Innovation That Matters

The project was also used as an opportunity for architecture students to study regenerative building techniques | Photo source Laura Pappalardo/Yale School of Architecture

Students construct off-grid research centre

Architecture & Design

Yale architecture students have constructed a research station on an island, using regenerative techniques that reduce the environmental impact of building

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Spotted: In the 1970s, Yale University bought Branford, Connecticut’s Horse Island to use for research. But the utility of the island is limited because of the lack of facilities for researchers to use as a base. Recently, Dave Skelly, director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, which manages the island, and Alan Organschi, partner at Gray Organschi Architecture and critic in design technology at the Yale School of Architecture, have teamed up to build a small classroom and research station on the island.  

The project was also used as an opportunity for architecture students to study regenerative building techniques. The 750-square-foot building was constructed by first prefabricating the components, then using screws and fasteners to assemble the building on site. Using crews, instead of nails, makes it easier to disassemble the structure if it needs to be relocated or repurposed later. 

The research station is completely off-grid. It is equipped with an incinerating toilet, which burns waste into ash, so there is no risk of effluent escaping into the ecologically sensitive environment. A rainwater collection system provides water for washing, which will be filtered and reintroduced into the environment. Photovoltaic panels supply electricity, hot water and heat. The panels are attached to four openings in the roof that also act as wind scoops to circulate air through the building. 

The entire building was constructed from salvaged and repurposed wood, or wood culled from the nearby forest. Organschi notes that regenerative building is not merely about sustainability, it is about having the minimal possible impact on the entire lifecycle of the building. “It’s not enough to put solar panels on your building,” he said, “You have to think really systematically about the building’s entire lifespan from the production stage and the extraction of materials through its operation. And finally, at the end of its life, you need to account for what happens to all the materials.” 

Regenerative building – the idea that the sustainability of the entire lifecycle of the building needs to be considered before construction begins is a growing trend. We have seen this in a number of innovative recent projects, including a resource-generating building at a university in Atlanta, Georgia and a reusable taphouse in Denmark. 

Written By: Lisa Magloff

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