The Jesuit faith is based on a passionate commitment to simplicity, spirituality and intellectualism. With those principles in mind, the architects at Gray Organschi Architecture took extra care when constructing the Jesuit Community Center at Fairfield University. Nestled on a quaint hillside, and captured in photographs Robert Benson Photography, the space offers staff and students a relaxing retreat from the unyielding pace of campus life. In an effort to share their values with the community as a whole, the Jesuit’s ensured that the space makes an impressive commitment to minimizing energy consumption.
Prominently positioned in the center of campus, the building is comprised of administrative offices, a community dining room, great room, and library. There are also gendered sleeping quarters for the resident priests and their lay guests. In an effort to incorporate the natural surroundings, there are also two gardens: one of which is used as a relaxing courtyard space and the larger rooftop garden that aids in filtering rainwater. Most importantly, the chapel stands at the heart of space, providing literal and spiritual respite for those who seek it. For all the activity going on inside, the community center’s construction appears minimalist. Once you discover the effort put into keeping the community center green, it becomes ever more complex. To start, the 20,000 square foot building utilizes an insulation system that structurally reduces heat loss and controls moisture. As an added bonus, the exterior is lined with renewable or reused building materials. Continuing this effort in the interior, the architects chose large glazed panels and dark-polished concrete floors throughout. They wanted to ensure natural light would flood the space and, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the solar heat would be absorbed in winter. Since the windows are operable, they allow for significant cross ventilation in the warmer months. Finally, an impressive closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system, fed wells beneath the parking area, provides energy to the building without fossil fuels. What do you think about the ecological architecture used in the construction of Fairfield University’s Jewish Community Center? Are there any features that you would like to bring into your own home?