The road to Leura’s Brahma Kumaris Centre for Spiritual Learning is unruly and pot-holed but it rewards travellers with majestic views over the Grose Valley wilderness. The journey provides a fitting start to the meditation retreats the centre offers to people seeking a reprieve from the stress of modern life.

The Brahma Kumaris Centre for Spiritual Learning sits on a 132-acre sanctuary nestled in the bush. Guests are requested to adopt ‘pure living’ principles while they are on retreat. This includes a vegetarian diet, no alcohol, smoking or stimulants and modest clothing.

Brahma Kumaris is an international women’s-led organisation, established in Leura 17 years ago. Jessica Yuille is the environmental co-ordinator for Brahma Kumaris Australia and is very much aware of the environmental sensitivities of the centre’s location. As a member of the Low Carbon Living program, Brahma Kumaris Leura has achieved a silver rating and is informed and inspired by the efforts of other LCL members.   

The centre recently added a new air-sourced heat pump hot water system designed by Jeffery Di and marketed by Stephen Wilson of Lead Tech.

Brahma Kumaris has eight solar hot water systems that service 45 twin-share rooms with ensuites; three 2-bedroom cottages; a dining and kitchen venue; meditation hall and reception area. In January 2018, two new heat pump water units replaced older systems and a further five new units will be installed later this year.

“We researched and chose heat pump technology because it is efficient, inexpensive to run, reliable and cheaper than solar,” says Jessica.

Heat pump technology has been around for at least 20 years and is a green energy alternative to traditional solar hot water systems. Lead Tech’s patented design differs from competitors in that each unit is quiet and compact, the size of a standard refrigerator, and does not require additional booster units (gas or electric) if the external temperature significantly decreases.

The Lead Tech unit has the lowest carbon footprint of any comparable heat pump on the market, the technology is Australian-owned and is adaptable for residential and commercial purposes.

The purity and quality of the water inside the system remains intact due to the design of the coiled piping inside the tank, preventing sediment and bacteria from accumulating at the bottom of the tank.

Ultimately, the water is drinkable and chemical free and water wastage is significantly reduced. Other benefits include tank water that is vented to atmosphere, not pressurized.

Although the upfront cost of a Lead Tech unit is 30 per cent more than conventional heat pumps, the immediate savings with energy bills are a minimum of 50 per cent. Upfront costs will be paid off in the first five years.

Other sustainable and energy-efficient modifications at Bramah Kumaris Leura include air conditioning heaters that have replaced gas heaters in the bedrooms.

Aircon Off smart controllers regulate the temperature and the investment is energy- and cost- efficient. Underfloor hydronic gas heating systems warm office spaces, and wall panel heaters are mounted in other areas.

Cardboard, batteries, light bulbs, plastic bags and clear packaging are recycled, and the compost bin was moved closer to the kitchen door so that it can be used more easily. Joan Houghton and other residents maintain the vegetable garden, growing food to supplement the requirements of large groups on the weekends. Leftover food is frozen and donated to Earth Recovery’s Food Rescue program in Katoomba.

Local Eco-architect Nigel Bell (Conservation Hut) designed an addition to the reception area incorporating straw thatched insulation in the roof and strategically placed windows, maximising natural light and solar heat. Nigel also renovated a wheel-chair accessible toilet in the 90-year old Stone Cottage, located at Govetts Creek at the foot of the property, surrounded by a well-established English garden tended to by the centre’s ‘Meditative Gardeners’. Landcare manages the creek, bushland and nature swamps on the property.

LED lighting is used internally along with path lights and road lamps.  Power is switched off where not needed, particularly at night. Residents now manage with one freezer instead of two and the pilot light for the cooker is used only when cooking. The PA system in the venues is no longer on standby but switched off until needed. A 3-phase rinse tank heater in the kitchen is heated only when in use.

Vegetarianism is an adopted lifestyle at Brahma Kumaris, reflecting a philosophy of non-violence and awareness of the global waste, pollution and other costs associated with a meat-based diet.  A recent study found that excluding red meat from our diet reduces our carbon footprint more than eliminating cars from our roads.

More information:

Lead Tech Heat Pump Water Heater: phone Stephen Wilson on 0468 580 380 or Jeffery Di on 0410 087 277

Brahma Kumaris Leura