Built in 2005 to pilot new architectural elements—including a living green roof, a solar chimney and straw bale insulation—the commons was one of the first entirely green academic buildings in the country.
As part of renovations for Dunne Hall in summer 2016, the commons was torn down. Its removal now leaves an open space for students to congregate outside of the Walsh-McLaughlin, Dunne, and Swig Residence Halls.
Despite its small size – the building only had two classrooms, a multipurpose room, three study rooms and a kitchen – the commons was integral to establishing the university’s commitment to sustainability through environmental stewardship, education, and outreach. The straw bale insulation alone was estimated to cut down energy use of the building by 15 to 25 percent.
The innovative design elements the commons tested live on: as part of the Joanne E. Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Family Technology Center, and Orradre Library; the Paul L. Locatelli, S.J. Student Activity Center; Lucas Hall, home to the Leavey School of Business; Graham Hall; and the Schott Admissions and Enrollment Services Building.
And in keeping with the common’s mission of sustainability, Santa Clara has also salvaged as many items as possible to reuse in other updates around campus, including countertops in Campisi Hall, kitchen equipment in Sobrato Hall, and furniture and A/V equipment in the Alameda Hall.