By Austin Sorette
Bill Buckley, founder of Gateway Taiji, Qigong and Yoga, believes the idea of a “green” studio dovetails perfectly with the mission and philosophy of his studio, which he describes as “a center for practicing and exploring the ancient energy arts.”
For all their unique histories and characteristics, Taiji (tai chi), Qigong (chi kung) and yoga share one crucial thing in common: All tout themselves as in-depth practices aimed at channeling one’s personal energy towards overall health and wellbeing.
Which is why it came as no surprise when Buckley decided to renovate his portion of Portsmouth’s historic Button Factory building – located at 875 Islington – with the dual goal of creating a positive energetic environment and minimizing consumption of electricity and fossil fuels squarely in mind.
“The body’s energy is self-sustaining,” Buckley says. “In our classes, we help people to feel it, cultivate it and strengthen it. We felt this building could do the same; my goal was to enhance the building’s inherent characteristics to make it as energetically self-sustaining as possible.”
Take a stroll into Gateway’s spacious studio, the first thing you'll notice is the bright, warm and inviting aura – even on cloudy days. That's because Buckley and his contractor, Jerry Collins, have opened up the “clearstory,” or the second floor space where factory ovens once vented heat through a bank of windows.
Here, Buckley replaced the old windows with double-paned, low-E glass, added ceiling fans for air circulation, and consulted a heating engineer (Air Design of Nashua, NH) to install a sophisticated ventilation system to ensure optimal air-flow for both cooling and heating the building.
Anyone who’s ever renovated an historic building understands the challenge of having to efficiently heat the space. In Buckley’s case, the old windows that originally ventilated the clearstory were in the direst need of a modern upgrade.
Likewise, the old tile roof was not only designed without taking energy-efficiency into consideration; it weighed 24,000 pounds and – worse still – had begun to leak, according to a survey conducted by New England Energy Technologies.
To remedy this, Buckley had the old roofing material removed, replacing it with a comparatively miniscule 3,200 pounds worth of lightweight foam. Combined with interior foam insulation, the roof now has an R48 insulation factor – or the highest achievable level.
But Buckley’s efforts didn’t end there – he also filled the walls with a state-of-the-art foam insulation and covering it with sheetrock painted a pale lemon green that helped reflect the sunlight and gives the studio a light, bright, positive aura.
“Opening up the clearstory changed the space from a relatively dark room with natural light coming only from the entry, into a wide open, high-ceilinged, sunlit space,” explains Buckley. “Our objective was to use the open, bright character of the building to lift the visitor’s spirit and outlook.”
Additionally, all the space’s lights were converted to LED – by far the most efficient on the market today – helping the studio reduce both its overall usage as well as its monthly energy bill. Likewise, the dressing room lights are motion sensor activated, helping to further reduce unnecessary consumption.
But while the bolstered insulation and more efficient lighting will certainly help in Gateway’s long-term green goals, Buckley says that what he’s really looking forward to is the addition of a brand new solar array to the building’s roof.
“The future for us is solar power,” says Buckley, who added that he’s working with the USDA on an application for a federal grant to reduce the cost of installing a rooftop solar array that would support over 50% of the building's electricity needs.
“The application process requires submission of three competitive quotes from solar vendors,” he says. “Based on the conversations I’ve had with these New Hampshire vendors, it’s clear that going solar will be a sound business decision that could see a full payback in five to seven years.”
From the proposed solar to the installed LED lighting to the low-E glass used; each “green” renovation implemented by Buckley is a manifestation of his overall commitment to sustainability, a commitment outlined and made transparent by Gateway’s membership in the local green business union known as The Green Alliance.
Walking into Gateway, past an oriental stone garden featuring a gentle fountain and shoji screens built by Buckley himself, it’s impossible to not be affected by the positive energy – an energy no doubt being better harnessed thanks to the owner’s impressive efficiency measures.
And while the studio’s green upgrades will most certainly be felt on the bottom line, Buckley says such concerns are part and parcel with Gateway’s bigger, grander goal.
“Our primary objective in opening Gateway was to create an open, inviting and functional space for movement and meditation,” exclaims Buckley. “Conservation, flooding the space with sunlight, and harnessing natural energy sources are philosophically aligned with our mission, which is to use tai chi, chi kung and yoga to harness and channel one’s personal energy to improve health and well-being.”
To learn more about Gateway Taiji, Quigong, and Yoga, visit www.gatewaytaiji.com
To learn more about the Green Alliance, visit www.greenalliance.biz