News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 16, 2013

Institute leads by example

ISU center opens building that itself demonstrates efficiency

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — While it looks like an average home, its materials are all about sustainability.

Indiana State University held an open house Friday to unveil the remodeled house that will now serve as the office for the Institute for Community Sustainability.

The house, at 219 N. 11th St., has flooring made from bamboo, which can be replaced in 10 years after harvesting, versus 150 years for wood from an oak tree.

Also, the home’s paint contains no volatile organic compounds; bathroom fixtures were re-purposed from ISU’s Statesman Towers; aluminum fans, called “Sycamore fans” are modeled after a maple seed, using a single blade for maximum efficiency; and outside decking is made of 97 percent recycled plastic.

The home, located on the site of ISU’s Community Garden, formerly served as a storage space for the garden.

The Institute for Community Sustainability was founded in February, 2012 as a part of ISU’s “Unfounded Possibilities Initiative,” which created eight centers of distinction to increase ISU’s leadership in areas ranging from arts and spirituality to unmanned systems and genomic advocacy.

The institute is to improve the environment and increase the quality of life in the Wabash Valley through education, collaborative projects and research.

“The word sustainability appears in many different contexts and means many different things to many different people,” said Caroline Savage, assistant director of the institute during an open house ceremony. “To us, sustainability means building a resilient economy, ensuring equal assess to a high quality of life for all people and preserving our natural resources.”

“We’re committed to making ISU and Terre Haute a living laboratory for practices and projects that are sustainable from economic, social and environmental perspective,” Savage said.

ISU President Dan Bradley referred to the community garden as an example of sustainability. About 100 people work in the community garden each year, he said.

“Sustainability is a big part of what we all have to be thinking about and working on as we go forward,” Bradley said, citing ISU’s recycling center as another example of sustainability.

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and state Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, also spoke in support of the need for sustainability.

“This was a dilapidated area, with lots of issues in this particular block,” Bennett said. “Now you can see it has a new life, a new use that will help to educate and get people to find ways to be better citizens.”

Rep. Kersey highlighted his intention to take broader steps in the effort. “I am here to be an advocate for a greener Indiana,” he said, noting that he would author or support bills that promote sustainability.

Jim Speer, Ph.D., executive director of the institute and ISU professor of geography and geology, said part of the institute’s work includes providing $48,000 of focused work to the Terre Haute community, such as research looking at lead contamination in urban gardens and throughout the city.

The institute is constructing a passive solar greenhouse, which will be one of seven to be built in the county.

The institute’s house will be open and available for campus events, Speer added. “ We hope to use this as a sustainable model home, bringing people through to show what they can do in their home and what the cost difference is, such as using bamboo flooring, and let people know about the different solutions that are out there,” he said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or