Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Classroom: Sustainable Communities

By Kathryn LoConte

Brian T. Mengwasser '09 (left) Wendy Chen Th'09 (middle) and Nandan H. Shetty '07, BE Candidate (right) work on their site model.
Brian T. Mengwasser ’09 (left) Wendy Chen Th’09 (middle) and Nandan H. Shetty ’07, BE Candidate (right) work on their site model.

For their class project in ENGS 44: Sustainable Design, 20 students aimed to improve not only a nearby community but also the environment. “The challenge of this course was to make a net-zero community that produces as much energy as it uses and contributes no new traffic on the existing main artery,” says Professor Peter Robbie, who co-taught the course with Thayer professor Benoit Cushman-Roisin and Dartmouth studio art and architecture professor Karolina Kawiaka.

Student groups worked on a real-life site: 254 wooded acres between Hanover and Lebanon. Designing residential and community space for employees of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and nearby businesses, the groups calculated electricity, heating, and cooling demands, conducted feasibility studies on population density and transportation issues, and determined ecological footprints and LEED certification ratings. One team designed a ground-source heat pump, photovoltaic panels, and an innovative woodchip furnace to produce 3500 Mbtu/month. Another suggested community greenhouses, hybrid shuttle routes, and a community bike program. Students proposed a geothermal heat pump, composting toilets, a forced air ventilation system, and structural insulating panels and triple glaze windows for the building envelope design. One group designed a community that mimics the natural topography and devised an ecological wastewater treatment system.

“This course provides a model for integrated design practice that is emerging among the best firms in the country,” says Robbie. “An engineer’s understanding of what’s possible — using technology to make efficient buildings, minimizing use of artificial light, using photovoltaics so that buildings take care of themselves — is completely changing the game.”

The course appeared to change the students as well. “Environmental design really resonates among this group of students,” says Robbie. “They really see it as a moral issue and know that they can help make a difference.”

— Kathryn LoConte is assistant editor at Dartmouth Engineer.

For more photos, visit our Energy Technologies and Sustainability Flickr page.

Categories: The Great Hall, Classroom

Tags: curriculum, energy, environment, faculty, students

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