Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Living Program’

‘Tiny House’ offers big benefits to save energy and money — KTVO’s Kate Allt reports from MUM

May 15, 2013

Tiny House’ offers big benefits to save energy and money

by Kate Allt | Posted: 05.15.2013 at 4:48 PM
Students and volunteers raise the walls on Heather Caldwell's tiny house. / KTVO's Kate Allt

Students and volunteers raise the walls on Heather Caldwell’s tiny house. / KTVO’s Kate Allt

FAIRFIELD, IOWA — We often say that bigger is better, but a tiny house movement sweeping the country is proving otherwise.

Fairfield has several tiny houses, most of them about the size of a typical college dorm room. Wednesday, students in the Sustainable Living program at Maharishi University started construction on the newest one — a 12-foot-by-20-foot home designed by student Heather Caldwell.

“A lot of people believe that – in the tiny house movement – that we just consume too much, we’re living in spaces that are way too big, we don’t need that much space,” Caldwell said. “And so these people are building tiny houses to live in them. The thing that I’m interested in once I graduate is not only building tiny houses, but building a community, tiny house communities. So there’s a tiny house movement right now where a lot of people individually are building tiny houses and pretty soon we’ll see more tiny communities popping up and that’s what I’m majoring in.”

The building course is new at Maharishi University, but they plan to teach it for a long time.

“It’s a global movement, people are doing it everywhere and the idea is to downsize and simplify and to lower your energy demands and to be able to live off of renewable energy,” said Professor Mark Stimson, of Maharishi’s Sustainable Living Program. “One of the greatest things is — well, two things — to become self-reliant. It used to be in the old days in this country everybody knew how to build their own house, but since then we’ve gotten kind of specialized in all that. So this is sort of going back to that era of self reliance. And then the greatest part also is just the idea of living mortgage-free. If you can save a few thousand dollars or just salvage materials from places, you can build a very comfortable, snug home for very little money and not have to pay a mortgage for 20 or 30 years.”

Heather designed every element of her tiny house and will be moving on with two kids, four cats and a dog.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” said Heather’s daughter, Ellie. “It’s one of those projects our parents say they’re going to do and then they don’t do. But it’s happening, so it’s fun.”

Caldwell said one of the most challenging aspects is utilizing the small space available to make a fully functioning home.

“One of the big keys to tiny houses is finding multiple uses for the same spot,” she said. “Like the reading nook in the tiny house is also a guest bed and it also houses the dining room table which slips out from underneath and that’s our dining room table.”

Heather’s family hopes to move in in late June and will live in the tiny house for a year. On top of being smaller and more energy-efficient, Heather’s house is also being designed to be entirely off the grid, with solar-powered windows, composting and mud plaster.

To learn more on Heather’s house and to see progress over the next few weeks, visit her blog by clicking here.

To learn more about the Sustainable Living program at MUM, click here.

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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KTVO-3: Greenest building in America in Fairfield

April 23, 2010


Maharishi University of Management’s new Sustainable Living Center is a building that will set a new standard for green building in America by being completely off the grid with respect to electricity, heating and cooling, water, and waste.

Greenest building in America in Fairfield

The new sustainable living center will be one of three buildings in the U.S. to meet the Living Building Challenge
By Alex Halfmann
Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 6:12 p.m.

FAIRFIELD, IOWA — One heartland university aims to practice what they preach, and what they preach exemplifies Earth Day.

Maharishi University of Management’s new Sustainable Living Center will be one of the greenest buildings in America when completed this fall.

The University’s sustainable living program will utilize the building, which will help students understand firsthand what they are learning.

“The students will be able to see in the building that they are occupying what we are teaching. This building will be off the grid completely in respect to electricity, heating, cooling, water, and waste disposal,” said Maharishi University’s Director of the sustainable living program David Fisher.

The building is designed to meet the Living Building Challenge, the highest standard for sustainable design and green building in the world.

“After a while, the U.S. Green Building Council realized there was a lot more buildings could do so they came up with the Living Building Challenge which is much more stringent than even the LEED Platnium. In fact, they have now gone to the 2nd version of the Living Building Challenge” Fisher said.

Parts of the project  literally come from the school’s backyard.

“We’re using compacted earth blocks that come from earth just across the street where they were clearing out a parking lot.  We took that soil, compacted it into 26,000 earth blocks, and so that will serve as thermal mass which will help insulate the building,” Fisher said.

While the building might look relatively bare on Earth Day, they expect the roof, complete with solar panels, to be installed by the end of next week. The site will then use only electricity generated on site.

The building will be one of the first three to achieve the Living Building Challenge’s standards. It will be unique because it will be the first to combine that standard with the standards of LEED Platinum certification.

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