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FAIRFIELD, Iowa —Solar panels and wind generators will produce the heat and electricity.
Rainwater will be purified for drinking.
And sunshine will light most of the building.
If it works as planned, the Maharishi University of Management's new sustainable living program building will be greener that any structure of its kind.
"It will be a building that teaches, and it will be a building that teaches more than any single building that I know of," said David Fisher, a chairman and professor in the program. "I'm pretty sure that no other building in the world puts together all of these technologies under one roof."
The Fairfield university plans to begin construction in October and finish the building by fall 2009. The single-story building will be designed to be entirely off the grid, with its own electricity, heating, cooling, water and waste disposal.
The key to the building will be the solar panels and wind-power generators that, when combined with thickly insulated walls, will keep the building at a constant 70 degrees. The building will be designed to take maximum advantage of natural light to keep rooms bright.
And all drinking water will come from rainwater, stored in a cistern. Drinking water will be treated using a non-toxic, non-chemical filtration system, while wastewater will be treated using a system of plant roots that will purify the water before it is routed back into a leach field.
Cost of the building is estimated at $2 million, but Fisher hopes that donation of supplies and other cost-cutting can bring the price down to $1.5 million, or about $300 a square foot.
Mike Nicklas, a Raleigh, N.C.-based architect who is working on the project, noted that over time, the building will save money.
"There's this great advantage then that you aren't hooked up," Nicklas said. "You don't have those connection fees, you aren't paying anything to the utility company for waste treatment facilities, you're doing it all."
Although the building will be unique, Fisher said is will be built with proven technologies.
"We want the building itself to be extremely sustainable," he said. "We don't want to get something that's so experimental that in four, five years it breaks down and we have a big embarrassment."
The Maharishi University of Management was founded in 1971 and blends traditional subjects with transcendental meditation as practiced by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who died earlier this year at age 91. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in computer science, art, design, business and sustainable living.
One additional challenge for architects is that the building will be more than a technological showpiece. It also will be built to the standards of Maharishi Sthapayaved, a reinterpretation of an ancient strategy of architecture that follows the same eastern meditation movements that provide the foundation for the entire university.
The Maharishi Sthapayaved principles will aim to create a sense of well-being for the building's inhabitants through alignment and placement within the actual structure.
"We wanted to combine the best of both worlds, the best of this ancient philosophy of architecture (where) the whole idea is to bring its inhabitants into alignment with natural law," Fisher said. "But that's also what the modern environmental movement wants it to be. It's all about natural law. There's a nice convergence there, from sort of two different angles, from the east and the west, so to speak, from ancient to modern."
Buildings incorporating Maharishi Sthapayaved require the building to face to the east, and to only have east and north entrances, among other guidelines. Combining these principles with the need to harness the greatest amount of sunlight for solar collection led to some problem solving for Nicklas, the North Carolina architect.
"They're looking at a mostly eastern-oriented building, and from an energy standpoint, a solar energy standpoint, we want to basically have our collection area facing south," Nicklas said. "So there's an east and south orientation issue that had to be worked out. They're very sensitive to try and bring in that east light, and we're trying to also bring in that south light."
Ultimately, school officials hope the building will demonstrate that the county has the expertise to make a technological leap in its buildings.
"It demonstrates that all these things can happen," Nicklas said. "Its going to be important, not just to their immediate area, but they will have people all over the country go to this facility because they'll want to see if it can actually be done."
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