Monday, May 30, 2011

Visit to the Lyle center

The conception of the Lyle center in the 70s by John Lyle was driven by the question:
“What does it take for a community to sustain its resources?” and was planned to provide housing for ~90 students/faculty co inhabiting a community.

The inception in 1994 created a space for ~20 students to live in. There is currently 1 staff member living in the current community as well.

The Lyle center’s current work involves 3 main components:

I.               Research
II.             Demonstration
III.           Outreach

I and II. Summary of different research areas: Addressing community survival needs. Demonstrations on site.

Sustainable/Renewable methods to provide:
·      Safe and reliable food
·      Safe and reliable water
·      A safe and reliable form of energy,
·      A safe and reliable shelter (minimizing energy consumption for heating and cooling)
·      Efficient waste management

Passive heating/cooling to lower the carbon footprint. There is a large mass of equivalent tons of carbon eCO2 equivalence lost to temperature modulation of homes.
Eliminating air conditioning during summer by
·      Adding a trellis structure with vine canopy on the south-side of the buildings to block sunlight from entering the building
·      Opening low windows during the night to air out the building through ceiling vents (chimney effect)

Eliminating heating during winter by
·      The vines die back and the lower sun angle allows sunlight to enter the building

Modifying  facades/roof structure to help modify building temperature


Design question: How can you design the shape of your windows to reduce the possibility of theft?

The Lyle center is carbon neutral thanks to Solar Energy:
The Amonix system powering the center is concentrated photovoltaic cells. Dual rotating degrees of freedom producing ~210,000 kwh (kilowatt-hours) annually. The rotation follows the sun angle over the course of the day and the year.


A disadvantage of this system is the large land area required

Solar shingles have been developed – this is a much more replicable system for most residential installations

Geometry application: Sun angle problem for the penetration in the windows (earlier mentioned) and then sun angle effect on solar energy collection

Solar Ovens are slow cookers that require no added energy.
Query: What is the most efficient design for a solar oven?

Waste Management
Using waste from our food system- Hay-bales as a construction material. As long as hay-bales are kept dry, they have a high R-value. They can be coated by stucco or even a mud/manure mixture. Thicker walls, but very good insulation from outside temperature variation.

Biodiesel created form waste vegetable oil of restaurants. It can also be pressed from algae that are high in lipid content.
Using waste products we can grow colonies of algae.
Current research focus in biodiesel and in corn-ethanol has been the focus of isolating the best strain of algae for diesel production, or the best strain of corn for ethanol production. The question becomes:
In terms of the energy budget, is it worthwhile to spend so much energy searching for these ideal strains when we have the capacity to produce the renewable resources now?

All food grown at the Lyle center is 100% organic and there are no chemical fertilizers (compost of waste is used) or chemical pesticides (integrated pest management is incorporated “Big bugs vs little bugs”)

Reclaimed water is used for watering of the plants. Using microorganisms to break down waste for reclaiming rather than more conventional ways to clean waste water has a much lower energy cost and is rarely done.
Oberlin college built a “living machine” under John Todd and they constructed a wetland to reclaim waste-water as a model for possible future developments.

III. Outreach includes teaching the local community, educating students/educators, providing applications for communities in need…

Providing affordable housing around the world with lost cost materials that are energy efficient
Helping design/produce community gardens across the state

In Watts the center is supporting a program called “Backyard Gardeners” growing organically in their yards and sharing as a community.

Algebra application: A planting schedule needs to be designed so that we will continually have different products ready for harvest and so that the proper nutrients are always being provided at the necessary times.

In Tijuana there was an affordable/sustainable/comfortable housing effort.
Design application: Using $3,200 in materials, design a comfortable house in the climate of Tijuana.

Various tests are done in the model house.
A radiant heating system where water is pumped through black under the floor of the home from a black heated tank outside.

Geometry Question: How big of a tank do you need given a roof’s surface area to collect rainwater?

Insulated material of bricks made from a cement/recycled paper mixture. Wood frame built from recycled wood pallets.
Heat-exchange system where a low vent moves cold air into a chamber that can be heated by direct sunlight with a re-entry window near the ceiling. . Single paned window (shade not shown)


·      What service projects have you done with high school/college students? Possible projects:

i.               Greenhouse gas emissions analysis: Clean air cool planet group with data entry field. Studying energy bills
ii.              Test cells (Building materials and temperature testing)
iii.            Tours of facilities/research areas
iv.            Building solar ovens
v.              Designing other solar cookers
vi.            Kw sensors to check energy consumption of student devices and relate that to larger energy usage.
vii.           Study the natural environment: eg: Hydrologic cycle: Flows of the resource. Where is it used? Where is it wasted? Where is it stored/gained?

·      Is there prerequisite reading that your classes use for service projects?
·      Are there books/other sources that we can read/visit to learn more about the problems we are trying to tackle?
·      How can we utilize your center for our students to get involved in the issue of sustainability and regenerative resources?


We want to mathematize situations more.
We want to design projects that will connect our standards to the problems we can address through service work.
We want to design projects that can shed light on problems in sustainability…

A common issue involves Dollars spent vs. carbon reduced