The Old Oak Dojo is a small, privately owned ancillary building, built next to a multi-family residence. It resides on a wooded lot in a dense urban neighborhood of Boston. The multipurpose studio space is available for educational gatherings and performances, and serves as a community space where neighbors can congregate to create healthy and resilient communities. The project functions as an experiment in dissolving the boundary between public and private spheres. It provides a hub for the community to meet, learn, eat, celebrate, and play—and thereby restore our wholeness as citizens.

Between the Dojo and the residence sits a courtyard with an exterior patio and gardens. The site is a small piece of protected natural landscape nestled in the urban bustle of Jamaica Plain. A 130-year-old oak tree lends gravity to the space and gives the Dojo its name, suggesting an ongoing dialogue between the built and natural worlds. The project uses passive ventilation and daylighting throughout all spaces. Uniquely, a significant amount of the building–from frame to finishes–was built with recycled, repurposed or salvaged materials.

This project was designed by Next Phase Studios and built by NPS contractors. The design evolved around found/reclaimed materials that were available locally when the project began construction. Because the design team and the construction team were the same people (due to the small scale of the building), the design process was a fluid dialogue and improvisational at times, adapting to the site and constraints.


Old Oak Dojo

Living Certified

Living Building Challenge 2.1

Performance Areas




The Old Oak Dojo is located on a wooded half-acre residential lot in the dense urban neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. This area of Boston was developed as farmland very early after colonization. It became a Victorian suburb in the mid-1800s, during which time the existing home was built. While the property has been modified over time–the home has become a multifamily residence in reaction to increasing population density–the majority of the house has been restored to its Victorian origins. The footprint has not changed since the early 1930s.

At 924 square feet, the Dojo itself is sited over the footprint of the previously existing barn that was constructed on the property in the early 1930s. The barn was made from salvaged materials and transformed into a bike shop in the 1970s but was abandoned in the 1980s. This structure was declared beyond rescue, yet provided a range of salvaged materials that were integrated into the new building.

Today the site is a well-developed urban plot with established plantings and gardens mixed into the rugged and ledge-filled yard in a particularly green section of the city. The mature tree canopy contains several old oaks and white pines. There is abundant native groundcover. The site abuts an abandoned half-acre lot, which serves as green space to offset the housing density of a neighboring triple-decker. There were a wide range of ornamental and non-native plantings used throughout the gardens, which had been infiltrated by invasive species in the last decade or so. While the invasive plants have been removed, the existing gardens, mostly outside the project site, have been retained. All new plantings are native.

Urban Agriculture 01

After soil testing revealed high lead content, we created raised beds using materials that we already had on-site or could source locally. We constructed the perimeter of the beds using cinder blocks (left over from Dojo construction) and reinforced with scrap iron (left behind on the old shed). We partnered with two local permaculturists to design beds that would best address the challenge of limited sunshine due to tree cover. Three of the beds are cultivated by us; the fourth we offered to neighbors as a community plot. We’ve primarily focused on crops that can tolerate cooler temperatures and shade, such as kale, chard, mustard greens, lettuces, scallions, carrots, radishes, and herbs. The beds with the highest sun exposure have tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, and peppers. It was hard to keep up with the harvest! We had more food than we could manage. In the fall, we host workshops on preserving and saving seeds.

Habitat Exchange 02

The Old Oak Dojo partnered with the New England Forestry Foundation to develop an offset habitat exchange imperative. The New England Forestry Foundation verifies they are a supporting member of the Land Trust Alliance and has adopted the organization’s “Standards and Practices” as guidelines for conducting their operations. The project chose NEFF because they have been nationally recognized for their dedication to the conservation and ecologically sound management of privately owned forests in New England through exemplary forest management, land protection and environmental education. They have conserved more forested acres than any other organization in New England. They are a registered 501c3 nonprofit.

Car-Free Living 03

The site is positioned in between two major Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) train stations along the city’s Orange Line in one direction and the E Branch of Green Line and access to multiple bus routes with stops within shorter distances. A quarter kilometer from the site runs the Southwest Corridor, a 4.7 mile (7.6 km) long linear park system that provides off-street bike and pedestrian pathways, green space and programmed civic park space. The park connects the site to Forest Hills neighborhood and MBTA train station to the south and Back Bay neighborhood and MBTA train station to the north.

The project is very accessible for those not traveling by car. In fact, the design and construction team often commute to the project by bicycle.

More directly relating to the site and its immediate surroundings is an existing pedestrian pathway acting as an informal connection between two distinct neighborhoods, and runs through the property at its edge, next to the studio. The path allows for connection to mass-transit, local schools & local commerce. The site was developed with the intention of preserving and maintaining use for existing pedestrian traffic patterns.



Domestic is supplied from the municipal system. There are two fixtures that use municipal water within the building – a low-flow kitchenette faucet and a low-flow valve. The composting toilet uses no water for flushing. Reused rainwater is sterilized using UV, and then used for seasonal irrigation. Water from the cistern is not considered potable by the city and is only allowed for irrigation use.

Ecological Water Flow

Stormwater management systems include rainwater collected from the Old Oak Dojo roof and direct recharge.

Rainwater collected from the 900sf roof either is collected in the rainwater barrels or, if falling directly to the ground, percolates. The building is raised off the ground on elevated footings to allow for stormwater infiltration and to limit disturbance to the existing water flow. Collected rainwater is used for irrigation.

Stormwater Overflow: There is sufficient space onsite for 100-year storm retention (6.60 inches per hour for 24 hours). There is no stormwater leaving the site.

Greywater management systems on site are pending approval from the MA Department of Environmental Protection. The only graywater produced by the Old Oak Dojo was recorded through the water meter at 471 gallons during the 12-month performance period. The water is produced by the low-flow aerators in the kitchen and bathroom sinks. The graywater collected from the sinks is currently stored in cisterns, as the project is not connected to the sewer.

Blackwater management systems: Although there is an existing sewer line connection onsite, the Old Oak Dojo applied for a variance in order to install an indoor composting toilet that does not connect to the municipal sewer system. The variance requires that the owner haul the blackwater, greywater from sink, and solid compost produced from the toilet for disposal. Disposal is scheduled and conducted annually within 100 miles of the project site.

Water Petal Appeals and Lessons Learned

A variance was required to allow an indoor composting toilet at the Old Oak Dojo. After 12 months, the State of Massachusetts Board of Plumbers and Gas Fitters awarded Variance 6-1 on March 26, 2014, setting a new precedent for the approval of indoor compost toilets in the City of Boston. Proposed rainwater catchment through a green roof, with filtered rainwater used for handwashing, filtered graywater used for irrigation, or on-site leach field treatment of gray and blackwater were all rejected with our appeal.

The project team is still struggling with the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection to approve the use of UV filtered graywater from sinks for irrigation.




A Net Zero Energy Building, the Old Oak Dojo total energy demand for all of 2015 totaled 3,680 kwh, which  was 18% less than the modeled/predicted allocation of 4,500 kwh/year. The off site grid-tied rooftop PV array hosted by the neighbor produced 5,030 kwh over the course of 2015. Therefore, the Old Oak Dojo successfully recorded a net positive energy production of 1,350 kwh in 2015, or 37% more energy produced than energy consumed in a year. Approximately 75% of the energy demand comes from heating the building, with a 2015 annual consumption of 2,758 kwh for heating.

Passive and active systems and strategies for heating/cooling as well as ventilation include cross ventilation, operable windows, operable window wall, super insulated envelope, solar orientation, passive solar design, electric radiant heating in the floor, energy recovery ventilator (ERV), curtains for additional insulation when the building is not in use, electric baseboards.

Passive and active systems and strategies for hot water, lighting, plug loads, and other building uses include LED lighting, ample daylighting and an electric instant hot water heater.

Energy producing systems

PV array is hosted by a neighboring building, as the project site is covered with tree shade from the existing oaks.




Primary health considerations for the project focused primarily on adequate cross-ventilation and natural ventilation. As the Old Oak Dojo hosts many activities that range in physical activity (meetings and gatherings, meditation, yoga, dance), it is important to bring in fresh air to the occupants and users. When the weather does not allow for windows and doors to be opened, the project uses an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system. The ERV system is user-controlled and can be adaptive to a variety of activity. At all times, the occupant can regulate the optimal exchange of fresh and indoor air.

Secondary healthy considerations included cleanliness and indoor air quality – eliminating contaminants tracked into the building by requiring shoes to be removed in the entry, along with a walk-off mat the size of the entry room and curtains separating the entry from the rest of the interior.

Civilized Environment

Every occupiable interior space of the project has operable windows that provide access to fresh air and daylight. As the building is mostly open (with the exception of the storage/HVAC closet and the bathroom), the entire perimeter of the building has ample windows, an operable Nanawall, and smaller operable windows along the less prominent façade.

Healthy Air

The kitchenette does not have a permanent cooking apparatus, so there is no dedicated range hood. Kitchenette is located adjacent to the bathroom and shares a dedicated exhaust that is integral to the Zehnder Energy recovery unit. The bathroom uses the same system, and the exhaust vent can boost when needed. The composting toilet has an exhaust fan that provides a negative pressure to the bathroom.

The main entry has a large walk-off mat in the foyer; no shoes are allowed in the building. The walk-off mat is cleaned and maintained on a monthly basis, or as needed.

The Old Oak Dojo’s healthy air system is responsive to the variable occupancy and activity demands experienced in the space, meticulously controlling fresh air supply and exhaust management as well as user comfort (e.g., relative humidity and interior temperature). The CO2 monitor sounds an alarm when CO2 PPM exceeds 1,000, signaling that more fresh air is needed.

Due to the substantial weather fluctuation that is experienced in New England, optimal air conditions are not always achievable with the use of the Nanawall; for this reason the Old Oak Dojo is also equipped with a high-efficiency Zhender energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system that pulls fresh, outside air into its air exchanger. The fresh air is filtered, either preheated or pre-cooled to match the user-regulated indoor temperature, and pre-humidified or pre-dehumidified to maximize user comfort, before being expelled into the interior. The design of the supply and exhaust system for the ERV system responds to the spatial program of the Dojo by supplying the high activity zone of the Dojo with a constant flow of fresh air based on potential air quality levels needed for intensive aerobic activity.


The Old Oak Dojo is a project designed to include elements that nurture the innate human attraction to natural systems and processes. The six established Biophilic Design Elements have been represented throughout the entire project building and site.

There are three old oaks on this property: two white and one black. The black oak towers over the old shed, spreading its canopy so broadly that nothing on the property is visible from Google Earth, but a wide swath of green. By maintaining the existing 130-year-old oak tree, it actually created an opportunity for evolved human-nature relationships: a place of both prospect and refuge, curiosity and enticement.

The Old Oak Dojo is the story of dancing with this tree. The building is set on piers to protect and aerate the root system. The tree is the oldest living site feature at Chestnut Place, and it anchors the design, sustaining the geographic, historic and ecological connection to this place. Keeping the Old Oak and integrating it into the landscape and ecology IS the spirit of this place.

Views and vistas were a large driver behind the overall building design. Windows are installed in the two walls surrounding the tree, creating the experience of a living terrarium from within. The pattern of long vertical windows and wall panels is not dissimilar to walking through a grove of trees, where the long and short views alternate, both physically and in the patterning of sunlight.

While the Dojo is rectilinear and very simple in form and the forms may not mimic nature, there are several natural shapes and forms throughout the landscape of the site. This idea is further reinforced by the freeform shape of the raised beds—the built components of the landscape—which relate and respond to the natural outcroppings and older gardens that have been maintained throughout the total property. These forms are shapes that resist straight lines and right angle.

Meditation at Boston's Old Oak Dojo. Photo Courtesy of Old Oak Dojo.

Meditation at Boston’s Old Oak Dojo. Photo Courtesy of Old Oak Dojo.


As the Old Oak Dojo’s name may imply, the design of the Dojo revolved around the use of wood because it is both locally available and easy to appropriate for second use. The fundamental strategy for achieving the materials imperative for LBC was to source the majority of building materials from locally reclaimed and repurposed deconstructed buildings. First, the team would assess what was in stock at the local Boston Building Resources Reuse Center. Because this project was design/build, Next Phase Studios was able to quickly adapt the design of the building to match the reclaimed materials that were available locally. For example, the long shed roof (originally a series of smaller roofs with multiple pitches) was redesigned to take advantage of the LVL beams available at Boston Building Resources Reuse Center. Additional salvaged materials included truss joints, wood and glass interior entry doors (no new doors were used on the project with the exception of the Nanawall), doorknobs, ceiling fan, countertops, sink, and pendant light fixtures. Luckily for us, the owner also had access to a family’s house that was being deconstructed nearby. Much of the millwork from a home office and bedroom was deconstructed and refinished into kitchenette shelving, drawers, countertops, cabinets, bathroom sink and vanity, and entry cubbies. The salvaged antique heart pine T&G flooring was sourced from Longleaf Lumber, Inc. in Cambridge, MA, and coated with a PolyWhey Floor Satin finish from Vermont Natural Coatings. Finally, the remaining new lumber was sourced locally from Maine and is FSC-Certified mixed.

In order to streamline the construction process and the LBC Conservation Management Plan, Next Phase Studios chose to use a design/build approach – where the design and construction team are the same entity. For a project this modest in scale, it was easy for NPS to implement atypical construction practices regarding materials conservation during construction. Unlike typical construction practice today, no overage percentage was factored into material calculations. The precision in the calculations was crucial because many of the building materials that were specified for use were custom ordered, had extended lead times, required minimum quantities, associated premiums, and on many occasions had implications with product delivery. The construction of the Old Oak Dojo exemplified the idea of multilife materials. The overall awareness and appreciation for the cost and, above all, the optimization of all building materials, was critical for the design-build team.

Similar care was taken in the recycling, sorting and waste diversion aspects of the job. Detailed descriptions were generated by approved recycling centers for the end use of all building materials deemed unusable by the Project Team. Information including recycling processing documents, material shipping procedures and information pertaining to products that are manufactured using recycled materials must be generated for end-of-life phase recycling documentation.

Red List

Materials that presented challenges due to Red List requirements were primarily electrical components and some FSC-certified products that used cured resin solids with <0.1% of formaldehyde for finish coatings or surface coatings. Other products such as the Foam Control EPS Rigid Insulation board also contained less than 1% of HFR.

Regarding electrical components, several products used on the project contained Red List materials. Often, to overcome this, NPS would analyze each product, researching the healthiest product available on the market and even having products custom manufactured for our application. In the end, the due diligence research would often settle on the healthiest available product that still met Massachusetts State Code.

For example, the XHHW jacketed wire used for the Dojo’s electrical work does contain a brominated flame retardant which is a Red List chemical. After substantial research on electrical wire we found that XHHW is the healthiest jacketed wire available that meets UL and Boston Electrical Code requirements. For our application we specified a multi-wire plan that needed to be housed within the enclosure of the built structure. Unlike typical PVC jacketed wire such as Romex, the XHHW jacketed wire is not rated to be run in enclosed spaces such as ceilings or walls. In order to meet the demands for our design aesthetic and electrical needs, we needed to run the individual XHHW wires (RED, Black, White, Green) in flexible metal conduit throughout the Dojo, which was not only design intensive but a hurdle financially. The overall goal was to use the healthiest product available.

Embodied Carbon Footprint

To reduce the embodied carbon footprint of the Old Oak Dojo, the team relied heavily upon sourcing locally salvaged materials, thus reducing the amount of embodied carbon used to harvest, source, manufacture, and transport new construction materials. This included salvaging materials found onsite (during deconstruction of an existing storage barn), using reclaimed surplus material (new materials that would be considered “scrap” to be used for other purposes on the job site), materials deconstructed from the owner’s family’s existing residence nearby in Newton, MA, and other deconstructed and reclaimed materials that were sourced from New England, and purchase from Boston Building Reuse Center in Boston, MA.

Responsible Industry

Sterritt Lumber Company is one of the first adopters in Massachusetts to recognize the importance in providing the building and construction industry with sustainably harvested and extracted lumber, as well as recognize fair labor practices. The company also acknowledges the importance of protecting local and regional forests. Next Phase Studios and NPS contractors have a long working history with Sterritt Lumber Company, partnering for LEED certified projects or other projects looking for FSC certified lumber. This partnership ensured that we met the Responsible Industry imperative, especially considering that a majority of the construction materials used for the project included wood.

For salvaged materials and salvaged wood, NPS looked to Boston Building Resources. Principal Rick Ames has been a board member for this nonprofit since 1993. According to their website, “the Reuse Center at Boston Building Resources is a charitable nonprofit that accepts donations of new and gently used materials for resale. It opened its doors in 1993 and was known until recently as the Building Materials Resource Center. Anyone can shop at the Reuse Center. Additional discounts are given to Plus members—people who meet our income guidelines, as well as any charitable nonprofit organization. Standard members and the public will pay a slightly higher price on Reuse Center items, but the extra income helps this nonprofit to be sustainable and grow.” NPS Architects has often specified that all deconstructed project materials be donated to the Reuse Center.

Through this relationship, NPS Architects approached the Reuse Center with the initial design of the Old Oak Dojo, and the Reuse Center contacted NPS directly whenever a large donation of salvaged wood or deconstruction project was available for the Dojo.

Appropriate Sourcing

One of the trickiest materials to navigate through the appropriately sourced imperative (and several other Materials Petal imperatives) was the use of locally and responsibly sourced structural plywood. Eventually, the Sterritt Lumber company put in a special order for FSC-certified lumber ply that was harvested in Eastern Canada, that, through exception, was sent west to a plant for structural lamination because no plants existed locally. Manufacturing such plywood was a new process for the local lumber company.

One of the most interesting portions of the appropriate sourcing imperative was the concept of locally sourced consultant travel – from the design team to the carpenters, NPS contractors were careful to limit the amount of distance between any team member or subcontractor and the site. Most notably, all but one employee of the design/build architect and contractor team (Next Phase Studios as both entities) rode public transportation (the T) or biked to the project site. Everyone commuting to the project stayed within a 5-10 km radius of the Old Oak Dojo, the only exception being the specialty installer for the Nanawall, who came from 193 km away.

Conservation and Reuse

In an effort to reduce the environmental burdens from end-of-life materials processing and from extraction and processing of raw materials, the Old Oak Dojo team created a comprehensive conservation management plan. Prior to use, all available building materials were sorted, protected and stored in the dedicated areas of the project site. The overall scale of the project allowed for the project team to optimize the transportation of products that needed to be recycled. Materials remained onsite until a full load was generated and it had been determined that the materials could no longer serve any further use for the construction of the new building.

The process of storing, sorting, and reworking materials to ensure compliance with the conservation management plan was labor intensive, but we never had to purchase small quantities of new miscellaneous building materials to complete tasks onsite. The construction team was able to use the materials that they had available as long as they were used in an appropriate manner. This practice was additionally beneficial because it expedited the entire construction process. By preserving the integrity of the smallest scraps of materials, laborers began to reconsider their concept of waste. By not categorizing something as garbage, workers began to realize that materials could be reused. The construction of the Old Oak Dojo exemplified the idea of multilife materials. The project manager, who was heavily involved in the material research and approval process of all building materials, had a great sense of value for all the building materials arriving onsite. An overall consciousness of the time and energy invested in researching the perfect products for every application tremendously informed the decisions made throughout the entire construction process.

Summary of Salvaged Materials

Metal Grates were reworked and used as handrails for the new construction. Crushed stone found onsite was reused onsite. Marble tiles found in the existing barn were re-worked and saved to be reused. Structural brick piers were reworked to use as pathway edging. Usable dimensional lumber salvaged from the existing barn was reused for the construction of the proposed structure; unusable dimensional lumber was recycled.




Half a dozen houses away from 14 Chestnut Place is 207 Chestnut Avenue, which represents one of the neighborhood’s heartbreak stories.

Around the time 14 Chestnut Place was purchased, a developer had also purchased this 15,000-square-foot lot, which housed a century-old home perched atop the Roxbury puddingstone that characterizes this hill. Despite community opposition, the developer demolished the house and spent weeks hydraulically smashing up the fragile puddingstone, which can crack easily and had the potential to damage nearby homes. He leveled the site, put up a 10-foot retaining wall, a parking lot, and two two-family homes that block their neighbors’ light.

The owner plans to host many visitors at the Old Oak Dojo although the existing parking is limiting. Rather than increase the parking area, the owner decided to shrink parking in order to create a more beautiful entry to the Dojo. Given their close proximity to the subway and the Southwest Corridor bike path, everyone who comes to visit is encouraged to leave their cars behind—it is communicated in the Dojo’s website, invitations and program materials. The site is located in Transact L4, and there is no impervious surface dedicated to transportation on the project site.

There’s a feeling of intimacy in this little lot on the hill. The Dojo is small, cozy and welcoming; the house is lined with windows so that visitors feel welcome to enter; and the property has meandering gardens and pleasant sitting areas. Cars, high-rises and concrete have been left far behind.

Democracy and Social Justice

The Old Oak Dojo is a gathering place for people in the community who wish to discover together how to make Jamaica Plain—and other nearby neighborhoods—a better place for all. Long-known as a racially and economically diverse community, in recent years, Jamaica Plain has faced increasing gentrification. Part of the Dojo’s purpose is to be a welcoming space for all members of its community, to raise questions, and to explore solutions to the challenges of gentrification and exclusion by being in dialogue together. We will also rediscover what happens when communities come together to play, celebrate, eat, work and learn with one another as that is what creates a foundation for trust.

Through her extensive relationships with civic organizations in Boston, the owner will be partnering with nonprofits, community organizations and neighborhood associations to design and develop programming at the Dojo. These programs will be offered to community members through those organizations’ outreach channels as well as the Dojo’s website, mailing list and Facebook presence. The owner will also continually offer events open to the public, where people will be welcome to drop by, help out in the garden, participate in movement classes, cook together, relax on the benches and hammocks, climb the oak trees, play music, and dance.

Although this is a private residence (accessory dwelling by code) which does not require compliance with ADA and ABA, the project did provide accessible spaces because it is open to the community. These include:

  1. Kitchen with accessible sink (no panels on cabinets below sink)
  2. Accessible storage at countertops
  3. Graded access with ramp for accessible entry into the main level of the building
  4. ADA-accessible restroom with grab bars and clearances

Rights to Nature

The project is designed to protect adjacent properties from any noxious emissions that would compromise these properties’ ability to use natural ventilation. Operational emissions are minimal given the project typology and use, and all emissions are free of Red List chemicals, persistent bioaccumulative toxicants, and known or suspected carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic chemicals.

The enclosed diagrams illustrate compliance with the imperative requirements as follows, per an L4 transect:

  • The project may not block sunlight to adjacent building façades and rooftops such that they are shaded above the maximum height of 10 meters (maximum shade height on adjacent façade, measured on the winter solstice between 10 am – 2 pm).
  • The project may not shade the roof of a development with which it shares a party wall, unless the adjoining development was built to a lesser density than acceptable for the transect.
  • New landscape is to be considered when evaluating the shading.

One existing tree was relocated to a more centralized site location, shifting future shading away from the property line and adjacent buildings. No new trees were planted on the property. The existing trees are sizable, with dense canopies that shade the building and roof of the Old Oak Dojo as well as neighboring properties.

There are no natural waterways (ocean shorelines, rivers, lakes, wetlands, ponds and creeks) on or adjacent to the project property.


The Old Oak Dojo is infused with a personal and intimate DIY spirit. It not only influences how we build and fill the space with materials goods; it also affects how we’ use the space. The layout of the Dojo supports this feeling of openness and flow. There is a clear line of sight from one end to the other, with one space flowing into the next. That creates a progression of movement from the cozy mudroom to the heart of the Dojo (18’ x 18’) to the smaller extension (12’ x 10’) to the narrow hallway of the kitchenette—and finally to the shed that houses the rainwater cistern and the compost toilet tank. Someone busy preparing food and drink will still feel connected to the action at the center of the gathering—and that matters because whenever people gather in the Dojo, it will be the participants themselves who attend to food and waste rather than anonymous service providers. Part of the purpose of the Old Oak Dojo is to attune people to what we eat, where it came from, what we throw away and how we take care of our shared space. It is perfect that the kitchen window overlooks the garden and the water and waste facilities. The tight relationship between these spaces helps make visible the closed-loop system of food, water and waste that we wish to highlight in this project.

No matter where you stand in the Dojo, there is a direct relationship with nature. We’ve designed the windows and glass doors of the Dojo to optimize the relationship with the Old Oak as well as this unusual urban wild. (See essay on biophilia for more about the relationship to nature.)

The abundant glazing invites continuous interplay with light and shadow. In summer, the leaves of the Old Oak cast shadows that will dance across the floor throughout the afternoon. Sunlight creeps in from every side of the room, filtered gently through high and low windows. The slanting roof gives the body of the Dojo an uplifting feeling, a sense of movement and weightlessness. Even from the outside, the Dojo feels like a building on the move, as if it had just slid momentarily into place, en route somewhere beyond the gardens. This airiness suits its name: Dojo means “place of the way” where martial arts students gather to study the art of movement.

Inspiration + Education

The Old Oak Dojo hosted an opening day celebration and “Village Week,” inviting about 100 friends and neighbors to 14 Chestnut Place in Jamaica Plain. As neighbors gathered, they began to rediscover how to create healthy and resilient communities. The 924-square foot studio, which shares a half-acre residential lot with a community home, is an experiment in dissolving the boundary between public and private, commercial and noncommercial realms.

The Dojo has educational signage within the building noting the Living Building Challenge features of the design and construction. The website, also lists current blog posts and an events calendar.

A couple of interesting topics related to the users and upkeep of this space are mentioned in the case study brochure:

  1. Activities are self-organizing. We invite people who share our commitment to creating a more racially, socially and economically just world to propose activities and events.
  2. The Dojo operates in gift culture, which means we don’t charge fees for its use. If you love this place as much as we do, please volunteer your time to help us maintain its beauty.
  3. Sustaining the Dojo as a Living Building requires every visitor’s participation. Please help us manage energy, water, waste, and recycling so that this building continues to serve the natural world.


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