Sota Construction Felician Sisters Convent and Sacred Heart High School

Perkins Eastman Architects

Felician Sisters of Coraopolis

This 160,000 square foot, 19.5 M, substantial renovation project, was a collaborative effort from the start, with the areas of work including the high school, convent, chapel, nursing care and courtyards. Sota Construction Services Inc. was chosen as the general contractor early in the design process, with the Sisters included in every step of the decision making process.

The architectural plans, two years in the making, allowed for new, accessible, residence rooms, and a completely new high school layout. The redesigned courtyard spaces provide an appealing area for students and also allow the Sisters much needed direct access from the building to the landscaped sitting areas.

The coordination of the new mechanical and electrical systems with the existing window heights and building structure was a challenge that was met. The new systems were routed to preserve the original ceiling heights and to maximize daylight penetration. The schedule was a fast track schedule and the project was completed on a phased basis while occupied.

The project achieved a prestigious LEED GOLD certification through the United States Green Building Council. Green construction elements included significant reuse of existing materials, specification of recycled content materials, recycling of on-site construction waste, and specification of sustainable furniture.

Besides the reuse of over 300 doors and transoms, miles of wood trim and 1 acre of wood flooring, all of the new partitions were built using recycled metal studs, recycled drywall made from fly-ash and recycled mineral wool sound insulation.  The project now serves as a model for green renovation and the Sisters have conducted numerous tours as a part of their mission and what they now call the 'Gospel of Green'.

Extensive interviews with the Sisters regarding the occupancy schedule of the various spaces allowed the HVAC system to be reduced by 45 tons. High efficiency water source heat pumps were used with energy recovery units on the roof to provide fresh air and recover energy from the exhausted air. The building exceeds ASHRAE 90.1 for energy efficiency by 35% providing significant long term savings and environmental benefits.

DOE 2 modeling of various alternatives was used to evaluate thermal improvements. The over 900 windows in the building are used to maximize natural lighting of the spaces. White reflective TPO roofing was used to minimize heat island effect and to reduce load. A direct digital control system will provide setback and monitoring of the hvac units.Waste heat from kitchen refrigeration will be input into the heat pump water loop. Photocells in the classrooms will turn off lights when natural light is present.

Ernie Sota and the Sisters co-wrote a grant application to the PA. Department of Environmental Protection which was funded and allowed for installation of a domestic hot water heating system and a 2KW photovoltaic array which the Sisters proudly located near the entrance to the convent.

But most importantly, the Sisters have stated their complete  satisfaction with the project and in fact have reported better health on the part of those suffering respiratory ailments. The retention of the historic fabric while originally motivated by the mantra 'reduce, reuse, recycle'; provided the realization that after the renovations were complete that the facilty 'feels like the old place'.

The Felician Sisters Convent and School has been recognized with the following awards:

  • Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards sponsored by Dominion and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, 2003: finalist in the green design category
  • Associated Builders and Contractors Western Pennsylvania Chapter: Award of Merit for Historical Renovation, 2003
  • Environmental Design and Construction: Excellence in Design Awards, 2004
  • Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA): Northeast Green Building Design Awards, First Place-Places to Live, 2004
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA) - Pittsburgh Chapter: Green Design Citation, 2004
  • Boston Society of Architects: Sustainable Design Award, 2005
  • National Association of Home Builders - National Green Building Awards: Green Project of the Year - Affordable Multifamily, 2005
  • AIA/AAHSA (American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging): Design for Aging Award of Merit, 2005
  • Gold!! LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, September, 2006