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Village shows alternatives for living “green”

“Our goal would be about nine students per year once the program gets going.”

– KRIS DICK

As Canadians ponder a potential “green shift,” there is a village developing at the University of Manitoba that will address increasing concern about sustainability.

The Alternative Village doesn’t have many structures right now, but the evolving concept makes space available to study alternate forms of heating, power, building resources, waste management and more.

“Growing the village” was the theme of a “design day” held for engineers willing to think outside the box.

Home to a straw bale agricultural structure, the village also featured solar panels, a composter aimed at helping fishermen dispose of fish guts in a more environmentally friendly way, a small wind turbine and more.

Moderator Kris Dick, director of the village said they have turned this piece of land at the university into a designated “lab” to help them get around constantly applying for permits from the city.

With use of the land, and support from companies such as Manitoba Hydro, the engineering school will have more openings for internships.

“No more working at Subway or Tim’s to pay for your schooling,” Dick said.

The approximately 1.5 acres will be the future home of many structures each featuring different systems of building, heating and waste management.

“Our goal would be about nine students per year once the program gets going,” said Dick. And it won’t just be restricted to engineering students. He hopes to entice disciplines such as architecture and environmental studies.

Right now time spent at the village is time away from other important issues.

“What typically happens that those of us who are trying to make it work fit it in to our schedules,” he said. He hopes that will change as interest grows.

Currently Manitoba Hydro supports research on the Evacuated Tube Solar Hot Water system that one of his students is developing. Two other companies are giving their support – HiQual Engineered Structures and Enersip Structural Insulated Panels.

In the future, Dick wants more time devoted to developing partnerships with other companies.

And high on the wish list is a tie-in to agricultural projects. Dick is very interested in working with farm groups looking for ways to enhance their business using their sustainable resources.

The focus of the event held on Sept. 20, 2008 was more “appliance” based as solar panel systems, and a vertical axis wind turbine were featured. The vertical axis wind turbine design is considered as an alternative which will work well in our climate and not be prone to “icing” problems. Dick said it is just one of what they hope will be many “made-in-

Manitoba solutions.”

Dick said interns would be able to document the process of the design, including important observations for further study.

Research would focus on biosystems. However, conventional building materials could still be used when examining different systems.

Tim Krahn, jokingly referred to as “mayor” of the village said it’s important to examine systems that are tried and true in more southern climates to ensure they would actually be able to withstand the harsh Prairie winters.

Dick said the 4,200-square-foot straw bale building already in the village is a researchable building. “You can do research in and on the building,” he said.

Rising fuel costs and increased concern for the environment have heightened the trend to create more sustainable living spaces. And biosystems are a popular alternative as they are made from “renewable” resources.

Tim and Janet Kroeker recently built their home of clay and straw and hosted a group of people wanting hands-on training in building these “econests.” They lent their expertise to the event.

The Kroekers built their nest just outside of Rosa. They are employing many innovative techniques to ensure adequate warmth in winter and nice cool temperatures in summer. They plan to use the sun for their energy requirements.

Dick said there is no reason for requirements to be modest. You can be off the grid and still have high speed Internet.

In fact, high speed Internet is an integral part of Kroeker’s bedding business. By using solar hot water and a propane stove their electricity demands should be minimized.

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