SL Dept News

The Iowa Source: MUM Sustainable Living Center

November 21, 2010

The Iowa Source cover story on MUM’s SLC written by Linda Egenes

Building the Future: MUM’s Sustainable Living Center
New Zero-carbon Classroom Showcases Green Living

Sustainable Living Center: It Takes a Team to Go Green

For more information and videos of the phases of construction plus a TV news report visit Sustainable Living Center. Also see YouTube videos at mumslc from Earth Day 2010 and Building Progress Reports 1 and 2

Sustainable Living Center is unique in United States

Front page, Friday, April 23, 2010; published online: 4/26/2010

As ancient walls continue to crumble the world over, a few new ones went up yesterday in Iowa’s hippest farmtown.

The Sustainable Living Center at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield was the scene of a modern-day barnraising. Walls were tilted and roof trusses placed during the Earth Day event.

The structure uses “whole tree” post and beam techniques.

“It will set a new standard for green building in America by being completely off the grid with respect to electricity, heating and cooling, water and waste,” MUM director of media relations Ken Chawkin said.

Innovative Design of North Carolina conceived the building to meet the Living Building Challenge, a standard for sustainable design introduced at the 2006 Greenbuild Conference in Denver, Colo. The SLC is the first to combine that standard with those of LEED platinum certification, Building Biology standards, and Maharishi Vedic architecture guidelines.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system was created by the U.S. Green Building Council and is an internationally recognized third-party certification. Vedic architecture is based on Hindu traditions emphasizing the use of natural materials such as wood, bricks, adobe, stucco and marble.

“There’s no other building like this going up in the nation, or in the world for that matter, that we know of,” said Mike Nicklas, SLC co-designer and president of Innovative Design.

The company has created over 4000 structures that use renewable energy solutions. Nicklas participated in the first Earth Day in 1970.

The SLC building is slated for university occupation this fall.

“It’s a building that teaches,” Chawkin said. The SLC will provide students with classrooms, workshop, meeting room, greenhouse, kitchen, research lab, recycling center and offices.

In addition to embodying sustainability, the SLC will allow students to interactively monitor performance and energy efficiency.

MUM Sustainable Living Department head David Fisher, who helped plan the building, said the SLC will be a living, evolving project.

“The building itself is an educational tool, not just a passive one like most classroom buildings,” Fisher said. “It will provide participatory education where students will be continually adding to or altering the building and grounds, as well as systematically checking its effectiveness.”

The SLC is designed to be completely off-grid. Construction uses all non-toxic materials from local sources, as defined by the Living Building Challenge requirements.

All energy will be provided from solar panels on the building and from an outside wind turbine. Rainwater catchment will be the complete source of the building’s water, with purification of drinking water via ultraviolet technology.

Wastewater will be treated on-site using a constructed wetland. Natural daylighting will illuminate the entire interior. Geothermal technology will assist with heating and cooling.

None of the planned systems in the building are new or experimental, according to construction manager Dal Loiselle, who said the SLC uses “state-of-the-shelf” technologies.

“This building proves that we can meet our environmental goals for our built environment with the materials, technologies, and green building protocols we already possess,” Loiselle said.

Sustainability is a major focus at MUM, which has long promoted techniques for living in harmony with nature. The school was founded in 1974 by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as an international center for teaching Transcendental Meditation.

MUM filed a climate action plan to be 100 percent carbon-neutral by 2020 as part of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy, named in 2009 by as one of the nation’s 15 greenest mayors — alongside those of New York, Seattle and San Francisco — said the SLC holds promise for a sustainable future.

“Our city will benefit enormously by having this building on the campus of MUM as a demonstration of a new standard of design,” Malloy said.

The Sustainable Living Center includes material donations from nationally recognized leaders in green building materials, including Gerdau AmeriSteel, Pittsburgh Corning and United States Gypsum Corporation, as well as Green Building Supply of Fairfield.

Yesterday’s event was part of MUM’s tenth annual EcoFair, which runs from April 30 to May 2 at the Argiro Student Center, 1000 N. Fourth St., Fairfield.

2 comment(s) found

Prgressive!: 4/27/2010

Fairfield,Iowa/Maharishi University of Management is a creative outpost ~ of a life worth living; healthy, in tune with nature, cutting edge and friendly. Thank you to all involved.

Small Town USA: 4/26/2010

Its great to see even the small towns and universities going full swing into this Green thing. Whoo Hoo!

‘Green’ learning in sustainable classrooms
April 23, 2010
Local News April 23, 2010

‘Green’ learning in sustainable classrooms
Maharishi University of Management constructs an off-the-grid academic building for sustainable living majors
MATT MILNER Courier Staff Writer

The Courier Construction workers had to move carefully to avoid excessive damage to the tree trunks that will be a signature element in the new building for MUM’s sustainable living program. The school held a ceremony at the site on Thursday to mark Earth Day
FAIRFIELD — Builders and backers of the new home for sustainable living majors at Maharishi University of Management say nothing like it has been attempted anywhere.

It’s easy to believe them.

The construction brings together four basic philosophies. Three are focused on environmental impact and resource demands. The fourth is, as all new buildings at the college are, based on Vedic concepts. It’s a tough combination to pull off.

When complete, the building will be completely off the grid for electrical power, climate control and waste removal. The goal is creation of a building that meets the university’s needs for classroom and office space while demonstrating concepts the students learn inside.

Dr. David Fisher, director of the sustainable living department, thinks the building will help draw students. That has not been a problem for the program, which opened in 2003 with six students and now has 80 sustainable living majors. He called it an “incredible environmental building.”

It is not large as academic buildings go. That’s intentional.

“We didn’t want to make it too large because we’re trying to do so much,” Fisher said.

Right now the site doesn’t look markedly different from any other building under construction. Stud framed walls are the exterior on two sides. The other two are still open. The biggest clues that something different is going on are the nearly full-sized tree trunks that form part of one hallway. Others lay around the site, ready to be raised.

The trees being used are aspens. They are fast-growing and were harvested from a farm dedicated to sustaining its population. A slight sheen and a lack of bark are the only things that show they have been processed for construction. Builders said the trunks have strength similar to steel when they are maintained instead of sawed into boards.

Dal Loiselle, the developer and construction manager for the site, has worked on “green” building sites for 21 years. He said the costs are not all that different from those involved in traditional construction, provided the effort is made from the start. Adding environmentally friendly traits to an existing project can be expensive.

“It entails commitment, basically,” he said. “It’s just a matter of having the desire and doing it.”

Loiselle emphasized that none of the technology being incorporated is new. It’s off the shelf stuff that any builder can use.

The completed structure will be LEED platinum certified and meet the requirements for building biology, Vedic architecture and the Living Building Challenge. Students will have access to the roof and walls to study the concepts they learn in class. Monitors will track every shift in temperature, humidity and environmental change, wired into a website people can check from anywhere in the world.

Thursday’s ceremony was somewhere between a groundbreaking and a dedication, tied into Earth Day at MUM. It’s the 40th Earth Day, noted Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy. He expressed the hope that the building’s edge-of-the-envelope attempt today will be standard in another 40 years.

Matt Milner can be reached at (641) 683-5359 or via e-mail at


Maharishi University of Management’s new Sustainable Living Center is a building that will set a new standard for green building in America by being completely off the grid with respect to electricity, heating and cooling, water, and waste.

Greenest building in America in Fairfield

The new sustainable living center will be one of three buildings in the U.S. to meet the Living Building Challenge
By Alex Halfmann
Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 6:12 p.m.

FAIRFIELD, IOWA — One heartland university aims to practice what they preach, and what they preach exemplifies Earth Day.

Maharishi University of Management’s new Sustainable Living Center will be one of the greenest buildings in America when completed this fall.

The University’s sustainable living program will utilize the building, which will help students understand firsthand what they are learning.

“The students will be able to see in the building that they are occupying what we are teaching. This building will be off the grid completely in respect to electricity, heating, cooling, water, and waste disposal,” said Maharishi University’s Director of the sustainable living program David Fisher.

The building is designed to meet the Living Building Challenge, the highest standard for sustainable design and green building in the world.

“After a while, the U.S. Green Building Council realized there was a lot more buildings could do so they came up with the Living Building Challenge which is much more stringent than even the LEED Platnium. In fact, they have now gone to the 2nd version of the Living Building Challenge” Fisher said.

Parts of the project  literally come from the school’s backyard.

“We’re using compacted earth blocks that come from earth just across the street where they were clearing out a parking lot.  We took that soil, compacted it into 26,000 earth blocks, and so that will serve as thermal mass which will help insulate the building,” Fisher said.

While the building might look relatively bare on Earth Day, they expect the roof, complete with solar panels, to be installed by the end of next week. The site will then use only electricity generated on site.

The building will be one of the first three to achieve the Living Building Challenge’s standards. It will be unique because it will be the first to combine that standard with the standards of LEED Platinum certification.

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