campus news and events

Colby-Sawyer College to Celebrate Sustainable Classroom Opening

Colby-Sawyer College will celebrate the grand opening of its freestanding sustainable classroom – the first commercial straw bale insulated building in the state of New Hampshire – located behind the Curtis L. Ivey Science Center, on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 2.30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

President Thomas C. Galligan Jr. will join project leaders to share how the project connects to the college's strategic themes and mission. Following his remarks, Bryan Felice, project leader and founder of Undustrial Timber, LLC, will provide an overview of the space built by students, including how it fits with the college's historical architecture and Susan Colgate Cleveland Library/Learning Center's barn design.

Guided tours of the classroom's interior and exterior will be offered by Felice and M. Roy London Endowed Chair and Professor of Environmental Studies Leon-C. Malan. Felice will explain the building's technology, including its passive solar design, wall systems and paints. Professor Malan will explore the “resource pile” approach to project waste and recycling, the origins of permaculture and how the approach is also applied to the garden next to the classroom, and the “living learning laboratory” aspect of the garden.

Student and Community Engagement
Colby-Sawyer students were involved in the project from its inception. They presented the idea to the town and participated in the permitting process. The college developed three courses to span the construction of the passive solar classroom: Shelter and Sustainability in fall 2012, The Living Building in spring 2013, and Project Completion in fall 2013 engaged students and community members in hands-on learning during each phase of the project. They explored topics including building science and performance, the design process, natural materials, construction planning, and timber frame techniques. Those who passed all three courses earned a Certificate in Sustainable Design and Construction.

“Students were involved in almost every aspect of the building,” said Professor Malan. “This spring, the Applied Permaculture class designed and constructed cob benches inside the building and the frames for the green roof. Over the summer, the interior was completed and painted with the help of Colby-Sawyer's organic garden interns.”

Professor Malan also recognizes community engagement as a vital component in the process. “We looked for ways to engage and benefit our local community and offered a series of hands-on educational 'Sustainable Living' workshops for community members,” he said. These workshops covered topics such as raising of the timbers, straw bale insulation, plaster application, and natural finishes, and were well-attended by community members from the towns of New London, Warner and Sutton.

Connection to Strategic Themes and Learning
Professor Malan believes that the entire process was guided by the college's four strategic themes: Engaged Learning; Living Sustainably; Linking to the World; and Dynamic Devotion to Excellence. “This was an opportunity to connect to our community and offer work to local businesses. We sourced wood from a New London-based company that harvested trees within a 30-mile radius; purchased concrete from an Elkins, N.H., vendor; used roof panels made in the state and bought other materials from Andover, N.H., and so on,” he said. “[Not only does] the building represent the cutting edge in natural building and design, [it is] sustainable in terms of energy efficiency, use of natural materials, carbon capture and the process of construction.”

Though classes are being held in the space this semester, Professor Malan hastens to add that the building will never be quite finished. “Just like our learning is never fully complete, we will continue to use the building as a way to learn and engage students,” he said. “Some examples of future projects include fine and performing art students painting the floor, permaculture students designing the landscape around the building, natural finishes on the wooden beams and benches on the back walls. The story does not end with the opening, it just begins.”

For more information on Colby-Sawyer's green initiatives, programs and progress, visit

-Anurup Upadhyay '15

Anurup Upadhyay is a business major at Colby-Sawyer College and a student writer for College Communications.

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire. Learn more about the college's vibrant teaching and learning community at

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, N.H. 03257 (603) 526-3000