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Passive House Certified

This just in, TerraHaus is officially Passive House Certified by the Passive House Institute US.

TerraHaus Lecture

Wednesday night was the TerraHaus presentation by the Environmental Citizen: Passive House class with guest speakers, the designers themselves, Matthew O’Malia, Alan Gibson, and Ann Kearsley. There was a good turn out of people who attended consisting of students, faculty/staff, and members of the Unity community and surrounding towns. The posters created by Doug Fox’s Environmental Citizen class lit up the entrance room at the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts (UCCPA) with information and materials about every aspect of building a Passive House or fixing up an existing home.  

 Edwards Family Shop and Save was so kind in donating a deli and cheese platter and vegetable platter for this presentation. This was a very exciting event since this is the first Passive House certified college student residence in America! Everyone’s grueling questions were finally answered by the designers themselves and after all the excitement of the night everyone conjugated out at 9pm. If you missed Wednesday night and would like to learn more about the  TerraHaus or how to make your own house more sustainable come to the Unity College Student Conference on Monday, May 2nd where the posters by the Environmental Citizen: Passive House class will be displayed. This conference will run from the morning til mid-afternoon; more details will be announced soon.

The TerraHaus Experience

This spring semester I have had the privilege to be in the Environmental Citizen class that focused on the new Student Passive House, now known as TerraHaus. The class has been focusing on learning the different techniques of building a passive house. This includes: ventilation systems, specifically made walls, windows made to cater to areas on the house in regards to where the sun is, air sealing, etc. Groups were made to work on a certain aspect of the house; my subject was air sealing. I never knew that simple changes to a house, such as blocking air leakage can lower utility costs significantly. Read how a house in Massachusetts is saving $1000 per year from an energy audit, caulk, and insulation. Our class will be presenting this Wednesday April 13th at the Unity College Centre for the Performing Arts (UCCPA) from 7pm-8pm. GO Logic’s Matthew O’Malia, and Alan Gibson, and the landscape architect Ann Kearsley will unveil their design! Come join us to not only find out details about TerraHaus but also how to make your own house more energy-efficient, comfortable, and how to lower your utility costs! Also, you will have a chance to win an energy audit! The Unity Energy Committee will raffle off one energy audit (worth up to $500). Unity residents that attend the lecture can enter their name into the raffle. The winner will be drawn at the end of the lecture.

Notes on Campus Planning

 The Campus Master Plan, Unity 2020 (8MB .pdf), is a guide.  Developed with considerable community input, it serves as a snapshot of our values, and a projection of those values into the future as we undertake campus construction, renovation, and changes in land use.  Much of the Master Plan expresses our institution-wide emphasis on sustainability, so it’s not surprising that I receive frequent inquiries about campus developments related to planning.

In fact, that’s a good enough reason for your Sustainability Coordinator to sit on the Planning Committee — a group led by a Board of Trustees member, which also includes student and faculty representatives, our Director of Facilities, and the whole slate of senior campus administrators.  It’s important to note that our campus planning does not take an “either/or” approach; we plan for new academic space and new residential buildings, we plan for major renovation of existing buildings and major alterations to the landscape. As funding allows, we implement major campus projects in accordance with the Master Plan — not a strict replication of the Master Plan drawing, but a firm adherence to the values and goals that informed the creation of our Master Plan.

Yesterday’s Leadership Council meeting — open to the entire campus community — focused exclusively on updates from this Planning Committee.  In brief, this is what we learned about upcoming and recent campus projects:

  • Wet Pond – We’ll create sediment and water retention ponds near the maintenance buildings this summer in order to naturally treat storm water runoff from the entire campus.
  • Student Passive House – With significant external funding, construction of this super-efficient, passive solar residence will begin in May and is intended to replace two current cottages with space for ten students.
  • Academic Expansion – A new lab facility with two classrooms, prep space, and three faculty offices will be located uphill of Koons Hall.
  • Student Activities Building — Though we are pursuing significant renovations for the Student Activities Building down the road, this year we will focus on upgrading heating controls, sound proofing, and some cosmetic improvements to increase occupant comfort.
  • Community Trail – Nearly ten years ago, Unity College contracted to partner with the Department of Transportation to provide this path between campus and downtown Unity.  The College contributed about ten percent of the construction costs, but could not justify committing additional financial resources for lighting and winter maintenance.  Every effort will be made to encourage safe, seasonal use of the trail.
  • Library Boiler – Unity College received nearly $75,000 in federal and private funding to replace the inefficient fuel oil boiler in the library with a new pellet boiler system.

Look for full minutes from this Leadership Council meeting to be distributed by campus email.


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