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The Iowan: Beyond LEED: Maharishi University’s Sustainable Living Center

March 5, 2012

[potluck] Beyond LEED

Fairfield, Iowa – March 1, 2012

MUM Sustainable Living Center

Maharishi University of Management's Sustainable Living Center

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner and Mary Gottschalk

More and more new or renovated structures in Iowa trumpet their commitment to reducing demands on air, water, and energy resources — some even achieving platinum status in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification (currently the highest level recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council). The folks at the Sustainable Living Center (SLC) in Fairfield are aiming higher.

Rising to the Living Building Challenge (an international performance-based certification program) and incorporating both Building Biology principles and Maharishi Vedic architecture guidelines, the SLC design introduces such features as the use of naturally hygroscopic materials to self-regulate humidity, the use of natural building materials, and complete water and energy self-sufficiency — the ability to go off the grid.

According to David Fisher, Director of the Sustainable Living Program at Maharishi University of Management (MUM), this higher standard is “doable with current technology.” For example, the combination of insulation, solar and wind powers, and geothermal heat will allow the SLC to generate excess electricity, which will be contributed back to the campus power grid. Similarly, by collecting rainwater for drinking and running black/gray water through a peat moss filtering system for irrigation, the building will have net zero water usage.

In addition to being resource-neutral (and, possibly, resource-positive), the SLC has other unique features, including 16 whole aspen tree trunks that provide major structural support for the building and 26,000 earthen blocks manufactured by MUM students out of local clays. To avoid any toxic chemicals, plaster has been made from sand, cow manure, and soil; paints are milk-based with color pigments derived from clay, minerals, and spices.

When the building opens this spring as classroom and office space for the Bachelor of Science program in Sustainable Living, the SLC will still be a work in progress, says Fisher. “But we’re going to open so our students can share in the experience of showing the construction industry how it can be done.” — M.G.

For information on the Sustainable Living Center, contact David Fisher at and visit Learn more about Building Biology and Vedic architecture online at (choose English language) and

Rendering courtesy Sustainable Living Center

Related article: Iowa Outdoors: Fairfield’s Abundance EcoVillage: Harmonious Living With Nature — Off The Grid.

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