By Bill Brown, Director of the IU Office of Sustainability
On Friday, March 23rd, E-House, the new headquarters for the IU Office of Sustainability (IUOS), will have its open house from noon to 2 p.m. I invite you to stop by 704 E. 10th for a visit to see why this is a valuable new asset in the quest to make IU Bloomington an international leader in campus sustainability by 2020. The E in E-House refers to the E-words we use every day in the Office of Sustainability: Energy, Environment, Equity, Economics, and Education, but it could also stand for Example. When IUOS was first offered a residence in the University Courts historic district as our first permanent office, we immediately began to think about how it could be used as more than just an office. How could it provide an example of a new approach to energy and the built environment? How could it embody some of the principles we talk about under the umbrella of sustainability?
Toward that end, E-House was designed to be powered by sunlight, yet also preserve its historic character. A 4-kilowatt photovoltaic system, discretely located on the back slope of the roof, is designed to produce as much or more electricity in a year as will be used in the building. This all-electric building uses little energy thanks to a geothermal heating and cooling system that transfers heat to and from the limestone bedrock, utilizing two 250-foot-deep vertical bore holes hidden below the back of the house. Respecting the historic character of this 1930 Dutch Colonial Revival jewel, the original windows were retained and storm windows were added. Insulation was added, where practical, and all of the lighting was changed over to LED lamps.
All of the extra expense required to upgrade this building to net-zero-energy was funded through private gifts. Duke Energy Foundation, for example, funded the geothermal system and a web-enabled energy dashboard that is already being used for research, instruction and outreach for campus and community. Excess electricity generated is sold back to the grid in a net metering agreement with Duke Energy. If all goes as planned, E-House will produce more energy than it uses and our credit will exceed our energy bill.
But the efficient new technology melded with the embodied energy of an historic building is not the most exciting thing about this new place — it is the people that come through the door and the ideas they share with each other that will make E-House electrifying.
E-House was conceived as a place where campus and community groups can meet, learn, plan and implement sustainability initiatives. Although we have yet to receive most of the furniture, E-House has already been host to scores of campus and community group meetings, workshops, seminars, class tours and research. The IUOS Campus Sustainability Advisory Board has met there, as have many of the seven working groups of the board. Meetings and seminars with our 18 Student Sustainability Interns are held at E-House. The Student Sustainability Council and several of its 22 member organizations have met there. The local USGBC branch meets there and will be hosting LEED training workshops there in the next few weeks. A new USGBC Students group meets at E-House and many of them will be taking the LEED training workshops.
If you are involved in moving the campus or the community toward a more sustainable future, we hope you will join the excitement at E-House.