Eco-friendly Green House may become next themed residence

By Patrick Malloy

Macalester may soon add a “Green House” to its themed student residences, which already include the French, Spanish, Russian, Japanese houses and the Veggie Co-op. The house would be another local house already owned by Macalester, and would be renovated to include green technologies decided on by organizers.

Student organization Macalester Conservation and Renewable Energy Society (MacCARES) and the Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF) are finalizing details on the residence, according to Environmental Studies Professor Chris Wells and students involved in the project. Wells said that CERF would provide some of the funding for renovating the house.

The house, which will likely open its doors to students during the 2007-2008 school year, will be a living community for a small number of students interested in green technology and sustainable living.

Sarah Stephens ’07, an organizer of the project, said the house would initially include water conservation technology, LED light bulbs, better wall insulation, high-insulation windows and environmentally friendly landscaping.

The student organizers are applying for Ecomagination, a $25,000 grant from General Electric and MTV, to fund special technology to be used in the Green House. Students involved also said that if MacCARES wins a $75,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant this spring to further support green roof projects on campus, some of those funds could be directed to Green House renovations.

The corporations are offering Ecomagination for the first time this year. Timothy Den Herder-Thomas, ’09, a student representative on the CERF board and student organizer of the Green House, learned about it over the summer. Wells and MacCARES decided to pursue the grant to help fund some of the initial renovations of the Green House.

Students must write a grant detailing how they plan to use the money and must also send a video that discusses their project.

“A big part of it is researching the interesting products we’re going to use in the house,” Stephens said. The application is due Dec. 1 and the writers will find out in early 2007 if they receive the grant.

Wells said that in the future, the house might be able to implement more expensive technologies such as photovoltaic cells for solar energy and systems for harnessing geothermal energy.

Beyond serving as a living community, Wells said he envisions the house being a “laboratory for clean energy.”
“It will give us the capacity to test some technologies on a small scale before bringing them to the whole campus,” he said.

Den Herder-Thomas, said he hopes that technologies that are effective at the Green House could later be implemented across the entire campus.

One challenge the house will face is in applying new technology to an old house, since most green technology on the market is designed for new construction, Wells said.
Students involved in the project said they hope this will give them an opportunity to show local residents how to make their older homes environmentally friendly. Organizers said they plan to make a web site to feature technologies and explain how people can put them into their homes.

Green House organizers said the college will almost certainly implement the project.

“We’re actively involved right now in discussions with the administration to identify a house,” Wells said. The administration is supportive of the idea, he said. The last step is for Residential Life and Laurie Hamre, Dean of Students, to approve a house.

Organizers and administrators have not chosen a house yet, but there are several possibilities.

Organizers will decide the number of students that will live in the house after they select the property.

The college will provide the house and CERF will provide much of the funding for installing technologies in the house through grants. There are many grants available for environmental projects, Asa Diebolt ’09, another organizer of the project, said. Companies also may be willing to donate technologies since the house would advertise them.

The Ecomagination grant would help the house undertake its first renovations, but it is not dependent on the grant.

“This is going to happen regardless of the grant,” she said.

Planning for the Green House began during the spring of this year. Wells said he was looking for a way to raise money for CERF and came up with the Green House because of its potential to attract grant money.

Students quickly became involved, said Wells, and now have active roles in organizing the project.