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Sustainable buildings: Better to be off-grid or on-grid?
by Global Good News staff writer
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12 March 2013
Are there advantages to having an otherwise self-sufficient building connected to the power grid?
Dr David Fisher, founder and director of Maharishi University of Management's Sustainable Living department, recently explored this question. Dr Fisher has been an outspoken advocate for the design and construction of the new Sustainable Living Center on the MUM campus in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.
The goal for the building has always been that it be off-grid—that is, not rely on the grid for electricity, water, or waste disposal.
The building, which opened in April 2012, is now still connected to the power grid, and Dr Fisher concedes that there are some advantages to this setup. Namely, if the building produces more renewable energy than it uses, it can give some of that energy back.
'There is value in being able to feed energy that is being produced by the wind generator and solar panels back into the grid,' Dr Fisher said. 'In this case [the Sustainable Living Center], the energy doesn't go back into the grid; it goes into the campus, so it's another way we can help out the rest of the campus.'
Dr Fisher also acknowledged that one of the leading green certifications, the Living Building Challenge, actually prefers buildings to be on-grid.
The reason? When buildings are off-grid, they often have a vegetable oil burner to back up their renewable energy sources. At times when wind generators or solar panels are not producing enough energy to power the building, that burner will be used, thus releasing carbon dioxide into the air.
Given these reasons to stay on-grid, why does the Sustainable Living Department at Maharishi University of Management prefer to go off-grid?
There are many reasons, said Dr Fisher.
'Although there is value to feeding energy back into the grid, we wanted to demonstrate something different for those kinds of people who are excited by that possibility, and maybe want to build their own building so they don't have to depend on an undependable grid,' he said.
Global Good News will continue to feature Dr Fisher's recent talk, in which he went on to explain more of the rationale for why the department decided to aim for being off-grid.
See previous articles in this series:
∙ Sustainable Living Center moves closer to full self-sufficiency
∙ Sustainable Living Center 'the most ambitious environmental building'
∙ New master's degrees in Sustainable Living to launch next year at MUM
∙ Popular Sustainable Living department to offer MA and MS degrees: Maharishi University of Management
∙ Sustainable Living Center truly local, community built
∙ Master's in Sustainable Living to provide community assistance, valuable skill set
∙ Sustainable Living Center self-sufficient for water, greenhouse soon finished
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