Layering Multiple Churchyard Amenities
Older places of worship comprised of historic structures and their cultural landscapes serve as civic assets which benefit the broader communities in which they are located. Properly designed and maintained, churchyards like the one at Saint James Episcopal Church can also provide neighbors with layered social and environmental benefits.
Established in 1744, Saint James Episcopal Church recently prioritized specific facility needs including a more welcoming building approach, expanded interior and exterior gathering spaces, and greater accessibility to its facilities. To accomplish these goals, an expanded building and new courtyards were constructed. RGS also proposed the inclusion of green infrastructure to capture stormwater runoff from the expanded structure and better preserve the historic property.
Leaders in Addressing Clean Water Challenges
Because Lancaster City is located within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, local municipal leaders adopted measures established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to eventually end the discharge of untreated sewage and other pollutants into local waterways via aging storm infrastructure. Several years prior to this 2017 adoption, a team of church leaders, the City’s progressive administration, and RGS Associates began to proactively address these same clean water challenges on the Saint James campus. While the cloistered courtyard at Saint James Episcopal Church remains deceptively simple on its surface, it annually captures and infiltrates more than 125,300 gallons of stormwater below-grade.
Reuse and Retention of Character-defining Features
In addition to new permeable paving bricks, RGS incorporated recycled materials into its courtyard design. These included earlier paving bricks from pre-existing walkways along with items from church storage such as decorative paving tiles, fencing, and cast-iron window grates now repurposed as courtyard gates. Most existing trees were preserved, while new plants were selected from native species and heirloom churchyard varieties. A customized fountain was inspired by the church’s baptismal font. Collectively, these features achieve another key project goal: reuse and retention of character-defining features.