Groundbreaking Sustainable Living Center a source of pride in Fairfield

Maharishi University's Sustainable Living Center

The first university to offer a sustainable living program and a MBA in green technology is still finding ways to look to the future of sustainable living.

Maharishi University's new Sustainable Living Center proves that a building and a community is capable of giving back more than it takes.

"This building is kind of a signal for hope for people who maybe don't think this is possible," said Lonnie Gamble, Sustainable Living professor. "They don't think that it's possible, they can point here and see that it is. We needed a place that reflected the principles that we teach, we teach in a building that - if we teach one thing in the classroom, but the building tells a different story, then which gives the stronger lesson?"

Today, the building used sun and solar energy to produce three times more energy than it required to function. Annually, the Sustainable Living Center will produce 30% more energy than it uses.

"The utility cottage... has photovoltaic panels on it and it also has all the inverters that convert DC electrical energy to AC energy that we use in the building," said Tim Messenger, construction manager. "It's our own little power center, we're our own little utility company here."

Maharishi's students prove that there is a lot more to energy efficiency and green thinking than one small change.

"If you want to be sustainable, you don't just really want to install energy efficient light bulbs, but you want to make sure that the source of your energy is sustainable," said student Peter Hodak. "Everything around you, including yourself."

And everything about this building is sustainable, from the 25,000 earth blocks made by students, to the windows that allow for the building to be lit by the sun, to the trees that provide the building's support.

The center is an embodiment of the principles of the sustainable living program, and is close to the hearts of faculty and students.

"I think it's very important to first of all realize that you can do something and one thing you can do is lead by example," said John Collins, Associate Chair of the Sustainable Living Department. "And I think this building leads by example. We can yell at our legislators about renewable energy, but if we don't have our own building that uses it, what's the point in that?"

"Studying in this school building, it make you feel like you are more yourself and at the same time it makes you feel like... it makes you appreciate your environment much more," Hodak said.

"It's actually really amazing that students are allowed to do this because this building is so new and young and there's so many things that are going to be done," said student Sam Rose. "And the way this university kind of works is this project, this really homework assignment is actually going to be used and students are going to do this. It gives you hope, it makes you think you can do something great when it's really intimidating, but you can come together. It's a beautiful place to work."

And they're not done yet. Plans for an edible landscape, a sustainable sewer system and water collection are all in the works. Eventually, the building will be entirely off the grid.

The students themselves are working on the constant improvements to the building with their class projects. Hodak's project monitors the intake and outflow of energy, and Rose's group has several improvements in the works, including a line of trees to block out sound from the highway and a rain garden.

The SLC is open for visitors who would like to see the building for themselves.