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USA & Canada

Zen Architecture that Harmonizes with Nature

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The Chung Tai Zen Center is an inspired example of architecture that harmonizes with nature. See how they did it and what building materials were used. 

“Western Red Cedar was a perfect natural and beautiful compliment to the building and its natural setting.” – Stephan Sparn, AIA

Location: Boulder, CO
Architect: Sopher Sparn Architects
Photography: Brad Nicol Photography

Surrounded by mountains and sweeping hills, this Buddhist Monastery needed to meet certain sustainability standards to protect the natural ecosystem around it. Add to that, the Buddhist client’s centuries old tradition of living in harmony with the planet. So not just any green building materials would do.

Knowing this, a lot of research and calculations went into Sopher Sparn Architects’ decision-making process. In the end, they went with Glue laminated timber beams and exposed CLT roof panels for this 21,000 square foot meditation hall. It’s a choice that offers a minimal carbon footprint and a beautiful aesthetic.

By the firm’s calculations, the use of mass timber in this project alone avoided 457 metric tons of C02, equivalent to keeping 411 cars off the road for a year.

“Ongoing research and studies have shown mass timber construction has a smaller environmental footprint than traditional building materials – it is less carbon intensive and can store more carbon that would otherwise be emitted back into the atmosphere,” explains Principal-in-Charge, Stephen Sparn. “These facts helped our team solidify our choice.”

Building Materials that Harmonize with the Landscape

In keeping with this natural vibe, they needed an equally sustainable siding material that would complement the mass timber system. They chose beautiful Western Red Cedar siding to clad the sun-filled place of worship.

From an environmental perspective, top-performing cedar is very much in line with the project’s green goals. After all, when it comes to living at one with nature, you can’t beat renewable, biodegradable, 3rd party certified Real Cedar.

Warm and Inviting Architecture that Inspires

And from a design perspective, the warm glow of cedar’s rich tonal range makes it the perfect pairing for mass timber products.

“Together, they evoke tranquility,” says Adrian Sopher, Design Principal at Sopher Sparn Architects. “The warmth and natural aesthetic of the wood materials all align with the principles of minimalism and simplicity that are key to the practice of Buddhism.”

WRC Specifications

Grade: KD Clear VG, smooth face
Size: 1×6 fineline T&G
Fastening: Blind nailed
Applied Finish: Semi-transparent stain

Cedar Supplier: Speciality Wood Products