Gray Organschi Architecture built a beautiful, environmentally-sensitive community center for Fairfield University in Connecticut that reflects the Jesuits' commitment to simplicity, spirituality and intellectualism. In addition to an innovative roof garden which filters storm water, and the use of nearby trees for shade, the project features a closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system fed by 15 wells beneath the parking area.
Situated at the heart of the campus, the community center sits on a steep sloping hillside flanked by enormous mature European beech trees to the south. In exchange for the shade provided by giant beech trees in the summer months, the building was designed to overhang its foundations, which in turn protects the extensive root systems. During the winter months, large glazed panels admit sunlight that is absorbed by a dark polished concrete floor, and then redistributed as heat throughout the building.
To protect the spaces within, an innovative exterior wall system reduces thermal conductivity and heat loss throughout, as well as condensation. This effect is enhanced by a rooftop garden that also controls and filters storm water. The architects then opted to include a closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system that relies on 15 wells sitting beneath the nearby parking area — greatly reducing the project’s overall footprint.
Even though opinions can differ wildly across different religions, the Jesuit Community Center shows that various religious communities can still do their part to try and save the environment. Leading by example also sets an example for other members of the same religion, who may then go on to emulate some of these sustainable building practices in their own home or businesses.
Images by Robert Benson Photography