Fahy Commons’ grand opening

It is one of the world’s most sustainable buildings

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The newly opened Fahy Commons; Photo by Co-Assistant Photo Editor Maddie Ciliento '25

The Fahy Commons has been much awaited by the entire Muhlenberg community, and at last, it has finally been finished. Nestled behind Trexler Library, it showcases contemporary architecture and an extremely sustainable design.

Being the first new building that has been constructed on campus since 2006, Fahy Commons demonstrates Muhlenberg’s efforts to achieve a more sustainable campus. The building already has a LEED Gold certification, and will hopefully be one of the 20 projects in the world to achieve Living Building Challenge CORE certification. Capital Projects Manager, Richard Waligora, stated how “There are zero buildings right now with the Living Building Challenge CORE certification, and we will hopefully be one of the first.”

The building houses a few of the College’s departments. It is home to the Office of Community Engagement’s (OCE) new location, the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO), and the Schools of Graduate and Continuing Studies. It holds writing and innovation and entrepreneurship classes. The second floor is the home to the GCE office, as well as a private room dedicated to breastfeeding.

“​​The new Institute of Public Opinion facilities in Fahy Commons provide an incredible boost to our research initiatives,” commented Christopher Borick, Ph.D., director of the MCIPO. “The new space allows us flexibility to engage with evolving methodologies as we move into our third decade of public opinion research. The facilities also allow us to more fully integrate our activities into the life of the College by increasing our visibility to the campus community.”

“The Commons has been buzzing with connections, hugs and greetings as the space brings people and our beautiful environment together,” shared Beth Halpern, director of the OCE. “That is what the new building means for us in community engagement- connecting, community and creative minds meeting intentionally.”

The building was designed to have outdoor classrooms on the balconies and patios. The areas have been set up with strong Wi-Fi connections and seating areas as well, so classes can be held outside during the warmer spring and summer months.

The building has senior art studios in the basement and a maker space that includes a 3D printer and laser cutting machine. Most of the business and innovation-oriented classes are going to take place at Fahy Commons.

When Eric Covell, the technical director for theater and dance, was asked to describe the building in three words, he said it was “innovative, articulate and understated.” Covell, who did not want to waste the trees being cut down for the building, decided to use the trees to make the furniture pieces scattered throughout the building. He said “I wanted to save the trees cut down and use the wood to make something.” These pieces of furniture greatly contributed to the aesthetic of the building’s interior, with beautiful designs and unique placements.

The builders also wanted to ensure the use of as many natural resources as possible, which ties into the sustainability of the building. The building features large windows in every room which lessens the use of artificial light, conserving electricity and energy. There isn’t a single room in the building without natural light except for the bathrooms. 

“It is not only ecologically sustainable, but it also promotes better mental health.”

Cameron Eaton ‘23

The windows of the building are speckled with white dots, designed to prevent birds from flying into the glass, greatly reducing bird deaths. Apart from birds, the building is also home to bees. Many of the hives in the trees were unfortunately destroyed when the area was excavated. Blocks of various sizes with holes drilled into them were built into the exterior of the building to serve as a new home for solitary bees who live outside the hive.

Alison Rutyna, ‘23, was impressed with the windows saying, “The big windows are my favorite thing because you can see all of Cedar Creek Park. I also like that it is environmentally sustainable and makes me feel like the College is trying for sustainability.”

“I’ve only been there one time but I remember it being very nice and the architecture was beautiful,” said Ava Mattson ‘26. “The building also had a fresh smell and looks amazing on campus. I haven’t been inside a classroom but it looks like there’s a lot of natural light which would make me much more productive.”

Fahy Commons is filled with a lot of unique features, especially its rainwater harvesting system, which also contributes to its sustainability. When the rainwater hits the roof, it goes into the gutters on the south side and then goes into a 10,000-gallon rainwater system. After being filtered, it is then used to flush the 9 toilets in the building. 

In between the terraces, there are rain gardens integrated into the decorative rocks. These gardens take the water that comes off the terraces and filters out the contaminants and dirt.

When Waligora was asked about the importance of sustainability, he said that “I think we need to follow sustainability guidelines so that our children and children’s children have a good place to live.” Covell also mentioned how Fahy Commons “is going to have an impact on a number of levels. From just a liberal arts college to general marketing, I think it is going to appear in a lot of different conversations about art progress and graduate study programs.”

“I think by doing this and putting so much effort into it, the impact is going to be felt not just in the departments of the building but across the entire environment of Muhlenberg.”

Richard Waligora

Fahy Commons is a masterclass in sustainable architecture on college campuses. It is a proud moment for Muhlenberg to have taken such a leap in sustainability and environmental conservation. The actual wonder of the building cannot be felt unless you visit it yourself, so take Waligora’s advice when he said “come down and take a look for yourself!”

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