BY: DUSYANTA DASA
The Goshalla at Bhaktivedanta Manor has been put up for an award from the local council. The buildings themselves have been described as innovative and inline with the sustainable lifestyle that the Bhaktivedanta Manor preaches. There are pictures of the Goshalla on the Bhaktivedanta Manor site to view. I believe the site was a green belt site originally and the Goshalla was funded by donations. The design was by Malcolm Pawley Architects, presumably in connection with devotees, and a variety of building materials were used.
But from a sustainable ecological point of view there is nothing to focus on. There was a huge amount of concrete used, possibly the worst sustainable product in construction today, and of course there is absolutely no reason to use this material in a sustainable ethical environment.
There were huge amounts of metal tubing used, which gives the effect of a modernistic commercial farming picture that can be found anywhere around the UK and USA, being produced from ugly industrialised factories. The milking point for the Cows appears to be a metal tubular prison for the docile Cows to stand in whilst being hand-milked.
The most notable omission is the total lack of anaerobic decomposition and methane generation plant that could be exploited to yield another type of fuel from biomass, which must be considered to be a massive blunder by the architects and devotees running the project.
Considering the obvious quantity of biomass readily available in a Cow Protection project, this should have been one of the first considerations in the design, that would have produced free energy and fertiliser from manure.
Otherwise what happens to all the urea and ammonia contained in the manure mixed with urine and carbon-based straw? It just evaporates into the air and adds to the already high levels of “greenhouse gas”, so how does Bhaktivedanta Manor Goshalla illustrate an ecologically sustainable example?
The next part in this scenario of extracting useable energy for humans from biomass Cow manure is the obvious economic benefits. At Bhaktivedanta Manor the kitchen is a net consumer of gas for cooking requirements, so any additions to this consumption are beneficial for the bill payers.
The amount of cubic useable methane gas produced from one cow to another does vary, and each breed of cow and in each climatic influence there are variations of methane production, that is a given principle. But based on a biogas digester system that is operated near Doncaster in the north of the UK on a Mr. F. Howarth’s dairy farm, the average mean production of useable methane gas worked out at a hefty 0.51-0.62 cubic metres of methane to every 1Kg of dry matter. Of course water is added to the process for digestion.
Working that out into everyday £/$ means that per Cow production per day of methane gas into today’s prices charged at delivery point for consumers would mean astronomical savings. And therefore would precipitate either reduced milk production retail prices thereby increasing the market share of consumable Cow Protection Milk, and/or a healthy surplus profit that could be ploughed (no pun intended) back into the Cow Protection project.
The sale of Methane gas could also benefit from the bottling process of 5-47 kg bottles for domestic use by local devotees, thereby creating job opportunities and devotees using a more readily available sustainable gas product. In fact, when you think about all the implicated applications of Bio Gas production from Cow manure, the opportunities are endless.
Maybe it could be used in a devotee run forge or smithy for the smelting of metal, or the kiln of a pottery in a ceramic product business, or more obviously in a Dairy producing all types of milk products, which could have been branded with the ISKCON logo, and so on. The missed opportunities in the ISKCON run Cow Protection projects are massive.
Apart from the buildings taking on the quality of a public building and appearing to resemble a commercial warehouse rather than an ecologically considered building naturally sitting in its environment, one is left to wonder what happened to the integrity of the building?
It looks as if it was purposely built for visitors rather than Cow Protection, as if there were to be some benefit extracted from the visitor rather than the Cow. The strategic use of design and materials appears to favour the visitor for the purpose of financial gain because the design does not enhance the Cow Protection principles of Community and the symbiotic dependency therein. The design favours the visitor.
When we build and construct, the concept in mind for the building’s application is considered. To build a community based Cow Protection building, certain principles would necessarily be included in that design. But for visitors to a Goshalla for the principle of viewing Cows, then another design would be forthcoming.
The ability to include both sets of principles would mean to compromise one another, which is exactly what has happened to the design at Bhaktivedanta Manor Goshalla. If you study the Goshalla carefully bearing these points in mind, then it becomes obvious to the trained eye that this is the case. The Goshalla at Bhaktivedanta Manor was not designed with Community in mind.
What happened to the infrastructure of Cow protection in ISKCON? Where are the infrastructural buildings that support the community in a symbiotic dependency on land and Cows for an economical basis? The Bhaktivedanta Manor Goshalla does not manifest those qualities. It does not take a genius to see that the whole design is aimed at one thing only, and that the materials that were used did not support the community principles of ecological sustainability.
If you take a look around the area of Hertfordshire where Bhaktivedanta Manor is situated, the design of farm buildings that have been there for centuries were built from locally sourced materials based on community, using local design and materials, using local skills and labour, using community principles of dependency for the future, and lastly using real integrity of purpose. These all appear to be missing at Bhaktivedanta Manor Goshalla.
The buildings are a disappointment from the viewpoint of cultural ISKCON development and in no way represent a green sustainable way of construction. The buildings could have been so much better, so much more community orientated, so much more inspiring to be ready for future community and present community ideals.
Sadly, the fact of the matter is that the Goshalla has as much character as a bus stop, as much soul as a thrown away banana skin, and as much attractive design as a public library. What on earth happened to conscious input based on Community, Love, and Design for a living lifestyle?
Far from going around patting ourselves on the back for being up for an award from dubious non-devotees, we need to take serious stock of what our conceptions in terms of sustainability, construction for the future, and principles of Community actually are. How have we defined our Gaudiya Vaisnava culture in terms of design, application and activity for our buildings that we have commissioned from the foundation upwards? Within the legal parameters of each country around the world, surely we can come up with buildings far more superior than this.
Here in Wales there are even school buildings built by the Rudolf Steiner Community that are so attractive, without a straight line in them, well nearly. They are beautifully crafted buildings that just lift the spirit by being in them. Isn’t this our remit too? Why do we follow the modernistic culture of “warehouse” design buildings? Are not the Cow and Bull more important to ISKCON than just some kind of prosaic configuration of concrete, metal, plastic and imported wood construction?