When you’re “off the grid,” it puts you in tune with the way you use your resources in a different way, according to University of Michigan Stamps Art & Design Associate Professor Joe Trumpey.
That’s the lesson Trumpey has been teaching his students over the past couple of years as they’ve taken part in constructing off-the-grid buildings, primarily consisting of straw bales.
There might not be a better teacher for the project. Trumpey and his family constructed their own 2,200-square-foot, off-the-grid straw bale home near Grass Lake in 2009, producing at least half of their own food by gardening, canning, freezing and raising animals for meat and eggs on the 40-acre Shady Acres farm.
Trumpey’s latest building is being constructed by a team of 25 UM students in a Green Building class they expect to complete by the end of the month after breaking ground on May 2.
The building, located next to the UM Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, will provide an informal meeting space for students and faculty in what is UM’s first off-the-grid building in Ann Arbor. Last spring, Trumpey and his class built a similar straw bale building at the UM Biological Station in northern Michigan.
“The key concept here is to use as many natural, local materials as possible that provides a super-insulated building,” Trumpey said. “Being able to use the sun for light and heat as much as possible and minimizing your carbon footprint is the background behind the design principle of it.”
Historically, houses made of straw have not fared well, but University of Michigan Art, Design and Environment Professor Joe Trumpey and his students intend to make history.
“It’s the first official U of M building in Ann Arbor that is student-built that I am aware of, period,” he said.
Situated on the student-run UM Campus Farm at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Trumpey’s students have been studying about green building since January and the class concludes with the straw bale construction. “This building will give the farm a needed social space where they can have class meetings and dining events such as U of M farm-to-table dinners.”