The solitary white house that stands on the corner of Cass and Huron can be easily overlooked. But behind the simple facade are special amenities that give its residents greater control over their own living situation. This is the environmental house or the E-House designed to teach them about that great Albion motto: sustainability.
However, there are some issues with the current house which will cause it to move to a different college-owned house for the 2013 – 2014 school year.
“It’s a lovely old house with a bunch of environmental problems that we can fix up,” Dr. Tim Lincoln, professor of geology said. “The thing that that house needs most to be more sustainable is new windows.”
The problem is that it is not in the college’s budget to replace all the windows. Given the house’s small size, including its kitchen and dining area, the college has decided to move the E-House to the Munger annex located behind Munger apartments.
“I think [the move to Munger] will attract more people because it’s a bigger house,” said Lizzie Tuma, Marquette junior and current E-House resident. “I think it will help recruit people.”
The current E-house itself has been owned by the college for some time, but it was not until the early 2000s when the process began to create an environmentally-focused house.
Lincoln was a major spearhead in its conception. He said a class visit to the completely sustainable and notably modern headquarters for the environmental Chesapeake Bay Foundation impressed his students.
They went right to work for a proposal to present to the college.
“The original proposal was that this was going to be a living unit where students could learn how to efficiently run a typical Michigan house,” said Mike Wadsworth, director of residential life. “It’s a typical Michigan house with a Michigan basement.”
It is important to note that a special environmental house was not built specifically for the proposal because the E-House was to be something of a model.
“We had decided that one of the educational missions of the E-House was to demonstrate to the Albion community at large how an old house can be retrofitted and made more sustainable,” Lincoln said. “The point of the E-House program overall is that sustainable living is a combination of appropriate technologies.”
Several items were retrofitted, or added on, to the house. Most important of these was the solar water heater.
“We have a solar water heater on the top of the house,” said Sara Sample, Sterling Heights sophomore. “When it’s sunny, we don’t even need to use a regular water heater to heat our water.”
Sample is one of five current members of the E-House. The house is noticeably small, and its users share a single bathroom.
“It was an adjustment at the beginning, but now it’s much better since we all know each other,” Sample said.
Other areas that the E-House completes its environmental goals are through composting, gardening and conscious use of lights and recycling.
A sustainability class is required for those who live in the house and it is also concurrently open to anyone, even if they do not wish to live in the E-House. Often the class meets at the house itself. Lessons there can include how to cook organic foods and how to can fruits and vegetables.
“One of the main focuses of this house is community building and having group meals together, but it’s really hard in this small kitchen,” Tuma said. “The kitchen at Munger is a lot bigger.”
There are also other features that make the environmental move to Munger even more attractive.
“They have a glass porch which would be great because people could grow herbs there throughout the year,” Sample said. “We have some plants, but we don’t really have space.”
It is not required to be any sort of major to live in the E-House. Though many students with environmental majors live there, it remains open to anyone who wishes to live a year in an environmentally conscious fashion.
Though the current E-House will probably be demolished in the near future, the environmentally- retrofitted house in Munger annex will be open next Fall.
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