AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Immaculate Heart of Mary Motherhouse

The renovated courtyard is shown in this photo.
Photo credit: Barry Halkin Photography


  • Location: Monroe, MI
  • Building type(s): Special needs housing
  • Renovation of a historic building
  • 380,000 ft2 (35,300 m2)
  • Project scope: a single building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed January 2003
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2/v.2.1--Level: Certified (27 points)

When the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (SSIHM) recognized that their order was diminishing, they embarked on a collaborative, long-range planning process to determine the best way to achieve an ecologically responsible, 21st century community on their 280-acre site.

Many of the structures on their property were built in the 1930s and are historically significant, so any proposed rehabilitation required review by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office. The design team met the complex programmatic challenge by utilizing the existing structures to best meet the housing, long-term care, and spiritual needs while achieving sustainable and preservation goals.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2006. It was submitted by Susan Maxman & Partners, Architects, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

The Sisters wanted to leave a legacy to future generations with this project. One of the missions of their order is to respect the earth and promote environmental justice, so they hoped to create a community that would exemplify these ideals.

All shower and lavatory water is routed to a constructed wetland and reused for flushing toilets. Daylighting and a ground-source heating and cooling system contribute to an expected 20% reduction in energy use, compared to a conventional building. Materials were selected for their durability and environmental responsibility.

The Sisters saw this project as an opportunity to teach the public about environmental issues. Throughout the design process, the Sisters presented issues that the design team was studying to neighbors so they could learn about how to live with more respect for the environment. Even if suggested strategies had very long payback periods (longer than many of them would live), the Sisters often still chose to incorporate them to be able to teach about them. The constructed project dramatically showcases many of the sustainable strategies through exhibits and signage prepared by the Sisters.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Corporation, nonprofit
  • Typically occupied by 440 people, 80 hours per person per week; and 300 visitors per week, 2 hours per visitor per week


Integrated team, Green framework, Open space preservation, Wildlife habitat, Wetlands, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Graywater, Glazing, Passive solar, HVAC, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, Adaptable design, Durability, Recycled materials, Local materials, C&D waste management, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation

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Last updated: 4/20/2006

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

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