The goal was to design an extension for a former convent to create the new Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health; which connects a new and compact, residential dormitory to the existing retreat building. Utilizing sliding sun screens, radiant cooling and heating, daylighting and natural ventilation, and a sophisticated yet deceptively simple site strategy, the building establishes itself as a cornerstone of sustainability for the institution while enabling human connections to the Berkshire context in all seasons. A glazed passage with a planted roof and southern exposure provides a warm, bright connection for yogis moving between the Housing Tower and the existing retreat building during cold weather. A slight bend in plan telegraphic from corridor to façade, directs views toward either the lake or the hills, while editing adjacent buildings from view. The Housing Tower packs its 80 rooms into an economically scaled plan and section, growing upward rather than outward.
Radiant cooling and heating slab from the floor and ceiling is used for base tempering of the indoor climate. Each room is also equipped with a gravity wall unit for further temperature customization. Silent and invisible, the in-room gravity unit is an ingeniously simple system. Making use of natural convective air flows, the room is made comfortable with very little energy, while the guests enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. The design uses a chilled beam installed in a wall cabinet, with opening in the top and bottom. In heating mode, cool air is drawn in through the bottom opening is warmed by water moving through the system, and flows out through the top. In the cooling mode, warm air is drawn in through the top, is cooled by the system and flows out the bottom opening.
The gravity wall combined with other efficient features such as a dedicated outdoor air including heat recovery, an operable window for natural ventilation mode, operable exterior shading, and a highly-insulated envelope, create an integrated architectural design and climate control strategy that consumes 40% less energy than a typical discrete forced air based system for heating and cooling.