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Peaceful resolution with environment
Martial-art school in Spotsylvania being built with green methods and materials

 Insulated concrete form walls were built by Quinn Construc-tion of Glen Burnie, Md. Windows are key to the design.
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Date published: 11/21/2008

BY RICHARD AMRHINE

At a construction site on Hickory Ridge Road in Spotsylvania County, the emphasis is on harmony. The new building going up there, called a dojo, is for the study of aikido, where students will learn the Japanese martial art based on the individual living in harmony with his or her surroundings.

But that's only the half of it. The entire project, from the land on which it sits to the roof that will top it off, is designed to blend with nature and have minimal environmental impact.

The project is moving toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accreditation through its use of green construction techniques. The accreditation identifies it as a healthy place to be, and capable of energy savings that will help defray the initial costs over time.

It is a harmonious combination, and one that organizer and chief instructor Aviv Goldsmith hopes will set a green example and boost his student body as well. He currently operates a studio elsewhere in Spotsylvania.

THE GROUNDS

"It all starts with the site," said Goldsmith. He began work on it four years ago, calling on the Williamsburg Environmental Group, which fashioned an enviro-friendly site. It includes shallow basins that become temporary ponds to capture rainwater and let it seep into the soil, and native vegetation planted as a bio-filter for the runoff.

Goldsmith said he plans to capture remaining runoff from the building in barrels for reuse.

The effort has won an innovation award from the Environmental Protection Agency and accolades from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

A large portion of the 20-acre site will be mowed just twice a year--but never between April and October--to allow the high grass to hold the soil and absorb water while creating wildlife habitat.

THE BUILDING

For the studio building itself, Goldsmith knew what he wanted, but to execute his plan he called on architect Jeff Owens. Owens describes his central Kentucky firm as one that designs buildings that blend function, beauty and good Earth stewardship.

"We're trying to blur the lines of inside and outside space so there can be an interaction of activity for the students inside and outside the building," he said. That's accomplished by using large amounts of glass, whether as windows or sliding glass doors.


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Aikido is described as "a non-violent martial art that focuses on self-defense, personal growth and conflict resolution."

School manager Aviv Goldsmith said the dojo he's building is modeled after the Iwama Dojo in Japan, and aims to harmonize with nature like those in Japan do. But the similarities end there. Japanese dojos are very primitive, lacking the showers, air conditioning and locker rooms that the new dojo will have to cater to American expectations.

Goldsmith emphasized that aikido, while having belts that signify skill levels, is also designed to be a way of living one's life peacefully and in tune with nature.

Goldsmith said he came here after living in Nevada for 17 years because of the climate. He said he could have chosen anywhere in the east-central part of the country, but that the perfect site turned up along Hickory Ridge Road in Spotsylvania County, about a mile south of Massaponax and a mile west of U.S. 1.

He hopes the school will increase awareness of aikido in the area. Through his contacts in the martial art, Goldsmith wants to host international aikido seminars at the site in the future. Visit familyaikido.org for a closer look.