies after many months of browsing topics.

I want to pose a question for amateur and professional alike. I am part of a Catholic religious men’s group that - God-willing - will build a monastery to house between 15-30 men. We intend to build a monastery like the gothic monasteries of western europe. The basic shape of which can be described as a large church built on the east-west axis with an enclosure to the south in the shape of a square. An example of this would be the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame, L'Abbaye, 36220 Fontgombault, France. The building would be made of large cut stones and bricks. The temperature in the building doesn’t have to be perfect as we monks accept the cold or hot as an austerity that is normal for our life. It would have: a large kitchen and dining hall; 30 rooms for the monks and 5-10 rooms for guests; a library; a dairy and bakery; a brewery; a cellar; and a common room for recreation inside. This building will have lots of rain water catching possibilities and opportunities for large scale innovative ideas for energy conservation. What would a permaculturist do to adapt this setup to need the least amount of inputs while leaving the aestethics of those beautiful buildings relatively untouched?

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to your ideas and welcome any clarification questions.

In the Christ Child,
Bro. Joe
Posts: 837
Location: Victoria BC
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Welcome to(posting on...) permies!

Interesting design exercise.

Where is the building going to be located, in terms of climate and terrain?

Will there be HVAC systems? Modern plumbing and electricity?
Posts: 1106
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I would start my plans at the backdoor of the kitchen.  Obviously, you'll want access to bring things in and out of the kitchen, but just beyond that in zone 1, I would want an herb garden and my vegetable garden.  But it doesn't have to just look utilitarian: integrate flowers and shade and a place to sit for reflection and meditation.  A teak bench and a tall fruit tree to sit under for shade . . . your garden now also becomes a place of prayer.

Ideally, if you have chickens, you'll want to either tractor them or be able to free-range them from time to time.  My birds are in a chicken tractor, and I still let them out about an hour or two before sundown.  For a group that large, I'd suggest at least 40 birds, which would be a VERY large chicken tractor.  So maybe it would be better to have some sort of paddock system or mobile nets.  As you set up the grounds, think of ways you could integrate chickens so that you can capture their fertility and spread it around.  Spent grains from the brewery would be great fodder for the girls.

In as much as possible, go with edible landscaping.  No grass means no need to mow.

I wish that I had a place near my garden where a truck could back up and dump wood chips.  As things are, they dump in my driveway in the front of the house, and I have to wheel them back with a wheelbarrow.  So make it easy on yourself if you can and have a place close to your garden/orchard where arborists can dump their wood chips.

If you haven't built anything yet, then plan your plumbing system to capture and reuse all your grey water, and create a reed bed to clean that water once it exits the building.  Ideally then, you'd have an orchard somewhere below your house so that your grey water would gravity feed down to the trees.  

Grace to you for the journey ahead.
Steven McIver
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The possible sites right now are Southwest Louisiana, Central Illinois (Springfield), and Western Oregon. I realize those are widely different climates, but right now those places are in correspondence with us concerning us setting up a monastery. As far as terrain assume a slope terrain with the monastery built near the top so that the monastery is like a beacon for all around to see.

I am thinking there will be some modern HVAC, but I was wondering if there was a way to design so you didn't need much conventional HVAC systems? For example, rocket mass heater on a large scale like the hypocausts of Rome. Same thing with plumbing. Electricity will definitely be used for lighting.
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Minimizing modern HVAC will totally depend on the particular climate where you settle. In Louisiana, it would involve studying old public buildings for ways to create ventilating airflow while shielding the structures from the sun's heat. In Illinois, it would probably involve making spaces that are efficient to heat and can use winter sun as much as possible, while keeping summer sun out of the spaces. Rocket mass heaters would be a large part of keeping spaces there warm, especially a sanctuary which would want to be spacious for esthetics. And so on...
Posts: 2382
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Solar Electric (grid connected)
HeatPump for radiant heating and cooling and domestic hot water.

R-30 Insulation for Walls/Roof/etc
Cut stone outside, 12inch of insulation then a 1.5 inch ferro-cement skin on the inside.
I would probably use the same 12inch of insulation for the floor.
With a ferrocement floor on top with in floor radiant heating, then tiles or something.
For the roof I would use the same insulation + ferrocement skin

I like the idea of making each of the 30 rooms, studio rooms 25ft by 25ft.
Left wing with 18 room (2x9) aka (50ft by 225ft)
Right wing with 18 room (2x9) aka (50ft by 225ft)
for a total of 36 rooms including guest/hostel/woofing rooms.

The kitchen is the next big part.
Dairy (milk kefir drink/cottage cheese/hard cheese .... double fermented koji/bluecheese mold/etc)
Brewery (Koji-sake/beer/wine/grains, yeast beer/wine/cider, LAB-yeast cider
Fermentation (Koji/Amazake grains, Red Yeast Rice, Tempeh-beans, Lactic Acid-vegetables, Water Kefir-fruits, condiments/vinegar/etc)
Solar Dehydrator
Root Cellar
Walk in Freezer
Walk in Fridge
Cooktop (Electric, Rocket Stove, GoSun Solar Stove, etc)

Woodlot (mushroom, firewood, biochar)
Orchard (berries, fruits, nuts)
Herbs (medicinal and culinary)
Vegetable (root crops -tubers, squash family, cabbage family, spinach family)
Bulk Calories (nuts from orchard and possible tubers and sunflower nuts and beans and lastly grains like rice/wheat)

Animal System
Fish pond
Bee Hive
Egg Layers

Possible meat chicken/duck/etc, meat+milk goat/sheep/cow

So far I have mostly just viewed the monastery as a 36 room farmstead.
As for spaces that are used for worship purposes and gathering places (dining room, library, gym, sanctuary, living room, etc). I know that they exist but not too sure about what such a floor plan would look like.  

Here is a newly built monastery, that heats/cools with geothermal heatpumps, produce so much electricity that at the end of the year they get a paycheck. I would reach out to them and try and get more specific details.

I found a random floorplan online that I like
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