Lonnie Gamble: This building has no pipes in, no pipes out so we are going to take care of all of our energy needs, all of our water needs, all of our heating and cooling needs. We have got a wind generator and solar electric panels that are going to provide our electricity. About eleven kilowatts worth of solar and about ten kilowatt twenty three foot diameter wind machine. The landscape around here is going to be chock full of edible and useful plants. Fruit trees of course, vegetable gardens for students why not have a functional landscape that’s also beautiful. Beauty is a big part of it. The Living Building Challenge, one of the elements of that is the building has to be beautiful. I live in a straw bale earth plastered building at home and I plug into solar electricity. I hate not plugging into solar electricity so for me this is going to make that transition from work to home much more seamless. And I can work in an environment that supports my ethic to take care of the earth, that supports my work of this great transition to sustainability and I am really excited to be part of that. I am very, very fortunate to be able to participate in that and be part of it in this great work, which I think is the great work of the upcoming generations to make this transition from an extractive, exploitive, non-sustainable world to a cooperative sustainable future where we run on solar and wind power and what better example than everyday you go to class and that’s what happens.
Female Speaker: I think that I want to continue learning throughout my whole life interested in organizational development, social transformation, what are the dynamics of change, personnel development, how does the personnel development connect with collective developments and sustainability is very broad. So I haven't yet figured out a specific channel other than I think I would have more fun if I was doing something working with people rather than mostly focused on technology.
Male Speaker: I moved back here from California wanting to start a near populous revolution because I feel like we are in an unique position in the upper Midwest and by that I mean Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Iowa to have people who understand values and fairly well educated people and people who still have real connections to the land and I think that all of those things makes sustainability a really viable option here, not just as an ideology but as a way of life.
Male Speaker: Welcome to the Dream Green Series with co-hosts Stuart Tanner and James Moore on Solar Powered KRUU FM. Iowans creating a greener tomorrow today. A journey of discovery across the state featuring innovators, cutting edge projects and communities leading the way to an energy independent and sustainable future. Visit our website at greeniowa.org.
James Moore: Yeah this is James Moore, joining me co-host steady and true Stuart Tanner who identifies himself often as a Brit with some Welsh background. We are talking today with one of our favorite people in the field of sustainability and a real treasure for the area that we are from, Jefferson County in Fairfield. His name is Lonnie Gamble and he is known throughout the state and beyond for the incredible efforts that he has contributed to greening the state if you will. The efforts and sustainability renewability and so much more he is an educator connected with the sustainable living department at Maharishi University of Management. He has been living off the grid for almost twenty years, many, many years in his own home. He has also developed an incredible eco village that others are looking at as another way to do energy and livability in these regards. Lonnie it is so good to see you, how are you doing today?
LG: Really good James, thanks so much for inviting me to talk to you today and also thanks so much for putting together this series the more you do, the less I have to do.
JM: Give us a little sense of you coming into Iowa, what your perspective has been in terms of where Iowa is at in terms of sustainability?
LG: I am originally from Maine. Iowa is kind of like a subtropical country for me you know it’s a much milder climate that I am used to from Maine. It’s very rich in resources, it’s very rich in solar resources, it’s very rich in wind resources. We have some of the most productive topsoil in the world so we are very rich in the ability to grow biomass resources. We are just in a very fortunate place, we have thirty-six inches of rainfall most of it comes in the growing season. So it doesn’t get much better than that.
JM: We also have a little bit of that thing they call wind as well?
LG: Right when it’s not sunny it’s often windy. So the combination of the two works really well in my house, you know one of the things that people often say that haven't worked in this area much what you do when the sun doesn’t shine or what you doing when the wind doesn’t blow and you know thinking maybe there is only one solution, there is only solar, there is only wind. But when you put the two of them together it actually provides a very reliable source of power. On a seasonal basis it’s sunnier in the summertime than it is in the wintertime. Its windier in the wintertime than it is in the summer and then on a short-term basis you know a front comes in it gets cloudy but then it often gets windy and so it just works out that the sun and wind provide enough power. And then on a larger scale if we look around us everywhere we look our - Iowa is covered with solar collectors, they are called plants. They convert sunlight into stored chemical energy at about two or three percent efficiency, which is plenty efficient enough to have taken over the planet. And they are really those plants provide that base level of order and intelligence that supports the development of order on all the rest of the living things on the planet. So we always have to have a continuing source of energy to come in. Now for the last hundred years or so to create that order and structure in our society for the last hundred years or so that’s been fossil fuels. But really the only long-term source that we have to overcome this dissipated force and enter this entropy is solar energy. So solar energy is really essential to the future of sustainability to create order and structure to regenerate, to renew. I think that’s the deeper angle of sustainability.
JM: Oh fantastic, I am going to turn over to Stuart in just a moment but I want to ask you talk about energy, about your background just so people understand. You sound a little bit like a scientist to me in addition to a sustainable guy.
LG: My background is in engineering, I have had an electric engineering degree and professional engineer license and I have worked with hydroelectric power in New England finding old dams putting terminals and generators on. I installed my first wind turbine in 1981. I think my first solar panel in 1980 and so it’s something that’s been a passion of mine for a long time. For about the last ten years or so I have moved from engineering and installation and sort of technology systems design into education. Anybody that works in a kind of a new area that’s kind of critical to a shift in society, a shift in culture, you spend most of your time in education anyway.
JM: Stuart I know you have questions here?
ST: You are talking about the resources available to Iowa, the soil, solar, wind, biomass all of which can work together in order to provide energy for the state. But I wonder if you could just give us an overview of where we are at the moment?
LG: As far as where we are right now. When you think about energy, we tend to think about electrical energy and electrical energy really is only a fraction of the energy that we use that flows through our society. Electric energy in Iowa though seventy percent of it or so comes from coal, about twenty percent of it comes from nuclear and about another ten percent comes from other sources. Now in the last couple of years Iowa has really jumped up in wind power and electrical production from wind power and sometimes we get as much as twenty percent of our electrical requirement from wind. I think on an annual basis maybe eight or ten percent. From wind now, which is fantastic, we are number three in the nation. Number one I think per capita, with number three in gross generation. So we have really made some fantastic progress in wind power and we have two or three companies in Iowa that build large-scale wind turbines from scratch. I think there is five or ten thousand people now making their living in Iowa just for manufacture of wind generation equipment. Some of the other areas we haven't done so well in. For example there is probably only three or four or five people in Iowa who make their living putting in solar panels. So you know people talk about job training for the new economy. Right now its kind of silly to train people for jobs in solar, we just don’t have the public policy that supports it. Now if you look at a place like Germany which has half of the solar resource of Iowa. So they have you know they are up at the same level that’s Juneau, Alaska and places like that. They are the world leader in solar and not because they have the best solar resource but because they have the public policy that supports it. You go to Wisconsin, again not typically thought of as the solar capital of the Midwest and they have probably a couple of thousand people who make their living just in selling solar electric and solar thermal panels because of public policy there that supports it. So I think we need to get on the bandwagon, we don’t have to invent the wheel because we can just look at the states around us that have these policies that have created this job activity. So in electricity, wind electricity we are doing okay, solar we have long ways to go and I think part of this is again kind of pervasive method that there is no solar energy in Iowa. When you look around us outside and we are surrounded from one end of the state to the other with solar collectors. You know and we don’t even have to build them, nature builds them and rebuilds them so obviously we have a solar resource here. So then in some of the other areas like for example transportation fuels we have really gone big and there is themes kind of occurring here bigwig, billions of dollars for biofuels. I don’t think we are every going to drive our way out of this situation. The solution is not going to be more efficient cars in biofuels. There has been many studies done that have shown that even if a very large percentage of biomass was used to create transportation fuels that always provide a fairly small percentage of the fuel that we just drive too much. And we settle ourselves across the landscape in a way that requires that the only practical mode of transportation that you can't really use any kind of public transportation you have to drive cars. So rethinking how cities work I think that’s on the cutting edge of sustainability. We are doing that much in Iowa I think Frank Cownie is starting to do a little bit of that in Des Moines. I think we have some places where that could happen. What we need is a vision of the future just like a holiday brochure and not like a concentration camp. And so often times you know people want to scare people into action and I think more powerful way of doing that is to show people that we can make these changes and we can make these changes in a way that create in almost every way that you can imagine it a much better life.
JM: And I think one of the things we are hearing Lonnie is that part of the thing driving that now with the cost of energy going up and up right now would you say that one of the aspects driving this is the pocketbook?
LG: Yeah you know that’s a really, that’s a really good point. Personally I think the price of energy is away too well. That’s part of the problem. Now we have issues with the price of oil, price of energy but those were less fortunate and you know a huge percentage of their and they are forced to live in a place where they have to travel to work and that kind of thing, we have to make comments for that. But I think part of the strategy here is that energy is going to have to get more expensive. I just heard a report today that in China gasoline is four dollars a gallon, well gasoline is four dollars a gallon here too. But guess what people in China only make about a quarter of what we make. So that means gasoline in China is sixteen dollars a gallon and that’s part of their public policy and so I think you know that’s part of an issue you know we have to take into consideration these social justice and equity issues but I think a lot of things will settle themselves out. Fossil fuels are artificially priced too low, coal is artificially priced too low. If we always have to think well its got to be cheaper than coal then we have are going to have to burn all the coal up first, well we might as well wait a thousand years because we got a lot of coal. I think we should leave a lot of that in the ground and can we do this, can we do this at a profit. I think we can, we can do it because efficiency is really cheap. So energy is really expensive, efficiency is really cheap we put the two of those together. The money that you save by using energy more wisely this is not freezing in the dark, you still have hot showers, you still have cold beer. But you do it with much less energy. For example the houses at the ecovillage they use one tenth of the energy of a conventional house. I use thirty-kilowatt hours a month in my house, typical home uses nine hundred-kilowatt hours a month. The savings from that often times will pay for the renewables that we need. If we don’t take the savings from that and just spend it or take those savings and use it to grow the economy, if we take those savings and use it to pay for the renewables then we can convert to a renewables based on the economy we can do it at a profit.
ST: The ecovillage has a great atmosphere and some wonderful homes out there. You know obviously you talked about the savings, ones these things have been setup I was wondering about the benefits immediately for people right across the economic spectrum because even though you can save money to set up a home like that still costs more and therefore you can only attract those people who are better off. What about the people who have less to spend from the beginning. How can the benefits of this be available to them also and that you ensure that that is the case?
LG: That’s a really fantastic question Stuart and it’s something that I think a lot about these days because there is a huge amount of equity and justice issues involved in the way they were currently developing and supporting solar energy. Right now it’s, we have a lot of incentives that allow wealthy people to put solar panels on their second home. Is that really what the solar revolution is about? I don’t think so. Right now if you want coal power all you have to do is call somebody up on the telephone and somebody else figures out how to build the plan, how to finance it, how to mine the coal, how to build the railroad line that brings the coal from the mine to the plant, how to get the environmental permits, how to do all that stuff and then you just pay your hundred bucks a month. So the system is all setup for fossil fuels because a bunch of people got together a hundred years ago and decided we want to make electricity cheap and readily available to everybody. They probably could have considered solar energy and renewables back then. In fact Thomas Edison around the turn of the century said I think a quote is “solar energy what a fantastic resource, I hope we are not going to have to burn up all the fossil fuels before we get to that”. You know but a lot of people got together and really the practical way that they decided to do that was with fossil fuels and it was hugely successful. You know electricity is readily available just about everywhere. If you live out in the country and there were twenty telephone poles that go to your house to provide you with your electric service and then twenty poles to the next one it costs you the same for electricity as it does for somebody in the city. And each one of those poles you should have hit it with your car and have to pay the power company to replace it, it might be a thousand dollars. So there is a you know so all those systems are setup, all those kind of subsidies and ways in which everybody can afford to be part of it have been established. Now if you want solar power you have to buy twenty years worth of electricity in advance. Basically you have to put up the money, you have to figure out how to engineer the plan, you have to find out who is going to build it, you have to figure out how to maintain it. So I am hoping some of these smart kids that I am working with in the sustainable living program, the green MBA programs that we have at MUM are going to be the people who start to figure out these systems that are going to make this stuff readily available to everyone.
ST: I want to ask you Lonnie what your vision is for Iowa, I know this is a subject you have thought about. What would you see, you said it might take fifty, hundred years, we are early in the curve on this. What is your vision of a green Iowa?
LG: Well I think that’s a good point James, I think we have to look beyond. But when you actually get the thinking about rethinking everything that humans do, there is a lot of things that even green environmentalists are not, don’t want to think about that that need to be done. Like for example driving you know everybody thinks okay I am driving my Prius, it’s powered by bio-fuels but that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. What we – big part of our landscape is related to the consumption of meat for example. A big percentage of the greenhouse gases are related to animal agriculture. That’s another thing that’s not part of the discussion. How we settle across the landscape driving in cars, I see us abandoning large portions of Iowa back to wider natural system,s rethinking how we do agriculture and what are diets are. We can grow all the food people need on a small percentage of the land Iowa has and then we can also think about well if our transportation requirements are greatly reduced, we could probably grow the fuels we need on a small percentage of the land and then the rest of them can become wetlands, wild lands and beauty and our grandchildren couldn't have at a whole new contenet.
ST: This transformation, because it’s so fundamental what is the political aspect of it for you. Does it need different kind of political structures that would work better with it, are the existing ones doing a good job where are we on that?
LG: Again, a really excellent question Stuart because we pretty much know what we need to do from a technological point of view. We know how to grow food right around where we live, we know how to collect rainwater, we know how to you know it’s trivial really a lot of the technology that we need. The technology can be better, we can invent new stuff but what we got is good enough. What's the cutting edge, what I tell my students is the cutting edge of sustainability is public policy, is kind of rethinking what do we value, what's important, rethinking growth versus development. So growth is a continual increase in the throughput of materials and energy and on a finite planet you can only do that so many times, you can only double so many times that things that are flowing through as far as energy and materials. But the inner growth, the growth of love and development of consciousness in the arts and all those kind of creative pursuits there is really no end to the development of human creativity and human intelligence. So that’s where I think we got to, first of all as public policy put more of that natural human desire for more and more and more and more its been perverted into more and more matter, more and more material throughput and that really isn't satisfying in the end anyway. I think in five years we can stop using fossil fuels and we can do it at a profit. Rethinking all these areas of sustenance for humans, for energy, for food, for building materials will have full employment for the next hundred years if we get serious about it.
JM: I had noticed and I wonder if you have one more sustainable programs, sustainability programs that seems I know again you are early with the sustainable living department. At the university, here at Maharishi University of Management obviously there is a lot going on, green has become a positive term. It seems like growth in this area, education wise all across the country is that your take?
LG: Every college wants to be seen at least as participating somehow in the green movement. There is an organization called American Association for Sustainability and Higher Education and there is you know thousand schools that are part of that. MUM is one of the signatory participants in that organization. Every large school what they are doing if they can't put together a sustainability department what they are doing is they are finding the passion to people in all the different areas in architecture and engineering and social work in media and they are putting them together in a cross disciplinary sustainability program. Again I think that sustainability programs are probably going to disappear because it’s just going to be part of how we are do business. You know we don’t have programs on how to be effective in an exploitive and extractive economic system because that’s just how we do business. So you know in this just equitable solar powered society that was world of our dreams that people tell us this is impossible, I think it’s possible. Right now we will have programs to help people move in that direction but eventually it will just be the way we do business.
ST: Because of its pioneer department the sustainable living department at MUM I just wonder whether you can give us a little overview of some of its achievements and some of the things that graduates have gone one to be involved with.
LG: Sure well a little bit of evolution on that program. It started off as a biology program at MUM and there are fewer and fewer students in the biology program and I think at the end there was about six and maybe two or three faculty and they all had this passion and interest in this area with sustainability and so they made the switch from biology to what they call sustainable living and this is a new discipline, really new academic disciplines being pioneered at MUM and maybe a dozen of other institutions like College of the Atlantic and Prescott College and places like that. We are kind of all feeling our way around to create this discipline. The approach we have taken is a broad approach. Our goal is to give students the skills to help design, build and maintain sustainable communities. Rethinking everything humans do in terms of sustainability. We now have ninety students, full time students in that program, as the program really came out about only about six, seven years ago so we haven't had that many graduating classes. Maybe three or four graduating classes. One of our students is the Assistant Director for the Iowa Renewable Energy Association. One of our students is the Assistant Director for City Repair a National Organization based in Portland Oregon that rethinks how humans are settled across landscape you know making cities more attractive places to live. One of our students is a Director of an ecovillage project in Fiji and another one was a sustainability consultant for a website that did the reviews of green products. Interesting project was it took a group of students to a need of village in Alaska where the ancestors of these people have lived there for the last five or ten thousand years. Their energy costs are ten times what we pay six to ten times they pay sixty cents a kilowatt hour, which means people pay between six hundred and twelve hundred dollars a month. Things that happen when your energy costs were that high they couldn't afford to pay the electric bill on the municipal building the fire truck froze up so people died because they couldn't fight a fire. They couldn't afford to pay the electric bill and the water company didn’t have pressurized water in the company that can be in the city for many months. All their energy right now comes from diesel fuel that has to be brought in on a barge very expensive and we went out put a demonstration project wind, solar, high efficiency retrofit, biofuel plants and wrap of the house, dense insulating blanket coat and solar thermal energy and we monitored the whole thing and it completely changed the thinking in this community. And then communications and media students came up and the tribe hired them to do a promotional film about the whole project, which is now shown allover Alaska. So that’s a little sample of some of the kind of stuff that we are doing.
JM: And here we are, we have entered the sustainable living center, we have Professor Lonnie Gamble with us. I am James Moore, Stuart Tanner and we are taking a walk through here. A very beautiful building, right now we are a work in progress but we are taking a tour and looking around, Lonnie Gamble how are you doing today?
LG: Great James.
JM: Well tell us a little bit about the genesis of this building and I know its special in about four ways but give us the short story.
LG: The short story is that this building is a home for the sustainable living program at Maharishi University of Management, which is a four year bachelor science degree program. We got about ninety full time students, our program is growing so we needed some more space. One of the core values of our program is to have our facilities be a living laboratory for what we teach. So we are trying to teach students how to design, build and maintain sustainable communities to assist in that process and in order to do that you know basically have to rethink everything that humans do its energy, food and water and buildings are a big part of that. Fifty percent of the energy in our US economy flows through buildings, seventy five percent of electricity flows through buildings, eighty percent of the electricity in Iowa comes from coal. So seventy five percent of that electricity is for the buildings. So the built environment and buildings are huge for sustainability and we can build buildings now that require very little energy even in Iowa’s climate to heat and cool them. We can build buildings that not only have a low footprint, they actually give back they create more energy then they use. They purify the water rather than the opposite of purify the water and so the buildings then can become [Fecon] [00:23:50] they can become a net positive footprint on the landscape. So that new building might mean cleaner water, air purification, energy production all those kinds of things that are generally taken as a negative in a building. So that’s what we are trying to do with this building to go beyond kind of sustainable design to regenerative design. So the building has regenerative footprint.
JM: Almost like a sustainable living center?
LG: Yeah like a tree. The only thing that this building doesn’t do that a tree does is self-replicate, we haven't got that yet.
JM: Not yet but we hear there is people back in the lab. Now Lonnie I want you to give us just a little bit of sense we came in the front door, the beautiful hallway could you tell us just a little bit about well the design?
LG: What we are looking at here is whole tree architectures developed by an architect named Roald Gundersen up in Wisconsin and the idea is you know why take a round tree which is you know order of magnitude stringer than the same square timber. Could we use round timbers and save all that embodied energy of milling them and all the extra work that goes into making it into a square timber and so he has developed these techniques and instead of using steel in this building as the structural supports we used whole trees, whole round trees and so you can see there is a dozen or two dozen of them that are eighteen, twenty inches in diameter and twenty five feet tall down this center here almost looks like you are in the forest. And what you are looking at in the floor this is tubing that heated water flows through in the wintertime. So this is called radiant floor heating and the idea as we have active solar collectors on the roof that takes the suns energy even in the cold and the wintertime these are special kind of solar collectors. That can take the suns energy even on a cloudy day, create hot water which we can then circulate through the building to heat the building. One advantage with radiant floor heating versus just heating the air for example is that it makes the surface temperature warm of the floor and it turns out that one element of human comfort in a building is not just the air temperature but also having warm surfaces. We can walk over here for a second and I will show these solar hot water system. So what we are looking at here is a five thousand gallon water tank. We have about seven hundred and fifty square feet of collect on the roof and these are special solar hot water collectors that can collect heat energy even at very low temperatures and in fairly low light levels. Now the idea here is that a significant portion of the heat of this building will be provided all of it in the spring and fall in a very significant portion of it in the wintertime and we can take a look in here.
JM: This is amazing Lonnie I know you have an electrical engineer background, this might be Hog Heaven looking at all these tubes and -.
LG: You can't feel the heat here very much because it’s an insulated tank and it’s a special kind of insulation, which I will describe in a minute but we have a five thousand gallon tank full of hundred and sixty three degree water right now. The other thing that is going to happen here with this hot water is in the summer time we use it to air condition the building to cool it.
JM: Cool, what do you think Stuart?
ST: Well, I was struck as you come through the door you know that you are in a different kind of building. There is this big hallway that goes right down the length of the building and goes right up to the top of the building as well and you have the line of tree trunks on either side. But actually it reminds me of – a feeling of walking into an ancient temple and the walls as well clearly they have a different texture than usual and they are more rounded. It’s almost as if they have been handcrafted, it’s amazing the difference in the feel of the building right from when you walk in.
LG: Do you know that new car and new building smell. We have been very careful in this building to not use any materials that’s off gas or are toxic either in their production at the facility or in their use because we had to look at both of those. It’s no good to have a material that may not be toxic in the built environment but the production of it is toxic or there is a very unjust and inequitable way in which that material is extracted or mined in a part of the world where people don’t care so much about equity and justice. But what you said about a handcrafted building is not so far off because if you look here you will see the bottom parts of the walls are plastered interior walls but you know it’s the top parts of the wall what do you see up there.
ST: There are bricks but there is motor between the bricks.
LG: Those are earth bricks we had a construction project here on campus moving earth for a parking lot. In terms of that earth had the perfect characteristic for making earth blocks. We rented a machine and students made twenty five thousand blocks, earth blocks and that’s what makes all the interior partitions here. So literally those were crafted not by hand but by a machine but from the earth you know with no concrete, nothing added it just turned out we had the right mix of sand and clay and gravel. So all the interior partitions in the building are made of rammed earth block.
ST: Twenty five thousand of these puppies huh?
LG: Twenty five thousand, right.
ST: Is there a lot of academic credit for student brick makers?
LG: And then the bottom of what you see they haven't talked about that crafted by hand that is crafted by hand. Those are earth plasters and natural earth plasters covered with lime wash, just a lime wash. So very simple the earth plaster just has sand, clay, dug up again from the ground here and the secret ingredient that our plaster used, Keith Lindauer a plaster from Rico, Colorado is cow manure. So you might every now and then to detect the faint whiff cow manure here. But the cow manure makes the surface much more durable and it’s a very small amount you don’t really smell it and these handcrafted niches that you see those are crafted with a mix that has a fairly high amount of cow manure in the plaster.
ST: Wow yes cow manure, mud, bricks and tree trunks form a substantial part of the building. I feel as thought we are going backwards in time here to ancient building techniques of using what was available and around at that time and perhaps there is actually something in that in terms of sourcing things more locally and that’s part of the sustainability picture.
LG: Yeah that’s one of the standards that we are trying to reach with this building is something called a Living Building Challenge. And it is the kind of the highest standard for green construction these days and one of the restrictions there is to get most of the materials that were from within a five hundred mile radius. So all these tree trunks for example and the earth blocks from right outside of the door. Something’s like for example ideas can come from anywhere on the planet. But that actually materials have to come from close in.
JM: So we are speaking with Lonnie Gamble, Professor here at the Sustainable Living Department at MUM, Maharishi University of Management. We are looking at this amazing building, big building. We will get the square footage in just a moment. But Lonnie is giving us a tour for the Dream Green Series. Give us a little sense of where the LEED platinum angle is with this building?
LG: Sure so – as far as we know it’s the first building to try to attempt four different building standards all at ones. One of them is LEED platinum, Living Building Challenge, which is the next step beyond lead. This is really a challenge no matter how well intentioned you are, there are many places where you just couldn't meet those criteria. You know if you build on a virgin site for example a new site that never had construction before it can't be a Living Building Challenge building. So there is many different things all along of that line. Maharishi Vedic Architecture is the last one and that is taking a look at these influences from nature that mainly come from the sun but from the sun in a different perspective than what we think about it traditionally in sustainable building design. Sthapatya Veda looks at other influences, it looks at the sun as it first rises over the horizon as to being really good for the occupants of the building. It looks at orientation and placement of rooms in a building. So you know in relation to how the sun flows across the sky where in that building at noon time are you going to feel the most hungry so that’s where the kitchen is and its typically in the southeast. So Maharishi Vedic Architecture looking at these subtle influences from all over and also looking at influences of the site, influences of water bodies that are near the site all these kinds of things are kind of taken into account in Vedic architecture. So we are trying to do all those at once. This building will be off grid for electricity in other words I am not connected to the power company for our electrical energy needs. For heating and cooling we will also be off grid creating our own heating and cooling from the energy that hits the site. For water, all the water is supplied for the building for the toilets and for shower, for kids who come on bikes and things like that and for washing your hands and using in the kitchen. That’s all from water we harvest off the site and then also the gray water and black water that leave the building we have to treat that on site.
JM: How long has this project been going on and where is it at right now?
LG: It started construction about two years ago and we probably have about another six to nine months to go to finish the project. You know as you see it now there is - a lot of the walls have their at least the base coats of the interior finish on, we are in the room right now that has - where the other rooms you saw that white plaster or the lime plaster this is an earth plaster, just the raw earth and sand. Take a look over here I will tell you a little bit about the wall section. Now we talked about you know looking back at these traditional building materials but this building looks back but it also looks forward. It looks back in terms of using those natural traditional materials of earth and clay and wood but it also looks forward to using highly insulated building envelope. Taking all these modern concepts of sustainability and integrating with these traditional techniques of buildings. So if you look at the wall section here we are on the north side of the building looking at one of the window frames you can see the wall is what James, almost two feet thick here. And the interior partition as we talked before is this earth block and then there is an air gap and then there is about ten inches of traditional thick frame type construction but very heavily insulated. So this whole assembly has an R-value of somewhere around thirty five or forty. These blocks are heavy they are thirty five or forty pounds a piece and we have twenty five thousand of them and so that’s thermal mass. We have the ability to kind of store and regulate the temperature of the building just by having all this mass on the inside. So we have the insulation on the outside and then the thermal mass on the inside with a break in between so that that heat can flow directly from the outside all the way through because there is a thermal break in between.
JM: Well and also no matter how much anybody huffs or puffs they will not be blowing down to that wall we could say I think.
LG: I think there is two hundred and fifty tons of earth blocks in here. This building is complete day lit, during the day you should never ever have to turn the light on this building. And you know ninety five percent of the time this building is used ninety seven percent probably is during the daytime. Even on cloudy days we won't have to use artificial lighting. When we do use artificial lighting it will be LED lighting, which uses one tenth of the energy of a conventional light bulb. Using all these energy efficiency techniques first that’s what makes our solar electric and wind systems that provides with our electricity cost effective because you know we have a very low demand to start off with. Architecture firm that we use in innovative design they have done a lot of day lit schools. There has been a lot of studies done in day lit schools. It ought to be almost criminal not to day light a school because improvements and test scores for students in K through twelve day lit schools are some, on the order of twenty percent and you know what other policy initiative can you take that will raise test scores by that much. So that’s one of the big reasons why we went with day lighting.
ST: Everything has been thought off clearly. One of the questions obviously that’s going to be on people’s minds is it feels like this is a lot of work, it feels like maybe there is a lot of design features that are fairly expensive. What would be the cost of this building compared to the standard buildings that are put up, I mean is it a lot more up front cost and how long does it take to get that back?
LG: Well that’s a really good question and this building is kind of a research facility. We are trying out a lot of things so it’s quite expensive. I think we are on the range of four hundred dollars a square foot, which is maybe two to three times more expensive than conventional building. But you could build a building that had this kind of performance and a lot of these kind of materials for a lot less money. But this is a groundbreaking building of the current generation of sort of green buildings this is as good as any. Right here in Fairfield Iowa I think it’s just good as any.
JM: What do you think Stuart?
ST: I really love it actually, I wish I could live in a building like this it feels great. You know I said it feels like a temple, it does have a special atmosphere even now, even though it’s not entirely finished. I think people who have always talked about the qualities of wood and of actually mud. These in a way are very simple things that people use to build with and if you ever used to go into the old buildings and obviously we have a quite few in the UK they feel very different and they had very thick walls and they have a very different atmosphere than the modern buildings and people gravitate towards them for that reason. What is amazing about this thought is its extraordinary combination of those old materials and methods combined with the latest and high tech thinking and it’s the coming together of the two things that really makes it work and really makes it special.
LG: People tend to want to polarize it into well we are going to go back and within some kind of primitive less technology advanced time or we are going to live in this kind of techno-fantasy world and it doesn’t have to be polarized like that. We can take the best of what humanity has developed over you know tens and thousands of years of building with local match materials and we can take the best of what we have developed from technology for sustainability. Put them together and you know why not, you don’t have to choose one of the other right.
JM: I think we call that eureka where I come from. You talked about old buildings in the UK, well here at the US yeah we have old buildings some that were built even in 1970, just kidding folks. Anyway yes Lonnie?
LG: So this is my office here and you know I don’t have a window at the outside, I have a window at our greenhouse. The south side of our building is a greenhouse it's eighty feet long and it’s about twelve feet wide and that will be for us to have our lunch from in the wintertime. If you look kind of at an angle here this plaster has mica in it and so that gives it just kind of like jewel like shiny finish.
JM: It is beautiful just in this room as I was mentioning there are inside windows but the windows are too overlooking where the greenhouse area will be. But that’s all the daylight.
LG: You can see this will be flooded with daylight ones we get you know light surfaces out there and a light roof in here, you know as the roofs are angled to reflect that daylight down into the building. Even the bathrooms are a hundred percent daylight in this building so.
JM: Wow that’s amazing. Well plenty of daylight ahead for this project I can tell, oh wow, this is sort of a sizable greenhouse area.
LG: You noticed that there is a lot more windows on the south side of the building than there are on the other sides of the building and the reason for that is that’s where you get the advantage in the wintertime and that’s where you don’t get the gain in the summertime because the sun is very high. There is no over hang on these windows yet, but in the summertime these windows will be shaded, in the wintertime the sun will be about at that high about twenty degrees off the horizon and the sun will come right deep into my office in the wintertime. But in the summertime it will be completely shaded.
ST: The amazing thing is if you sit down as an intelligent group of people and you think well this is where the sun is going to be at this time of the year. It’s going to be hot there, this is going to be the angle during the winter. How about we designed the building so we take advantage of all these natural things and all these natural advantages that we can get mainly by the basic design and then somehow, someone came along and then threw out all that stuff and it was all forgotten and all the buildings ignored these things for decades and decades, how come that happened, it’s a tough question but you know -?
LG: Well, I think it’s an easy question, in that two aspects of that I think one is sort of a pervasive paradigm of struggle against nature, of domination over nature, that’s one thing. We don’t have to worry about the sun because we are smart humans. We have got oil you know so cheap oil for a long time allowed us to ignore this. But you know we talked about the cost of the building, this solar collector is free basically I mean we could have scattered these windows around the rest of the building, it wouldn’t have that benefit. So we take the windows we are already going to use put them on the south side, put a little overhang on them and you know that doesn’t cost anymore. Its just you know you have to get that right in the first part of the design. But there is many things you can do that don’t really cost a lot more that you can drastically reduce energy needs and increase the comfort. Its going to be fantastic to sit out here on a cold winter day and have the sun stream in here and you know just think of the your psychological health and your physical health by being in a building like that.
ST: Yeah its actually amazing in a way that and its very fortunate indeed what makes sense also feels good. I just wanted to ask one thing. Obviously with the era of cheap oil is over there is not question about that and in fact if anything is going to like just get more and more expensive, more and more rapidly. So presumably there is a lot of attention going into this area now, a lot of attention into these principals of design, sustainability, reducing energy consumption. Let’s say a hundred miles per hour is extremely fast and a zero is a dead stop. How fast is that happening that the eyes are turning from everywhere and in every direction towards these principles and sustainability in this kind of building design?
LG: From a perspective of the amount of ink that’s written about architecture you know I would say you know we are at seventy five miles per hour. But from the actual on the ground happening I think we are more like a twenty or twenty five percent. But a couple of really exciting things were happening. It’s just been a seed change in the last three or four years of people jumping on to these ideas about the effect of the built environment on sustainability. Architects have got together and they have come up with a plan called Architecture 2030 and the American Institutes of Architects has accepted this as the policy of the institute of architects and that is by 2030 all buildings will be net zero. In other words that fifty percent of the energy that flows to buildings won't happen after 2030 and there is a whole plan to get there you know and so that’s the official policy of the American Institute of Architects. It’s the official policy of all the major architecture schools as far as training for architect skills. Are there places that are still away behind on that, there certainly are and there are certainly buildings that are still being built as they would have been built in the 60’s, but we know how to do it differently. We know how to do it so it doesn’t cost a lot. There is many, many examples of lead plat in the buildings in fact I just heard Franklin County on your program talk about a building they had bid out as conventional construction also as LEED, the LEED part was less expensive. Plus these building cost a lot less to run. This building has no pipes in, no pipes out the only connection it had to pay for is for communications. So we are going to take care of all of our energy needs, all of our water needs, all of our heating and cooling needs. We have got a wind generator and solar electric panels that are going to provide our electricity. About eleven kilowatts worth of solar and about ten kilowatt twenty three foot diameter wind machine. The landscape around here is going to be chock full of edible and useful plants, you know fruit trees of course, vegetable gardens for students. You know why not have a functional landscape that’s also beautiful. I mean beauty is a big part of it. The Living Building Challenge you know one of the elements of that is the building has to be beautiful.
JM: I just wanted to ask one thing you said about the AIA the architects planning to get this all the way done by 2030. Was that a government mandate, is that something they just took upon themselves that is really cool?
LG: That’s something internal because they realize this is a design challenge like no other design challenge and it’s the, you know they are really the future of the project we call civilization really depends on and they have taken this seriously to heart and they point out to them hey you are a stick to hold up. In this built environment fifty percent of the energy, seventy five percent of the electricity come on guys get with it and so they did.
JM: When you start learning about these passive principles of building and harnessing the way nature has lined up anyway using those things, why wouldn’t you do that if you knew about them.
LG: Really if you look at sustainable building, sustainable building practices, in the future we won't have sustainable building practices it just would be the way we build. There is no future in another way of building. Well that’s a message that’s starting to get heard. So we are just happy to be part of it.
JM: And I think even for parents where would you want your kids to be raised in a place that’s friendly and life supporting and all that kind of stuff or with the toxic elements and those other things and this is not a putdown of the way things have been. This is a celebration of the way things can be.
ST: It certainly is, talking about celebration the sustainable living department obviously has been a pioneer department on sustainability throughout the state of Iowa, throughout America and is connected worldwide and all kudos and credit to the department for what is achieved so far and what it will achieve going into the future. And it’s going to be absolutely brilliant for the students’ ones they move in here. What do you think their experience will be ones they transition into this new and wonderful building?
LG: Well they are very excited, they are very impatient that the building is taking longer. We all are. You know and that’s the nature of – you know buildings always take longer and they always cost money if anybody has ever been involved with them. I think its just going to be a radical phase shift in the way students can relate to the curriculum of our program by having this living laboratory.
ST: You are going to be like a kid in the candy store when you are moving here surely.
LG: Yeah, you know I am really excited about it. I live in a straw bale earth plastered building at home and I plug into solar electricity. I hate not plugging into solar electricity. So for me this is going to make that transition from work to home much more seamless and I can work in an environment that supports my ethic to take care of the earth, that supports my work of this great transition to sustainability and I am really excited to be part of that. Be able to participate, I am very, very fortunate to be able to participate in that and be part of it in this great work, which I think is the great work of the upcoming generations to make this transition from an extractive, exploitive non-sustainable world to a cooperative sustainable future where we run on solar and wind power and what better example than everyday you go to class and that’s what happens.
JM: Well I have to say we are lucky as well here in Fairfield to have the man I call Lonnie Appleseed in terms of all the green that he has brought final thoughts Stuart.
ST: When I came in here I felt as there was one of those great public works of ancient civilization like a pyramid or a Temple or the meeting houses of the community it’s more than just a building where you just go and do something, it's more than pure functionality. It represents something much deeper than that and it's amazing how because of that because of the thoughts, because of the sentiments, because the ideas that comes out of it. It represents in a way something going forward, it represents a civilization and I think it’s very powerful because of that and it's something you can only feel I think directly when you're in the building, when you experience it, that there is some profound value here that really does affect you. So it's not just the ideas. There is something very powerful deep and subtle about it, something that really reflects qualities of humanity and it is very profound in that way.
LG: Part of that, in addition to sustainability features and I think made amplifying the sustainability features are these principles of Vedic architecture, these ancient principles of orientation and placement attunement with the laws of nature for the site. I think that contributes to this effect that you notice.
JM: And that’s when we say once again, eureka. And we are here at the Sustainable Living Center, this is James Moore with co-host Stuart Tanner part of the dream green series, a segment on some very cool things happening at the MUM campus in Fairfield and we have some special guest with us, in the background you can hear little bit of construction going on, as we speak, the building is coming together, it looks like there's not just installation on the outside, a beautiful façade in the front too, it is great to be here. Stuart, I’ll let toss out the first question.
ST: So talking to Travis Cox, and I’m going to be talking to two students of Sustainable Living Program here at Maharishi University of Management. Travis, what is it you actually do here?
Travis Cox: I’m a professor of Sustainable Living. I head up Fundamentals of Sustainability Track that includes four courses, Philosophies of Sustainability, Social Justice, Spirituality and Deep Ecology, which is an environment of philosophy class.
JM: Fantastic, sounds like you go the whole gamut.
ST: So can summarize deep ecology in a few sentences, there you are there's a challenge for the proffesor isn't it.
TC: I think I can do it in a whole class, so it is an environmental philosophy that takes as its first area of interest, the relationship between human beings and the “Natural World” and through that process you kind of see how we are both a part of the natural world and then have come to seperate ourselves from it, whether justly or unjustly and then trying to figure out ways of being on individual societal and then kind of cosmic levels that are with that system that we are a part of.
ST: Not too shabby, that sounds like a summary and obviously the Sustainable Living department here at Maharishi University of Management, a big part of the University, some 90 students or so, is that correct?
TC: Right, we are the largest program in the University and we continue to grow every year.
ST: Well, great and talk a little bit about the width of that program for students that are getting interested or involved in this, what is it that they are able to learn?
TC: We came out with a diversified curriculum so that you have six core classes that we feel like gives you the breadth of sustainability and then we have tracks now, thinks six tracks as well based around one of the core classes, but then you go into depth in that field and so if you come here you automatically get the breadth with the core courses, but then you have the option of, if you are interested in policy or if you are interested in green building, if you are interested in energy then can go deeper into each one of those fields.
ST: What is your experience of being here at Maharishi University of Management and in Sustainable Living?
TC: I – just yesterday I’m preparing my new class, my social justice class and so I was doing some research online and just – sometimes you lose the forest for the trees and so I just Googled sustainability and on the first page is MUM, which I thought was amazing in terms of that is the buzzword that has crossed almost all campuses and Universities and so the fact that we have a presence there was pretty amazing. When I teach classes here, both individual classes and across years, the first class that I thought here, we got as deep as I thought we would get in the first – like week and a half. So the rest of it, I’m just like off the hip trying to just engage students because that we can go so deep so fast and then teaching the same classes over time, we've gone from understanding sustainability as concept to understanding sustainability is a set of values to understanding sustainability as consciousness within a three-year period of just diverse peoples and so it's an amazing place to teach.
JM: Well, let's ask you to introduce her students that I mean – we’ll get some coments, Travis.
TC: All right, this is Jim, he is a first-year student, who has already taken on a big leadership role and then we also have Minca Borg, she is a community member, she's been in Fairfield right for quite some time.
Minca Borg: Since I was 11.
TC: Since you were 11, right. And then she also has leadership abilities and skills that she has put to work in service of a sustainability both on-campus and then in the community.
ST: Well, let’s ask you Jim, so what's your experience like here with the community and also within the Department?
Jim: I have been having a lot of fun over the last five or six months. I came here in a blizzard in the snowstorm in February, that was my introduction in Fairfield, Iowa and now being in Fairfield and out of school right now in break, it’s totally different experience of the place, I have been spending a lot more time at farmers markets this summer and been meeting more locals, been talking with more people, just having conversations and the humanity in this place is so much fun, I love talking to people and the people at University, the students and faculty and even the administrators have been like such a great friends already, so it’s been easy to get along and classes that I took in the semester were just an all-star lineup for me personally so has been fun.
ST: Okay and where are you from?
Jim: East Coast, born and raised in New Jersey, spent two years in college in Virginia and transferred out here in February.
ST: Well, I just was – when I came out in the blizzard I always feel most sorry for those coming from California that haven't seen it before, New jersey gets a little bit of cold weather, welcome to the Midwest. And then it’s a day like this or yesterday when it's 115, I just don’t know how the roads make it through one year without much of a range, but Minca, tell us a little bit about yourself?
Minca Borg: I actually did come here from California when I was 11. I don’t know if my parents have got en used to it Stuart. But I really have come to love the snow, basically I came to sustainability, because I was in undecided major for quite a while and wanted to know everything and still do. We are just like having that sort of trends disciplinary scense and kind of basic viewpoint of lets consider the world as a whole and our place in it and what is the relationship of the individual to everything else. That’s really been the core theme for me is deep sustainability in terms of symbiotic relationships with everyone and everything.
ST: And what would you like to do in the future, what’s your ambition?
Minca Borg: I’m not sure yet.
ST: Spoken like a true student. Be a surfer, you are going to throw a whirlpool all of a sudden. Let’s get ballpark idea.
Minca Borg: Ballpark idea, policy is interesting education is interesting, I think that I want to continue learning throughout my whole life, interested in organizational development, social transformation, what are the dynamics of change. Personal development, how does the personal development connect with collective development. And sustainability is very broad so I haven't yet figured out a specific channel other than I think I would have more fun if I was doing something working with people rather than mostly focused on technology.
ST: Sounds good. What about you Jim, any thoughts going forward.
Jim: I came out here interested in studying sustainable agriculture, I’m coming from the Garden State, I had some options there, but taking on a sustainability curriculum and seeing the deep ecological aspects of life and then the very hard scientific like soil microbiological aspects of that. I've been introduced to hear – I’m really looking for a balance between the two, so the dynamics of change and organizational development inline with personal development is something that I want to be involved with in community and I think via sustainable agriculture and being involved in that either farming or producing compost tea or just being involved in the different dynamics of building community resilience around the local food system. So I’ll see where my skills in talents fit in there, but that's my interest.
ST: I look forward to trying some of your compost tea, was that right? Was that compost tea? I don’t know is that going to marketable I have my doubts.
JM: We did speak with Elaine Ingham and I know what you are coming from with at and I think she’s one of most brilliant scientists on the planet and nice that she is on faculty as well and world known.
ST: Yeah, obviously deep ecology, sustainable living attracts some deep thinkers who dig deep. What do you guys of or fun, raw food parties might be all the rage, but what else?
Jim: Well, lately I have been doing some swimming, quick swamping, swimming in ponds in Iowa, man, I have been loving it. Actually on the download I made my way out to a local spot that do some cliff jumping and that was a lot of fun so I have been exploring the wilderness is just so much fun.
ST: A true Garden Stater, finding the wilderness of Iowa, Minca what about your fun wise?
Minca Borg: All of this is fun, before the summer I’m interning with the Department of Student Life at MUM and part of my job is to recognize the scavenger hunt for new students to get know the campus having quite a bit of a fun with that.
ST: Well, I suppose is it sustainable going scavenging, yeah. Recycling scavenging and throw it all in.
JM: Compost tea, we’re all set. Anyway thank you both the students for sharing your thoughts and for really committing to a sustainable avenues, Travis Cox, we’ll leave it you for any final thoughts.
TC: I moved back here from California wanting to start a neo-populous revolution, because I feel like, we are unique position in the upper Midwest and by that I mean Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Iowa to have people who understand values and fairly well educated people and people who still have real connections to the land and I think that all of those things make sustainability like a really viable option here, not just as like an ideology but as like a real life.
JM: Stuart, any final thoughts from you?
Stuart Turner: Well, you must be excited about this new building, it is a beautiful place, we’ve been around it with Lonnie Gamble, so that must be something you are very much looking forward to.
TC: Yeah, my office is actually going to be almost in the greenhouse, so I’ll be able to just open my door and see food and life growing, so…
ST: So you’ll have tomatoes dangling in through your windows, you just be able to reach across and bite one. And how about that a sustainability professor’s nirvana, almost in the green house, I love that, but anyway thank you all very much. Jim, Minca and Travis keep up the good work. This is Stuart Turner and James Moore from Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield at the Sustainable Living Center, the train going by as we speak if you can hear that in the background. We’ll be back in just a moment keep it tuned right here.
Produced by Stuart Tanner and James Moore at solar powered KRUU 100.1 FM in Fairfield Iowa. Online at kruufm.com. This series is funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Office of Energy Independence and nearly 70 individuals, companies, and organizations. For a list of sponsors visit our website at greeniowa.org. Archives available for download under creative commons liscense. Music from Zilla.