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I am looking for the best ideas for a project for my high school Green Building class

salada_t | Posted in Green Building Techniques on

I have been teaching a green building course to high school kids for 4 years. We design green buildings that are enegy efficient using the 3D BIM software Revit and learn all the latest construction techniques and standards. A lot to learn!
What I am looking for is a good hands on project ideas to apply all the theory and design.
In the past we have designed and built a passive solar super insulated chicken coop, full size wall sections of different ways to frame 1′ thick walls, scale house models using advanced framing, double studded and i joist walls and a dome greenhouse for the science departments aquaponics class.

I figured why not throw it out there:
What would you have liked to do? What would you want your kid doing?
What do people in the industry think?

Looking forward to ideas. Thanks in advance!

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  1. user-2310254 | | #1

    There is a lot of discussion of the pretty good house on this site. That idea has been expanded upon a bit by members who are interested in doing a pretty good house that is also net zero using a combination of best practices and a solar voltaic array. I think this idea would be an interesting team challenge for your students. I would also throw in battery storage as a way to balance the home's energy needs over different times of day and seasons of the year.

  2. salada_t | | #2

    Thanks Steve. I have been starting to see the pretty good house come up more lately. I haven't looked into it yet, but planning on it. If i could apply this to a more hands on project tnat would be great.

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    Buy some dense EPS and build a 3 ft. by 3 ft. raft slab. Buy a few bags of Sakrete and pour the slab.

  4. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #4

    How about getting out into the community and doing some energy improvements in an existing house?

  5. Robert Opaluch | | #5

    A small greenhouse might incorporate solar gain south-facing glazing for wintertime growing, insulated north-facing wall. Perhaps an insulated slab floor, insulated concrete north-facing wall or water-filled containers for thermal mass to stabilize internal temps for plants to survive through the winter. Moveable insulation could be used on east- or west-facing glazed walls to reduce or to model heat losses during wintertime. They might build their own glazing units. Students might get interested in gardening as well.

    There are micro-size tiny houses smaller than 100 SQFT. Building one without plumbing, that could be transported?

    A shed would work as a building that can get used afterwards. But not sure you'd need solar heating or insulation besides for educational or research purposes.

    Some of us would like to see an article on your projects, with some feedback from students about what they learned and what surprised them.

    Waldorf elementary schools typically have a small building project for students to learn carpentry skills and create a permanent structure in their school yard.

  6. gris | | #6

    Greenhouse without glass or windows, led lighting, hydroponics. Check out

  7. salada_t | | #7

    Thanks for your responses everyone Great ideas. Some of which i may be able to do.
    Martin I like the raft idea. I could easily accomplish that . Unfortunatly, i would just have to break it, or use as an example.
    The green house ideas might work as well. Like my passive chicken coop, it will be transportable. Maybe combine them.....
    This is my 5 th year running the class. I would like to have some consistancy in the coming years? The coop seems to be the best idea i have done with all the limitations of time ( 20 hours approx.) skill level - introduction.
    Keep em' coming! Thanks

  8. Andrew_C | | #8

    I like Martin’s idea of a raft slab.

    I would suggest focusing on flashing of windows when using exterior insulation, in two different flavors: using rigid foam, and using mineral wool. Researching where to put the air/water/vapor barriers when using exterior insulation and how to integrate WRB with flashing would be interesting and useful.

    Flashing windows in general should be understood, but I think/hope that exterior insulation of some sort (hopefully mineral wood, IMO) will become a common practice soon.

  9. Jon_R | | #9

    Give each team the same materials and have a contest to build the most energy efficient enclosure of some specified volume. Test them with electric heaters and a kwh meter.

  10. user-2310254 | | #10

    I'll offer another suggestion. Drake University recently built three tiny homes for the homeless. Perhaps your students could design a tiny home optimized for your location's unique requirements and population. I recognize that building a home -- even a tiny one -- is a huge job, but maybe this could be a project that extends over multiple classes.

  11. salada_t | | #11

    Thanks again for the great ideas. This is awesome
    Steve. One of the first projects i do is a tiny house design. It really forces them to think what you actually need in a home and a simpler existence. I get some hands on buildiing when i introduce adv. framing with a tight enclosure by doing a scale model.
    I have done and plan on doing again a shipping container design/model as well. Good example of emergency housing for hurricane victims. I have tossed around the container and tiny house as something i could do as a longer term project. Unfortunately being in CT, i have to deal with the weather.
    Working on that one....
    Jon i like the enclosure idea too. What kind of volume were you thinking? Seems it would have to be pretty big, then i would have to toss.....
    Andrew. The window flashing/ vapor barrier idea is good too. I could add that to my wall section project.

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