In his 1841 work, “Self-Reliance,” Transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson challenged Americans to evaluate society as individuals. He asked that we reject conformity for its own sake and instead be loyal to our own moral beliefs. Today, Emerson's message is especially relevant. In a world fast approaching its carrying capacity, we must reevaluate the ways by which our society produces and disposes of energy and material goods.
We are a team of undergraduate students passionate about sustainability in the broadest sense, and we believe that sustainability must first be addressed by the individual and at home. Our houses – the places we inhabit – are our most influential environments. We grow up in them, retreat to them, and spend more time in them than in any other place. The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 offers us the chance to bring our vision of a home to a wide audience.
As a team of liberal arts students, we approach the project from a variety of perspectives. Our integrated approach is reflected in all aspects of the project from our fundraising and communications to our design and construction. The philosophy that guides our design is as important as the structure itself.
Self-Reliance is built from durable local materials with low life-cycle costs. Features in the house, such as the green wall and operable energy-saving systems, promote a healthy and environmentally responsible lifestyle for the family within.
Our team is aware of the resources required for this project, from paper for drawings to fuel for transportation. To compensate for these necessary resources, we are working to minimize our carbon footprint for the entire project. Our goal is carbon neutrality. We hope the Self-Reliance design philosophy will reach people far beyond our own team, inspiring others of all ages to incorporate sustainable practices into their own lives.
In an age when market competition produces highly desirable and affordable goods for consumers, Team Middlebury College recognizes the need for environmentally responsible products to match, if not exceed, all competition in quality and price. The housing market is no exception. We strive to design a home that offers all the desirable comforts and conveniences of other houses in today’s market. We appreciate the traditional farmhouse typology that has satisfied families for centuries. By incorporating the best features of the New England farmhouse into a novel design for the twenty-first century, we are creating an environmentally responsible home that can compete earnestly in the current market. A contemporary perspective allows us to architecturally distill the farmhouse paradigm to its essential elements, resulting in a design that is simple, elegant, and of its time. Modern technologies like energy-monitoring software, high R-value insulation and triple-paned windows help us make the traditional form more energy-efficient. When selecting materials for the home, we carefully consider both the upfront and life cycle costs, choosing durable natural materials that have minimal embodied energy and environmental impact over time.