Why is this delicious cake so rare in Indiana?
One of the joys of being an architect is getting invited back to projects to celebrate milestones. This one was the icing on the cake. But it was also somewhat perplexing. Chrisney, population 481, showed the world the way to an affordable net-positive-energy building in 2009. It was among the first six net-positive-energy buildings to be certified by the New Buildings Institute @ZeroEnergyBldgs in America. It was later certified by the Living Future Institute as a net zero energy building. I expected Chrisney to have lots of company from other Indiana projects on the New Buildings Institute 2018 database, but of the 67 zero-energy-verified buildings in America since 2007, Chrisney is still the only one on the map from Indiana (the list does not include single-family residential projects). Now that I am back in the architecture business after ten years in the higher education world, I would like to change that. This is not easy, but it isn't rocket science.
Chrisney, as you can see in this photo, enjoys a wealth of social capital to support what Eric Klinenberg called "social infrastructure" in his excellent book, Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life. Chrisney citizens turn out and show up. They raised matching funds for their Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant in six weeks. The net-zero-energy concept was the key to convincing the local Lincoln Heritage Library District to approve a branch library in this small rural community in an era of tight public funding. North Spencer County School Corporation donated a lovely acre of land next to the Chrisney Elementary School outdoor learning lab and the Town of Chrisney, who had the driving vision for a library, offered to help with water and sewer bills. Over 100 citizens volunteered to help staff the library. This collaboration and the goal of net-zero-energy social infrastructure helped to elevate this project on the application pile. Keep that in mind for your next project seeking outside funding.
All the architecture team had to do was design an affordable, effective building envelope and provide enough solar photovoltaic energy to get it through the year without paying an electric bill. Hint: energy modeling helped, and you may want to keep your building and parking in the shade and place the solar panels in the sun. More cake crumbs will follow in the Part 2.