The Student Passive House: Design Charette

The G-O Logic Prototype House under construction in Belfast

In June of this year Unity College was awarded a grant from The Kendeda Fund to construct a “cottage-like” residence hall based on Passive House standards. Read the press release here. GO Logic Homes of Belfast, Maine has been assigned the contract for the construction of this new building.  Landscape architecture firm Ann Kearsey Design is working closely with GO Logic and the campus community on the project.  Their firms recently worked together on the prototype Passive House in Belfast which contains many of the same properties that the new residence hall will express.  Not only will this cottage be the first Passive House residence on a college campus in the United States, but it will also incorporate significant effort from Unity College students.

On October 14th a selected number of students participated in a “Design Charette” intended to gather students’ ideas and concerns about the soon-to-come residence hall. The Charette included GO Logic builder Alan Gibson, architect Matthew O’Malia, and landscape architect Ann Kearsley. In addition to students, faculty and staff from Unity College also participated including, Residential Director Steve Nason, Dean of Student Affairs Gary Zane, and Director of Facilities and Public Safety Roger Duval.

Topics of discussion included the size of the building, the orientation, setup inside, and how the building will relate to the rest of the campus. Building functions including exterior spaces, social spaces, and private spaces, were taken into consideration when discussing the size of the building. Potential exterior spaces could included a garden, composting, bike racks, clothes lines, a fire pit, a greenhouse, a patio, and more. Social concerns involved the kitchen space, natural lighting, a mud room, a pantry, and designated spaces for students. Among the concerns for private spaces were privacy for bathroom areas, study places, single rooms versus doubles, and bedroom proximity to the common area.

After discussing many of these issues as a group, we formed smaller groups to discuss the needs of the building directly and the level of ecological function it may have. Alan Gibson and Matthew O’Malia discussed architectural and building concerns with students specifically.  Ann Kearsley discussed the site: how the water moves, what the soil is like, what plants are already there, what plants could be brought to the site, what animals inhabit the area, and paths residents are likely to take.

It was obvious by attending this meeting that students, faculty, and GO Logic are all excited to be starting the design process of this new building. Students were very appreciative that they were able to participate in this charette; this Passive House is being built for students after all.  It is imperative that the designers and builders get a clear impression of what the students want. The project is intended not only for a place of residence, but also a hands-on, educational model of sustainability. It will certainly be a preferred location of living on campus, but it will also serve the entire community as a place to understand building efficiency and modern construction.


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About Kayla

I am a third year student at Unity College studying Sustainable Design and Technology. I spend my work study hours in the office of sustainability contributing to sustainable efforts here on campus.