Sustainable living

Solar-power professionals Richard Stovall and Cathy Redson check out the “whole trees” supporting the roof of the Sustainable Living Center on the campus of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield. Staff held an open house Friday.

The new building can run without electricity, water or heating fuel. In fact, it may seem the only way to further reduce the Sustainable Living Building’s impact on the world would be to turn it invisible.

But that’s not what the people of Maharishi University of Management say they want.

Craig Pearson, executive vice president of MUM, told a crowd of well-wishers and media at the opening of the Sustainable Living Building that it’s his hope, as the building becomes more well-know, that other builders learn about and build more environmentally friendly buildings.

In fact, a board member — who is also mayor of Fairfield — Ed Malloy said this generation of students will learn about sustainable construction in the classrooms of the new building, then go out and create more Earth-friendly structures in the world.

And their professor won’t feel like a hypocrite as he talks about what an Earth-friendly building should look like.

“Being in here,” said Lonnie Gamble, the professor and curriculum director for the Sustainable Living Program at the school, “means that instead of saying ‘here are the principles to build by’ — then apologizing for the building we’re in —  I can show them what I’m talking about.”

The example he used was the ventilation system, which only comes on when needed; a small sensor detects the level of carbon dioxide in the air. He asked someone to walk over to the detector and breath right on it.

A moment later, the fans kicked in. And as they blew out air, they drew in air in part from a pipe buried deep in the Earth, where temperatures are always in the 50s. So in addition to exchanging the air, the system cooled the crowded room by a few degrees.

The sustainable builders of tomorrow will have studied for years in a sustainable building, built with many natural materials and according to Vedic principles.  

That means it’s not just environmentally friendly in the sense that it doesn’t require outside electricity, explained Jon Lipman, design architect for the Sustainable Living Building on the MUM campus.

“The cosmos is its environment,” he said Friday.

The building faces east, allowing the sun to do its part in maintaining the natural order of things. The classrooms are set up so instructors also face east. Elevated levels of light and air keep students alert.

“This is one more step in showing how we can live in harmony ... with natural law,” Lipman said. “I think you can tell from the emotion in Lonnie’s voice that this has been much more than the construction of a building,”

While in town on business, Cathy Redson of Solpower People, heard about the open house and couldn’t pass up the chance to check it out. She and her colleague work in a business that is dependent on solar energy, though she appreciates all renewable forms of energy.

Redson said the new building was “amazing” as she looked at design structures like the aspen trees used to brace the roof from inside of the building.

Pearson said in a conversation with Gamble the previous day, he was told the building was producing 40 times the energy it needed to operate.

Malloy said this building sets the bar in a community that is trying to “go green”

“MUM is again showing the kind of leadership in education that [opens] new horizons,” Malloy said.

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