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Even the Sustainable Living Center walls naturally condition, humidify air
by Global Good News staff writer
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19 June 2012
The recently opened Sustainable Living Center at Maharishi University of Management is a building which truly represents the highest principles of sustainability, said architect Jon Lipman.
Mr Lipman gave a tour of the building shortly after it opened to the public in which he explained many of the innovative and sustainable features the centre utilizes, in its integration of Maharishi Vastu architecture with principles of modern sustainable design.
One such remarkable aspect of the building is something which is usually hidden—the walls. Not only are the walls constructed of earth blocks made from earth that was displaced across the street from the site—but even the base coat of plaster was made of local earth.
This base coat can be seen in one classroom. Because the building is the centre for the Sustainable Living academic department, it also serves to educate. To that end, one wall exposes the original earth blocks underneath, while another was left exposed so the original plaster could be seen.
The plaster was made from local soil, other natural ingredients, and straw, then plastered on by hand, Mr Lipman said.
In addition to being locally sourced and natural, there's another positive effect of using clay plaster. With thick enough plaster (about an inch or more [2.5 centimetres]), the 'hygroscopic' properties of the clay come into effect.
This means the clay absorbs moisture out of the air and also puts it back into the air depending on the relative humidity. So during the summer, when it is quite humid, thick clay walls will soak up the excess moisture in the air, reducing the relative humidity. In the winter, when air is naturally drier, the walls then act as a bank, sending moisture back into the air and increasing the relative humidity in the building.
The Midwest of the United States has extreme changes in temperature and humidity, so Mr Lipman and others are unsure if the clay walls alone will be enough to condition the air. These walls will help to test the theory.
However, in parts of northern Europe, where temperature and humidity are not so extreme, plaster walls can be used as the sole means of humidification and dehumidification.
See related article: Sustainable Living Center integrates eco-friendly and Vastu design
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