2023 Groundbreaker Awards Nominee: Fahy Commons (Muhlenberg College)

Posted September 25, 2023

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Project Info

Fahy Commons (Muhlenberg College)

2400 W Chew St, Allentown, PA 18104

Sustainable New Development and Renovation

College Office and Classroom Building


Project Team

Architect/Designer: Re:Vision Architecture

Contractor: Whiting Turner

Engineer: BSEG

Owner: Muhlenberg College


Project Description

Fahy Commons puts to practice deep green design strategies so students can touch, see, and understand the impact of both architecture their actions to generate positive impact.

Fahy Commons is the first building in the world to reach the ambitious goal of Living Building Challenge (LBC) Core Ready certification, incorporating myriad features that positively impact the local campus ecology while showcasing the College’s commitment to environmental stewardship and a vibrant and inclusive community. At the heart of Fahy Commons' design, energy efficiency achieved through efficient HVAC systems, cutting-edge lighting technologies, and a super-insulated envelope reduces building energy use 70% over conventional structures. In addition, a 73 kW rooftop solar array generates renewable energy, contributing to the building's net-zero energy goals.

The design team prioritized the use of locally-sourced, low-toxicity, and low-embodied carbon materials that provide durability and a modern interpretation of Muhlenberg’s campus aesthetic while reducing the building's carbon footprint. Evaluating hybrid solutions like ultra-insulating SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) reduced the carbon impact of the building’s structure while supporting ambitious envelope performance goals. These selections serve as a testament to the viability of low-carbon construction
practices for future building projects.

To highlight the building’s commitment to responsible stewardship of the local watershed, the project team prioritized water conservation. A rainwater recycling system (enclosed behind glass doors for educational benefit), coupled with low flow fixtures, slashes the building's potable water consumption by over 50%. Native landscaping, designed without the need for irrigation or petrochemical fertilizers, restores the natural ecology of the site further reducing the building’s water need, and rebalances the carbon cycle, sequestering an estimated 315 Tons of carbon back into the soil. Continuous fresh-air ventilation ensures optimal air circulation throughout the building to protect indoor air quality and occupant well-being. By adhering to a green cleaning protocol, the building fosters a healthy, toxin-free interior environment. Biophilic elements, windows, and outdoor spaces engage occupants in direct and indirect experiences with nature, promoting mental well-being and connection with the surrounding environment to prioritize the holistic health and comfort of Fahy’s occupants.

The design champions community and equity through universal accessibility, so all users can navigate the space with dignity – even the bees are invited into special bricks to house them! By utilizing a third-party diversity and inclusion assessment tool during construction, Fahy benchmarked the project teams, ensuring equity and representation. The building itself has become a tangible symbol of inclusivity, empowering and inspiring the community to embrace social and ecological diversity and foster equity. Fahy serves as a beacon of sustainability within Muhlenberg College and beyond. Its holistic approach to sustainable design, encompassing energy efficiency, carbon reduction and sequestration, water conservation, indoor air quality, occupant well-being, and community equity, sets a new standard for environmentally responsible

Certified LEED Platinum, pursuing Passive House certification, and one of the first buildings in the world pursuing LBC Core Green Building Certification, Fahy Commons has become a transformative model for other institutions and organizations seeking to redefine the future of our built environment. It is a testament to the power of sustainable design to harmonize human comfort, environmental stewardship, and community engagement.

Green Building United Legacy Partners

Green Building United Platinum Partners

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