The sun sets on the summer’s last workshop: solar energy

Posted in Energy, Workshops on September 25th, 2014 by apayne – Be the first to comment

By Ann Payne

The evening before Chatham’s Fall term began, a fan, toaster, lamp, coffee maker and clothing iron made the drive out to Eden Hall Campus. Their role was an important one: to show workshop attendees of Harness the Sun: Solar Home Projects and Energy Saving Tips, how much energy they each use in doing the tasks they were made for. These familiar objects serve us each week, but the amount of electrons flowing through their wires remain invisible until the monthly electric bill arrives. There is another, celestial way to power up your home for less in the long run: the Sun.

Indeed, enough sunlight hits the Earth in one hour, to power it for an entire year. 

The solar workshop centered around how to distinguish if homeowners are ready for solar panel installation, how it works, and policies in Pennsylvania that support solar technologies on homes. Dr. Mary Whitney, Sustainability Coordinator at Chatham, and Burns & Scalo sales professional Phil Long worked together to make a presentation that highlighted important things to consider about solar home energy, as well as taking note of small energy “zappers” around your home that use up more electricity than you might think. Before the presentation began, visitors received a tour of campus.

Solar sales engineer Phil Long of Burns & Scalo shares information and answers questions about the 408 solar panels currently powering Eden Hall Campus. They produce enough energy to run 14 homes annually! Photo by Angie Jasper.


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Kitchen trash can be treasure for healthy roots and sturdy shoots

Posted in Agriculture, Landscape, Workshops on September 23rd, 2014 by apayne – Be the first to comment

By Ann Payne

Your garden is dreaming of eating your leftover coffee grounds, hair, eggshells and any other biodegradable scraps that are the bi-product of being a human.

We’re talking compost here, and the fact that you can make it yourself (though we have to give some credit to an army of bacteria!) Most garden-savvy folks understand that nutrient rich soil is a must for growing healthy plants, and with the abundance of lawns and landscaping with food-growing potential in the North Hills surrounding the Eden Hall Campus, hosting a backyard composting workshop was a natural choice for our third sustainability workshop held August 14th.

Nancy Martin of PRC listens to a workshop participant's question. Photo by Ann Payne.

Nancy Martin of PRC listens to a workshop participant’s question. Photo by Ann Payne.

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Understanding your yard within a dynamic landscape: The Living Lawn Workshop

Posted in Landscape, Workshops on September 22nd, 2014 by apayne – Be the first to comment

by Ann Payne

For all its countryside charm, you may not realize that Eden Hall Campus is surrounded by suburban developments and small townships. Though it was once considered a rural farm, over the last century, the northern metropolitan region of Pittsburgh has expanded to meet it. This means that the landscape surrounding the campus has changed from swaths of forest and farmland to tracts of lawns, roads, highways and development. As a homeowner living near Eden Hall, how might your lawn care practices affect the surrounding ecosystem, and how can you be an active steward of the environment and improve the land?

Viewed from above, one can see the various land uses surrounding Eden Hall Campus. Photo from Google Maps.

Viewed from above, one can see the various land uses surrounding Eden Hall Campus. Photo from Google Maps.

These were the questions placed in front of participants of The Living Lawn workshop on July 31st, hosted by Dr. Molly Mehling, Assistant Professor of Ecology in the Sustainability Department, and Kristen Spirl, one of the head gardeners at Chatham and a graduate of the Landscape Architecture program.
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Catching the rain, guerrilla wildflowers, making dirt and harnessing sunshine

Posted in Student projects, Water, Workshops on September 21st, 2014 by apayne – Be the first to comment

 By Ann Payne

What do a blue barrel, a ball of mud, a compost bin that looks like it belongs on Darth Vader’s head, and an electricity monitor have in common? They were each key parts of this summer’s first-ever sustainability workshop series at Eden Hall Campus! July and August saw the new Field Lab at the Richland campus host its inaugural classes, with a hugely positive response from attendees.

The Field Labs reflect in the wastewater treatment pool that will soon be planted as a constructed wetland. The lab and classroom are part of the now-complete Phase I construction at the new campus. Photo by Ann Payne.

The Field Labs reflect in the wastewater treatment pool that will soon be planted as a constructed wetland. The lab and classroom are part of the now-complete Phase I construction at the new campus. Photo by Ann Payne.

The workshops were designed to share sustainability principles with quick payoffs that local residents could easily incorporate into their homes and lives. Participants saw presentations on rainwater management, ecologically sensitive lawn care, composting tips and solar home projects. In true workshop style, they practiced their new skills by assembling a working rain barrel,  and getting their hands dirty creating native wildflower “seed bombs.”

In the next few posts, we’ll take a closer look at each of the four workshops, and get an idea of the planning, purpose and outcome of each!
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Chatham Student Learns Sustainability With Hands On Immersive Experience

Posted in Research, Student projects on October 23rd, 2013 by jeffdurosko – Be the first to comment

Last summer, Ann Payne, Master of Sustainability ’14, immersed herself in a self-crafted adventure of active participation and learning from professionals and stakeholders in three pillars of sustainability: economics, environment and people/societies.

Payne stands with a few of the day campers she worked with on St. John, learning about ocean plastic. Photo by Crystal Fortwangler.

Payne stands with a few of the day campers she worked with on St. John, learning about ocean plastic. Photo by Crystal Fortwangler.

Growing up in Louisiana, the idea and practice of sustainability has always had a presence in her life and consciousness. She came to Chatham University to pursue her Master of Sustainability degree as part of a goal to making positive contributions to life on a finite planet. As part of her degree program, Payne took this summer to participate in a self-developed three-part program that spanned the country from west to east and into the Caribbean, all aimed at enhancing her education and experiences.

The Falk School of Sustainability at Chatham University  is housed at the University’s new Eden Hall Campus, functioning as a living and learning laboratory. Eden Hall will feature high performance green buildings and the latest in sustainable land, energy, and water management techniques
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Eden Hall Dorms: Student Housing Built to Passive House Standards

Posted in Uncategorized on October 9th, 2013 by jeffdurosko – Be the first to comment

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As the housing market is making slow limps back to health, green building is one of the segments driving the recovery of the industry.

Energy-efficient building programs have bolstered the green building market, a formerly niche construction market aimed at energy efficiency and environmental stewardship that has quickly become a booming industry. Data has significantly shown that the best green renovations are normally more cost-effective, sustainable and reduce overall energy cost.

Jerry Yudelson, a green building guru, has said, “The fact that green building continues to grow only demonstrates that it has become the new normal.”
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Rachel Carson: A Legacy that went Against the Grain

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7th, 2013 by jeffdurosko – Be the first to comment

rachel-carsonHigh atop Woodland Dormitory at Chatham University sits the largest solar-thermal water heater installation in Pennsylvania. While this in itself is a prominent reminder of Chatham’s commitment to sustainable living and education through its new School of Sustainability and the Environment at the new Eden Hall campus, it also serves as a memorial to one of the school’s most prominent alumna.

Rachel Carson, a writer, scientist and ecologist, lived in Woodland during her time at Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University) in the 1920s. At a time when women did not traditionally pursue an education past high school, Carson was light years ahead as a scholar and leader in ecological and marine studies.
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Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus to be Model for Sustainability and Environmental Education

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4th, 2013 by jeffdurosko – Be the first to comment

Chatham_AerialLocated on 388 acres in the fast-growing North Hills communities of Pittsburgh, Chatham University’s Eden Hall campus is the embodiment of a commitment Chatham makes everyday to support sustainability and environmental education, honoring the legacy of alumna Rachel Carson, class of 1929, one of the world’s most influential nature writers, ecologists and scientists.

In fact, the Eden Hall Campus is home to the  Falk School of Sustainability at Chatham University  and functions as a living and learning laboratory, where the campus doesn’t just house classrooms, but is the classroom. Eden Hall will feature high performance green buildings and the latest in sustainable land, energy, and water management techniques. By protecting valuable watersheds, incorporating surrounding land and agricultural resources, and rehabilitating existing farm structures alongside developing new, green buildings, Eden Hall will be a one-of-a-kind venue for education, conferences, community outreach, and ecotourism. The initial stage of construction consists of the development of field labs, classrooms, a café, an amphitheater, a mosaic garden, and infrastructure development to be complete by fall 2013. A dining hall and two residence halls are scheduled for completion in 2015.
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Net Positive Energy: Eden Hall’s Charge in the Forefront of Climate Positive Goals

Posted in Uncategorized on October 3rd, 2013 by jeffdurosko – Be the first to comment

Chatham_NewLodgeIf you’re like most people, you have a certain day of the month that you sit down to pay bills – mortgage, car payments, credit cards, school. You may be thinking that we forgot to include utilities. Not so fast …

Some people make money from their utility companies by producing their own energy and selling back the unused portion, resulting in net positive energy consumption. Take for instance a group of more than 400 homeowners in Nashville, Tenn. They use solar power to generate electricity at their homes or businesses and get paid for it with the help of the Tennessee Valley Authority and local power distributors. Some residents have large enough arrays of solar electric generation panels that they get rolling credits on their electricity bill or year-end checks. One customer said that he keeps a rolling tally of credits that he eventually uses on hot summer days when air conditioning is a necessity, resulting in little or no monthly expenditure.
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Eden Hall: A Daily Immersion into Sustainable Living

Posted in Uncategorized on September 30th, 2013 by jeffdurosko – Be the first to comment

MAFSThere was a time when people living amongst nature, growing their own food, and using natural resources for everyday living were considered hippies, tree huggers, or some other less than flattering term. However, vast amounts of data is supporting the idea that going back to basics – with a modern, technologically advanced twist – is a necessity for our future.

Today’s generation of college student understands more than anyone that in order to have a healthy earth for years to come, something needs to be done now. They know that the case for sustainable living is making heads turn globally. Take for instance Chatham University’s Eden Hall.

Eden Hall is a next generation living laboratory where students not only study sustainability, but are immersed in it every day. Each inch has been carefully designed and built to function as part of the overall educational experience.

Students and faculty will live and learn in the landscape and interact in buildings that leave a net zero carbon footprint. The classrooms, café, amphitheater, gardens, meeting spaces and field labs form a model of advanced sustainability and net positive energy – meaning the campus actually produces more energy than it uses.

In addition, the campus will feature a student-run teaching garden; crop production for use in food studies and sustainability courses; and innovative research spaces and laboratories for studying such subjects as storm and wastewater management, agriculture, aquaponics, ecology and food science.

Students, faculty, staff and campus visitors will be able to hike eco-education trails, explore sustainable agriculture sites, and observe natural wastewater treatment systems in action. Eden Hall’s working organic farm will provide opportunities for Chatham to connect to the community through farm-to-school programs and partnerships with local farmers and nonprofits.

Eden Hall is, quite simply, a campus like no other and a full-time living experience that is educating our future leaders – and the surrounding community – in green and sustainable technologies.

Isn’t it great to know that the first academic community in the world built from the ground up for sustainable development, living and learning is right in your backyard?

Want to know more? Visit our Office of Sustainability and learn about our Campus Environmental Commitments.