Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day 17 - Sustainable Building (my first introduction)

This unit on sustainable building got me thinking about where I've seen these concepts in practice, both successfully and not so well.

From 1986 - 1992 I went to elementary school in Reston, VA. Although I lived in Herndon, I was able to ride to school in the neighboring town with my mother. Because I traveled to school I had the opportunity to experience going to Terraset Elementary. Terraset was built in the 1970s, at a time when energy conservation was just becoming a real social issue. The school was built into the ground and designed to retain heat and cool through it's thick walls (thermal mass) and green roof.

The school certainly had a green roof. It was always neat as a kid to get to play games of tag on the grass mound that the school was built into. I would occasionally look down into the library while other classes were being read to by the librarian. The solar pannels did not function the way they had been designed and were eventually deemed a safety issue. I remember the year they came in and took them down. Even though solar was a failure at Terraset, the administration always made a point to teach us about energy conservation and innovation.

You can read more about Terraset here.

This was cutting-edge at the time and should be used as an example of a step in the process of creating functional green buildings. It wasn't a failure, a lot of kids came out of that school knowing that you can build a home with a garden on the roof, you can be cool and shady in the summer without cranking up the air, and that building structure is only limited by the creativity of the designer. It was a funky-looking school, but I appreciate the lesson now.


  1. I'm just now getting caught up on your blog! I followed on over from LJ.

    This program sounds exactly like what I'd like to do.It's great to see you going through an eye opening experiencfe like this. I can relate to a lot of what you write about, as I've gone through incredibly similar thought processes myself. Especially the permacultre design, rustic family land awaiting some interest, everything. It makes me want to leave Japan and get started at home, but education first is key. I might as well begin it here. Heck, I'm pretty sure they are the originators of the farm co-op.

    The Mollison permaculture movie is great. I remember getting hooked on it on youtube a while back. - Todd

  2. Todd, it's great to hear from you! I'm sorry I couldn't continue writing in LJ for this.. It just felt like I was trying to juxtopose two different lives.

    I hope that you are continuing your education out there. Are you still studying?

    Check out Masanobu Fukuoka's "One-Straw Revolution." He took ancient Japanese and Native American concepts like seed balls and turned it into a movement.. he died this past fall.

    I highly recommend doing a program like this or an internship at a farm. I like what we are doing here because it's a holistic approach, not just teaching farming it brings you into the whole process.

    Reading, reading, reading! There is so much you can learn now.

    I have been so inspired by Joel Salatin and what he's doing at Polyface Farm in VA. http://www.polyfacefarms.com/ His library shelf is definitely somewhere to start for good reads:

  3. I read the Omnivore's Dilemma last Fall, so I know a bit about Salatin and Polyface. It's inspiring isn't it?
    I may be volunteering again at an Ag Farm Bill/Growing conference in March, and Michael Pollan is the keynote speaker by coincidence.

    Yeah, I am seriously thinking of ways to gain an internship experience. Anyway, i look forward to reading more from you here.

  4. Does anyone know what year the solar panels were removed?

    Also, does anyone know where the panels are today?