A Green Social Hub

The Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) Global Village is an internationally inspired, LEED-registered sustainable community complex on the school’s Rochester, NY, campus. It was designed to provide students with a global living and learning experience through the use of student services, academic resources, and amenities. RIT’s Global Village has created a vibrant outdoor social heart for its 17,200 students and 3,600 faculty and staff.

Since its first year in 2010-2011, the 189,000 sq.-ft. mixed-use design has quickly become the campus’s most popular housing and centerpiece of a new on-campus infill neighborhood with shops, cafés, and restaurants; seminar and club rooms; and numerous outdoor spaces that serve as pockets of relaxation for studying and entertainment.

Global Village was designed to ease cramped space on the growing campus while keeping higher standards for sustainability in mind. The Village consists of multiple buildings surrounding a central, protected courtyard, which serves as a social hub and promotes interactivity.

Urban Energy 
to Suburban Campus 

The new pedestrian-only neighborhood, an urban design collaboration between architects ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge and SWA, includes housing for 414 students and is master planned to grow to accommodate 2,000 students. Before designing the space, both ARC and SWA collaborated on the urban design of a larger neighborhood, creating multiple portal “crossroads” to foster walking between the academic core and previously isolated student housing and commuter parking on the west side of campus. The Village and neighborhood replaces rambling 1960s townhouses and parking lot clusters, tripling the number of students that can live in a sophisticated, active street scene directly adjacent to RIT’s academic core within the campus’s otherwise suburban setting. The design also provides students a global living and learning experience through the use of student services, academic resources, and amenities.

Designing With 
Sustainability in Mind
In the residential portion of the Village, all suites use tankless water heaters, which conserve energy by heating water on demand and eliminating the need to maintain the temperature of large water tanks. Global Village also makes use of solar light pipes in lobbies. Solar light pipes utilize the sun with a series of mirrors to channel sunlight into rooms, providing more natural light and reducing lighting expenses.

Outside the walls, the team worked to create high-functioning outdoor spaces that would increase the quality of life for its highly competitive academic audience while easing cramped space on the growing campus. Registered for LEED Gold certification, the project includes the use of sustainably harvested wood, a green roof, sustainable stormwater management strategies, and energy-efficient design.

Other outdoor features that meet the recreational and leisure campus needs includes a central outdoor lounge with deep seating, a fire pit for cold winter nights, a trellis-framed performance area, and a south-facing sloping lawn “beach” that sits at the base of the curved Center for Student Innovation. An added feature and point of interest is an internally lit, faceted patterned glass fountain that serves as a glowing landmark and meeting point year-round.

Global Village also includes elements to extend use of the space in Rochester’s cool and cold weather during much 
of the school year, including user-operated timed gas heaters in the café seating zone and umbrellas for drizzling days. In the coldest months, the lounge can be cleared, lined, and flooded to transform into a small, recreational skating rink. The Village, which is in use 24/7, incorporates several layers of lighting, which reduce to lower levels after midnight.

The project’s compact layout, pedestrian orientation, bicycle facilities, planted roof filled with vegetation, 
rain gardens, and provision for 
summer shade also contribute to the project’s pending LEED Gold rating. Other sustainable strategies include using flexible, unmortared pavers, manufactured within 500 miles of the project, to help infiltrate stormwater. The relaxing lounge trellises and deck, along with an accessible bicycle shelter, were built out of sustainably harvested western red cedar from plantation-grown trees.

The space not only fits the needs 
of students and faculty, but also with 
its year-round outdoor entertainment has instantly become one of campus’s most popular spots. In addition to forming stronger community relationships, the Village’s sustainable practices have also resulted in lower energy costs for the school.