Olwen Solar Garage
A new structure on the Green Mountain College campus built by students will serve as a solar power station for an electric vehicle. On December 14 students will formally unveiled the Olwen Solar Garage, sited next to the Solar Harvest Center on campus. (The garage was named for the Welsh goddess of the sun). Built by students in the first Renewable Energy and Ecological Design (REED) block course, Olwen features a 3.8 kilowatt roof-mounted array and a twenty-four foot long fiberglass south-facing wall suitable for germination of crops for the school’s farm. The garage will house an electric vehicle to be used by the College. The building itself is a mini power plant, which consumes the power it produces while providing a platform for sustainable food production. Inside, the building is spacious and bright, with large windows and application of day lighting strategies. A workspace is nestled against the west wall, with a charming view of the crescent-shaped Rainbow Acre out the corner window. “Aesthetics were an important consideration in the design,” said Courtney Heverly, a student who completed the course. “We feel we’ve created a structure that’s interesting on its own terms, but it also provides a function—powering a vehicle that can rely on its own energy source instead of being dependent on the power grid like most electric cars.” GMC received a $50,000 grant from Constellation Energy’s “E2 Energy to Educate” program to build Olwen.
As Americans look for creative ways to grow their own food in community gardens, vacant city lots, or reclaimed suburban land, access to water, electricity and adequate storage area for tools all present imposing barriers. Twenty Green Mountain College students and their instructor Prof. Lucas Brown embraced this challenge by creating a garden shed for the Champlain Valley Native Plant Restoration Nursery (CVNPRN). This original open building system was designed with the idea of mass customization in mind. The system can be adapted anywhere, whether it be a farm or a community garden. In this vein, students named the project Occupy Vacant Lots, or OvaL Shed. They built and designed the 9' X 14' shed on a budget of $4500. Students created initial designs, and then brought together elements they liked from each design into a group drawing. This design was then presented to the entire class which decided what elements would best serve CVNPRN. Sustainable systems include a solar thermal water heater, rain water catchment through the use of a butterfly roof, cellulose insulation, and locally sourced building materials. Students designed an open building system using a post and beam frame and “FatWalls”—plug-in walls with a built-in purpose such as a greenhouse. The entire structure can be broken down into panels that will fit in the back of a small pickup truck allowing the user to easily move the structure.
See a video of the project here.
Nineteen Green Mountain College students in Prof. Lucas Brown's Environmental Design-Build course unveiled a semester long-project: a "tiny house" of their own design. The 8-foot by 12-foot house was built almost entirely from reclaimed materials. The moveable structure is equipped with a 300 watt solar powered electrical system. The tiny house represented an excellent learning opportunity for students in the College's REED (Renewable Energy and Ecological Design) major or certificate program. During the design and construction process, students adhered to sustainable building practices including use of reclaimed materials whenever possible. Some of the lumber and windows came from Re-New Building Materials and Salvage in Brattleboro, Vt. The threshold to the front door is slate from the Taran Brothers Slate Company. The door and windows were also recycled. "This keeps perfectly good construction materials out of the waste stream," said senior Brandy Bunkley.
See a video of the project here .
High Tunnel Greenhouse project
While greenhouses lengthen the production season for vegetable farms, heating these structures with gas-fired or electric air burners is expensive and energy intensive. Research at Green Mountain College, funded by a $15,000 grant from Vermont's Windham Foundation , explores new ways to sustainably grow vegetables by integrating a solar-powered hot water system in "high tunnel" greenhouses. The three-year study may reveal inexpensive ways to produce higher yields while consuming less energy. GMC researchers will experiment with thermal root-zone heating, a process that warms the soil at the roots of plants through a system of underground hot water radiant tubing. The system will generate heat from solar thermal collectors. Much of the construction was completed by GMC faculty and students: Philip Ackerman-Leist's Seasons Extension class, Cerridwen farm students and staff, and prof. Lucas Brown's design-build students in the College’s Renewable Energy and EcoDesign (REED) program completed the sitting, design, and construction of the high tunnels and the solar thermal system. This combination of expertise in agriculture, renewable energy, and ecological design is preparing students from both disciplines to integrate their own knowledge while working on a College research project.
See a video of the project here.