Berea College Ecovillage - Family Apartments

Berea, Kentucky

The Ecovillage has 50 student family apartments in six new buildings and four existing buildings. The apartments are organized in row-house fashion similar to the existing apartments, with their kitchens facing the Ecovillage Green, providing eyes-on-the-commons, while their living rooms face the public, street-front side. Bedrooms are located upstairs except in first level one-bedroom units (4), and two-bedroom flats (2). Storage and semi-private outdoor spaces face the Green, while street-fronts have covered entries.

The walls and roofs of the new apartments are constructed with prefabricated panels rather than site-built walls and roofs using dimensional lumber and plywood. These structural insulated panels (SIPS) are made from polyurethane insulation sandwiched between two layers of oriented strand board (OSB), made of waste wood fiber. Because of their structural rigidity and bearing capacity, most wood framing is eliminated, displacing almost all of the dimensional lumber used in typical light wood frame construction.

This building system results in a tight, well insulated (R28 walls, R40 roof), energy efficient building envelope. Each apartment is faced in a combination of local red brick and clapboard siding made from cement, sand and cellulose fiber. Window areas are largest on the south side to optimize winter solar gain, and are shaded from the summer sun by roof overhangs, trellises and porches. Each apartment has a south-facing clerestory monitor to capture winter sunlight. This monitor also provides a tall open "stack" above the stairways for warm air to collect and exhaust in the summer.

Inside, each apartment is finished in materials chosen for their low environmental impact, manufactured locally wherever possible, produced from recycled or abundant resources, and recycle-able at the end of their useful lives. Carpet in the bedrooms, linoleum down stairs, cabinets and countertops are made from materials that off-gas little or no VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).

Heating and cooling are accomplished using highly efficient ground source heat pumps, using the stable thermal energy of the ground as a heat source in the winter and a heat sink in the summer. Non-potable water, cleaned in the on-site living machine, is used for flushing toilets. Water efficient fixtures and appliances, including a two-button toilet allowing two different flush flows, help residents meet the Ecovillage benchmarks for resource use