Sustainability Is an Energy Equation

Sustainability Is an Energy Equation
Sustainability Is an Energy Equation

Architectural technology and interior design students visit Main Street Project

By Randy Olson, DCTC Associate Dean of Design & Technology

“Sustainability is an energy equation” stated Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, also known as Regi, the chief operating officer of Main Street Project in Northfield, Minn. Regi was addressing a group of DCTC architectural technology and interior design students during a field trip to his sustainable-concept residence on a cold but sunny day in early November 2013.

The students had the opportunity to hear Regi’s philosophy on energy and food production and then see firsthand how he has implemented those concepts into a working model. Regi informed students that conventional agriculture consumes 15 units of energy for each unit it produces. His farming model, on the other hand, balances this energy equation and provides a sustainable ecosystem.

On just over two acres, Regi constructed an agricultural prototype based on his sustainable concepts, allowing the protoype to occupy less than half the ground space. Students also got the chance to see the house Regi built on his property. Only a little over a year old, Regi’s home applies the same sustainable concepts he uses in agriculture, only incorporated into a livable space.

Main Street Project Field Trip

Students learned how this home took shape after fire engulfed Regi’s previous residence. He was determined to rebuild an energy-efficient house that minimized fire danger. At first, students may have thought this was an overreaction since the new house does not have a furnace, or any sort of open flame.

After gathering everyone in his living room, Regi gave a slideshow and then led a tour of his home. The slides detailed how his residence was constructed with 12-inch-thick walls and special construction techniques that minimize heat loss. Furthermore, the house incorporates a novel system that garners heat and cooling from a very simple geothermal system. A matrix consisting of 400 feet of 9-inch plastic pipe is buried seven feet underground. At this depth, the temperature is around 50 °F year-round. Air pulled through this pipe is tempered and provides the bulk of heating and cooling. Additional heat is provided by the home’s occupants and, on very cold days, supplemental electric radiant heating.

As the presentation concluded, a collective “wow” was heard from many students and several lingered to ask more detailed questions. They had been part of an eye-opening experience—a true departure from the conventional suburban home. Regi left students with this reminder: “You are the change agents. As you enter the industry, it will be up to you to shepherd in a more sustainable mode of construction.”

About Main Street Project

Main Street Project has been working with under-represented communities since 2005. That’s when we collaborated on an ambitious four-state, multi-year community building initiative called Raíces (roots) – organizing primarily with Latino youth and adults in diverse rural communities.

Problem solving, bridge building, storytelling, empowerment, equity – the powerful goals of the Raíces program became the framework for subsequent program efforts at Main Street Project with rural and urban communities: civic participation, media justice and farm enterprise training.

Today, Main Street Project’s story is framed by the story of our nation’s current food and agriculture system. It’s telling that most U.S. farmworkers – predominately Latino immigrants – live well below the federal poverty line. Low-wage labor artificially props up the conventional system and perpetuates a cycle of poverty and related health challenges among those hard working individuals and their families. (read more) — copy courtesy of the Main Street Project website

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