University of Michigan students build sustainable house on Ann Arbor campus

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Credit: University of Michigan News

ANN ARBOR - What do you get when you combine straw bales and layers of adobe? University of Michigan's newest construction project -- and it's being built by students.

The build is part of the Green Building class by associate professor Joe Trumpey at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Housed in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts’ Program in the Environment, the course also has students from Michigan Engineering and Stamps.

"Some of the philosophy about this building is art and some of it is design," Trumpey told Michigan News. "One little straw bale building on campus isn’t going to fix climate change or U-M’s carbon footprint, but it can help make those issues more visible."

(Credit: University of Michigan News)

It will take roughly a month to complete and will be the first student-built and off-the-grid structure on the main campus with solar panels on its metal roof.

Situated atop a concrete foundation among hoop houses and vegetable fields at the U-M Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, the sustainable building will feature 18-inch-thick straw bales coated in thick adobe.

This is the second such project led by Trumpey, who led a class last year to build its sibling at the university's Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan.


(Credit: University of Michigan News)

The structure will serve many purposes once finished. It will host new Michigan Dining farm-to-table dinners, be the anchor for the annual fall festival held at Matthaei by the U-M Sustainable Food Program and serve as a place for student farmers to meet while working on planting and harvesting crops.

Much like the Campus Farm, the initiative is almost exclusively by students, for students.

"The most important thing about this project is the outside-the-classroom experience, the hands-on of learning skills, as opposed to knowledge," student Kristen Hayden told Michigan News. "Just knowing you can do things for yourself -- I can build my own house after this, you know?"

The project received funding from MDining and the Planet Blue Student Initiative Fund. Turner Electric provided the electrical work, and a grant from the Planet Blue Renewable Energy Demonstration Project Program allowed for the purchase of the solar panels.

Read: U-M Campus Farm: Food grown by students, for students

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