Occupy: Sunshack

Posted by Marty Castriotta on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 Under: News and Updates

The building of the Sunshack, a free-standing classroom, is part of the GreenROUTES initiative at Colby-Sawyer college. The Colby-Sawyer website explains, "GreenROUTES is a campus-wide initiative to eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions, integrate sustainability into our curriculum and overall educational experience, and achieve our shared vision of personal well-being, social justice, financial security and environmental stability for ourselves and our larger global community."

The project began in September of 2012 as a sustainable design and construction course with instructors Steve Whitman, founder of Resilience Planning & Design, a New Hampshire based firm providing collaborative planning, design and education services, and Bryan Felice, the founding owner of Undustrial Timber Frames. This course ran for two semesters and involved students of Colby-Sawyer and the broader community in the theory and design of natural buildings. Over these two semesters students were involved in every aspect of design of this new classroom space. In the winter of 2012/2013, they cut the timber frame that they had designed and that spring, the beautiful frame was raised with the help of the community.

The landmark initiative continued in the spring of 2014, this time as an applied permaculture course, led by Bryan Felice, with the help of Marty Castriotta of Village Roots Permaculture. During this course, students learned how to construct cob benches and a living roof system. Several days were also devoted to building with straw. One wall in the Sunshack is made of straw bales, another out of straw and clay mixed together in a technique known as straw light clay. The other two walls are insulated with blown in cellulose. One of the goals of this course was to connect all these techniques with the principles and practices of permaculture.

Other aspects of the Sunshack, such as natural plasters and finishes were completed by independent study students at Colby-Sawyer. The integration of this space into the surrounding landscape is paramount. Next to the building are permaculture gardens and outdoor seating areas. The intention is for a seamless transition between these spaces. Water catchment from the roof can be used for these gardens as well as the rooftop gardens. The building is largely heated by passive solar.

According to a November 2013 blog post by The Kearsarge Valley Transition Initiative, "most of the main timbers are Eastern White Pine, and the braces were a combination of both local yellow birch and black cherry. Every material that was obtained was within 35 miles of the college. This includes local loggers, cutters, and mills. This also included all the pegs of the Sunshack, which were bought at North Cut Pegs in Walpole, NH. This small family business supplies 98% of all timber frame pegs in the country." Check out a great slideshow at the bottom of the Kearsarge Valley Transition Initiative blog.

Photo by The Kearsarge Valley Transition Initiative

It is so beautiful to see this awesome project come to fruition. After a fantastic 24 month design/build process, the Sunshack open becoming the first commercial straw bale building in the state of New Hampshire, complete with cob benches, clay paints, timber frame, and a "tree of many hands."

Photo by Colby-Sawyer College

Bryan Felice did an excellent job orchestrating the project. By my count over the 2 years, there were 97 students and 73 community members who participated. I can't wait to do this again.

Photos by Steve Whitman

In : News and Updates 

Tags: "colby-sawyer college" "sustainable design and construction" "timber frame" "straw bale wall construction" "passive solar heating" "sustainable classroom" "straw light clay" "north cut pegs" 
comments powered by Disqus

About Me

Marty Castriotta Marty grew his first potato when he was 12 year old on a worn out piece of ground behind his parents’ house. He’s been attracted to the idea of growing food ever since. He started growing seriously in 2001 with his wife Ellen’s guidance and has worked on several organic farms prior to moving to Orchard Hill. His passion is in integrating all aspects of the farm; the gardens, animals, buildings, water systems and so on. Marty has been raising heritage farm animals since 2003, and started training his young oxen Boss and Chez to do some of the farm work in the winter of 2012. Marty graduated from Antioch University New England with an MS in Environmental Studies and currently teaches Farmers & Foragers and summer camps at The Orchard School, as well as Permaculture Design Courses at Orchard Hill.