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Emi Day
Feb 4, 2012

ARCHIVE: University organization focuses on sustainability and community experience

Feb 4, 2012 by Emi Day


Published November 21, 2011

Leaving behind more traditional classes for hands-on experience, architecture students and non-majors alike are being offered a unique and educational experience just off campus to aid a University organization, the Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Living, in its effort to build and maintain a certified, low-impact home.

CASL, an organization granted funding by the ASUO in 2004, began as a thesis from University graduate student Jo Rodgers in 2003. Rodgers was studying environmental studies at the time and envisioned a home that would model sustainable, low-impact living on campus. Since then, CASL has designed and began renovating and building green extensions onto a home with the help of students, the University, community members and local businesses.

Through tours, workshops and classes offered to University students, CASL’s mission is to promote sustainable living to the campus and Eugene communities by giving them the opportunity to not only just see how the low-impact features of the house operate, but also to partake in helping install such features.

“(We are trying to) take a lot of those really high-bar sustainability concepts that we are learning about in school and see what it takes to apply them, see what it costs to apply them in the real world,” said Rebecca Seward, a graduate architecture student and codirector of the organization.

Seward became involved with CASL last fall, and although she will not be a student when the house is finished in approximately the fall of 2013, she is excited about the project because of what it will offer to future generations.

By offering tours and allowing students and community members to see what work has been done on the house and presenting the success of the green features, they can see whether the decisions made were successful, according to Seward.

“We can present that information openly to the community who wants to come take a look,” she said, “and then they’ll know if that’s the right decision for them.”

Passive House Institute U.S., a nationally recognized institution, offers a certification program called PHIUS+ to applicants who promise to cut the energy cost of a house by 80-90 percent through its use requirement of special insulation, solar heating and virtually airtight environment. Striving now for PHIUS+, the CASL house is also aiming to receive LEED and Energy Star certification. To do this, students and faculty have already begun installing a thick insulation to the exterior of the house, a rain screen that will go underneath the siding of the house, insulation on the interior walls made from recycled denim, and a new roof for water catchment because the house is both expected to use gray water in toilets and to potentially filter rainwater for other uses, such as drinking.

Further features of the house are expected to include, among many others, solar panels and a solar hot water heater — all in hope of making the house as airtight and well-insulated as possible.

“We’re there because we know how much two hands can do in one day. It’s visible, it’s palpable, and it feels really good to be a part of,” said Emelia Day, a graduate architecture student who’s worked with CASL since the fall of 2009 and acts as a public relations and education advocate for CASL.

One thing both she and Seward emphasize is that the organization and its classes are open to students of all skill sets and all majors.

“I still want the message to be that this is really approachable stuff. Everybody can have a hand in this,” Seward said.

Although it may seem like it is only applicable to architecture students, CASL has recently reshaped the prerequisites for their courses, allowing students of other majors to sign up for some courses or to ask for instructor approval if they do not meet the prerequisites. Winter term will see two new courses at the CASL house: One course in permaculture whole systems design, which has to do with designing sustainable agriculture, and another course called Green Building Interior Retrofit, which grants students hands-on experience as they help with the construction of the house.

On top of coursework, CASL also holds work days regularly, usually taking place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the CASL house, which are open to the campus and Eugene communities after a recommended CASL or School of Architecture and Allied Arts tool safety training session.