Located in the heart of downtown Lancaster, Pa., Saint James Episcopal Church has been serving the community since 1744. In 2012, church leaders wanted to create a more open and welcoming approach to the building, and craft interior and exterior spaces that invite gathering before and after services.
Lancaster is located within a combined sewer overflow (CSO) system. During heavy rainfall events, the system becomes overwhelmed, causing approximately 1 billion gal of untreated wastewater to overflow annually into the Conestoga River and, eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.
To meet the church’s goals and reduce runoff, RGS Associates Inc. redesigned a cloister and rectory courtyard that incorporates historic brick and stone integrated with a permeable brick paving system, which allows storm water runoff to seep into subsurface stone infiltration beds. A rain garden provides water quality management, volume control and native vegetative cover. Roof leaders are directed to the underground storm water management storage area in an effort to further reduce overall discharge to the CSO system.
In order to protect a historic cemetery within the site area that had previously been disturbed during a mid-20th-century construction project, RGS used ground-penetrating radar to document prior areas of disturbance. Preservation of significant trees, limited available space for storm water facilities and essential coordination of many underground utilities were other challenges that were overcome by planning, design and communication with the contractor.
The church has utilized the new courtyard during a number of events, beginning with a Palm Sunday celebration in mid-March 2013. The Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County presented this project with an award on Nov. 17 in recognition of its sensitive response to its distinctive historic context.