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Sustainable building 'almost completely self-sufficient' in terms of heating and cooling
by Global Good News staff writer
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12 June 2012
'We are almost completely self-sufficient. This building is hooked up to the electric grid but it makes almost no use of it.'
These are the words of Jon Lipman, chief architect on Maharishi University of Management's new Sustainable Living Center.
The building is remarkable for a number of reasons, Mr Lipman said. These include the integration between the life-supporting influence of ancient Maharishi Vastu design and the latest advances in sustainable design. But the most remarkable aspect of the building is its near self-sufficiency, surrounded as it is by a town and a campus full of other buildings.
This factor is especially significant because most truly sustainable buildings are located in the countryside, not in the middle of a city or other populated area.
One tricky aspect of self-sufficient buildings, especially in a seasonal climate, is the challenge of heating and cooling.
The Sustainable Living Center uses solar hot water heaters over much of the roof's surface. When this water is heated, the hot water is piped through pipes in the floor of the building to heat it in the winter.
Mr Lipman explained that through this process, the building is heated in most of the winter directly by solar energy.
Even so, there are occasionally days which do not provide enough sunlight to heat the building.
On a cloudy short December day, for example, the solar water heaters are not able to fully do their job so there are two backup water heating systems. The first is a geothermal heat pump system in which water is pumped underground, then heated or cooled to the temperature of the earth, which is always 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 Celsius). In addition, the building has a wind turbine which provides electricity that helps to generate the power necessary to heat the water.
Another strategy for heating and cooling relies on the building's windows.
Large south-facing windows get terrific sunlight throughout the winter, explained Mr Lipman. But in the summertime, those windows are shaded by photovoltaic panels, so even in the height of summer, almost all of the windows will be in shadow, thus keeping the building pleasantly cool.
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