Students and staff at one University in Iowa have a new place to learn, and the building is as unique as the school. Students and staff at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield are celebrating Earth Day this week by opening the school’s new Sustainable Living Center.
Designers say the multi-million project goes beyond green building. Sustainable Living Professor Lonnie Gamble says, “It does its own functions like a tree would. So, we use the metaphor of a tree for the design of the building.”
Gamble says the Sustainable Living Center is a living laboratory of classrooms, workshops and offices for the Sustainable Living Program. He says the building is like a tree because it collects and stores its own energy. The $2.5 million project includes a wind turbine and solar array and geothermal loop system. Architect Jon Lipman says, “The building produces more electricity than it uses.”
And, it doesn’t use much electricity. Lipman says the SLC is designed to strategically capture daylight, so lights aren’t needed anywhere in the building when the sun is shining. While showing the main hall, he says, “Up at the very top of it, we have windows, which are bringing south light down into the building, which then is being reflected down into the classrooms with these panels, and that allows us to get sunlight into the heart of the building.”
The students were also involved constructing the building made of local materials. Students made more than 25,000 compressed earth blocks. Gamble says, “The interior of the building is made from blocks of earth that are simply earth out of a parking lot we were building and put into a special machine that compressed it into blocks with no concrete or anything.”
As for the tree metaphor, trunks from the nearby state of Wisconsin actually serve a purpose by supporting the building’s roof. Lipman says round logs are more structurally sound than rectangular beams, so crews didn’t have to use as much of the resource found in nature. He says, “Which is a way of expressing in a very palpable way to the students that sustainable living, that discipline which teaches us how to live in harmony with nature, is really something that can be a part of the fabric of construction.”
You can see the Sustainable Living Center for yourself. The Maharishi University of Management is hosting a ribbon cutting this Friday in Fairfield. You can take a tour from 1 to 3:30 pm.