Cultivating Community in a Living-Building Residential Complex

Position for Leadership

Many generations of YDS students remember vividly the transformative impact of living in the community in which they studied. The current YDS dormitories were built in 1957 with a 40-year life expectancy. They were designed as housing for married students, since single students were housed in the Sterling Quadrangle. We are now able to house only a fraction of our students. Not only is this housing in poor condition, it is also expensive; paying for housing is an additional financial burden on our students.

Seeking to be the “gold standard” for full-time residential theological education, we propose a bold and creative response to this situation: the construction of a living-building residential complex. This will be a highly energy-efficient village that creates low to zero waste. It will include apartments for single students, married students, students with families, and starting faculty members, and will be built to complement the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle. It will create a 24-hour learning environment and encourage people to live in community with an ethic of environmental stewardship. It will bring students together in a living, green village where they can interact with people from other backgrounds and traditions and also learn how to sustain an ecologically conscious community. The first project to attempt to meet the living-building certification challenge at Yale or at any seminary or divinity school in the country, the residential complex will be the most visible manifestation of a more comprehensive effort to promote responsible ecological thinking and practice through our curriculum, our extra-curricular initiatives, and our community life.

Goals

  • Create and model a strong community that can be a laboratory for living in a diverse world. Help foster a healthy community life that will enable us to train students to transform church and society after they leave YDS.
  • Support ecological responsibility. Offer students the opportunity to integrate sustainability into their daily lives, thereby equipping them to advocate for these commitments and practices throughout their careers.
  • Provide affordable housing to our students. The costs of living in New Haven are high and getting higher. Our students need assistance in accessing affordable housing.
  • Create and enhance curricular initiatives that incorporate principles of sustainability into the academic life of YDS. Ensure a regular rotation of courses that support the joint program with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Explore the creation of a concentrated M.A.R. program or track in Environmental/Ecological Ethics and Theology.

We do not yet know the cost of building and maintaining such a facility. However, YDS received $200,000 this fall from the Dean’s Advisory Council in order to fund a thorough study that will yield a sound estimate of these costs. We roughly calculate that it will run around $100 million. This can then become the basis for a focused development initiative.

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