Students at Green Mountain College don’t just study solar projects, they design and build them.
This year students in the Renewable Energy and Ecological Design Program designed a solar-powered garage. The project not only taught students practical real-world experience in designing and building, it also will serve the college’s fossil fuel-free farm and could make electric car charging more viable in Vermont, where long cold winters and hilly terrain make plug-in cars less efficient.
The program received a $50,000 grant from Constellation Energy Resource’s “E2 Energy to Educate” program.
Students were involved in every aspect of the project from design to working with contractors, said Lucas Brown, Assistant professor of environmental studies with the college.
They learned to generate ideas and modify plans based on client feedback and implemented the building.
“One of the things we’re doing at Green Mountain College is we’re creating opportunities for students to get engaged and find real world solutions as part of the curriculum,” he said.
Projects like the garage give students confidence to go into the real world, equipped with skills and ready to start work immediately and understanding what it takes to create a project from the idea to construction.
“It’s this collision of ideas and values of sustainable design with the real world of construction and budgets,” Brown said.
It started from the beginning, when 21 students in the class had to organize themselves into team and collaborate.
“It was good practice in consensus decision-making,” said student Connor Magnuson in a press release about the project.
The garage features and integrative design to optimize performance of electric vehicles in cold weather.
The students designed the garage to use recycled or repurposed materials. The building, which is situated on the college’s fossil-free farm, uses active and passive solar technology to charge an electric vehicle.
A fiberglass passive-solar south facing wall serves multiple functions including being used for early-season crop germination for the college’s farm where the building is located. It was meant to showcase integrative design and serve multiple purposes.
“It’s really a spectacular space,” Brown said.
The project will not only serve the school, it’s already had an impact on the students involved in the project. Audrey Jiunta, said the project bolstered a passion for design and construction.
“It was the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “Finding a design that fit into the ecology and actually building it- that’s what I want to do now.”
She plans to travel to Guatemala in late May for an internship in the design-build field.