GRoW Home

Creating a Clean Energy Community Center

The spring 2018 semester laid the groundwork to achieve one of Localizing Buffalo’s Renewable Energy Future three main objectives: to establish the Clean Energy Center on UB’s campus as an exemplary model of a solar powered community space by permanently installing the GRoW Home to serve as the base of operations for our Localizing initiative. Permanently siting the GRoW Home, within internationally renowned landscape architect, Walter Hood’s 750 kW Solar Strand on UB’s North Campus will serve to leverage the region’s commitment to solar energy and highlight our ability to successfully generate solar power as well as creating a multi-faceted space that invites the community in thereby creating one of the most publicly accessible renewable energy landscapes in the country.

The GRoW (Garden, Relax, or Work) Home was the University at Buffalo’s groundbreaking and innovative submission to the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2015 Solar Decathalon . The DOE Decathlon is an international competition held every two years where the top collegiate teams are invited from around the world to design, build, operate, and market an ultra-efficient clean energy home. The competition challenges teams to develop a sustainable project that performs well in 10 individual contests, ranging from Architecture and Engineering excellence, to Market Potential and Energy Performance.  UB’s 2015 team was comprised of over 200 students, faculty from 13 different departments across 5 separate schools, and from 2 universities who came together to develop a comprehensive proposal to represent Buffalo on an international stage. Through this extremely rare opportunity, the students are able to work in a highly collaborative and vastly interdisciplinary fashion to gain real world experience through a common objective, all before graduating. In this manner, the GRoW home served as an ideal model to bridge the gap between research-based academia and practice-based industry and demonstrate low-energy living to the campus and greater community.

Through the funding received from REV and other sources, the GRoW Home will be permanently housed on UB's North Campus leveraging the award winning Solar Strand.  However, prior to its permanent placement on UB’s North Campus, the GRoW Home has been installed on UB’s South Campus in exhibition mode for the 2018-19 academic year.  The 1,100-square-foot structure is sited behind Hayes Hall, the home to UB’s School of Architecture and Planning.  During its tenure on UB’s South Campus the GRoW home will provide classroom and small event space.  It will become a student engagement space for direct or curricular and experiential learning activities related to clean energy. It will also be used for a meeting space for sustainability oriented groups on campus, as well as local non-profits focused on clean energy.  Continuing the educational dimension of the GRoW Home, the house will also be opened to K-12 schools, as well as college students outside UB, professional organizations, and community groups for tours and events.

The GRoW will be relocated to its permanent location on UB North Campus Solar Strand during the spring and summer of 2019.  This process will include:

  • The move itself some three miles away which must include deconstruction, mobility and then reconstruction
  • Adaptation from a single family dwelling to a student and community clean energy center staffed  to facilitate full building functionality
  • Static and dynamic interpretative exhibits and signage highlighting clean energy principles and processes
  • Technological enhancements (i.e. solar charging capability, battery storage)
  • Site-appropriate sustainable landscaping to drive student and community engagement

Activities or improvements to be made

  • Permanent Site Selection 
    • In January of 2018, a graduate level architecture studio led by assistant professor, Martha Bohm explored options for siting the GRoW Home at UB’s Solar Strand.  Students reviewed the UB Master Plan, world renowned Walter Hood’s Master Plan for the UB Solar Strand, UB’s REV initiative and the vision of the GRoW Home to explore potential locations.  At the conclusion of the studio the best aspects of individual plans were woven into one comprehensive plan.  Based upon this decision, work to identify utilities commenced.   
  • Utility Discovery 
    • During the Spring 2018 semester two graduate level architecture students worked within UB’s Planning & Design office toresearch sanitation options, including the ability to install composting toilets at the GRoW Home; “islanding” the GRoW home to operate off the grid and worked with university architects and engineers to explore costs, code requirements and maintenance concerns associated with different options. 
  • Mobility Options: Visiting the GRoW Home  
    • ADA accessibility was explored in conjunction with the GRoW home site. Issues researched included need for handicap parking; bus shelter location; accessibility to campus bike share; and safe pedestrian crossing. 
  • Foundation Requirements  
    • Ensuring the GRoW home is sufficiently winterized required making adjustments to the foundation plan at the site.  Ultimately, the finish height of the foundation impacts handicap access and the ramp length required to meet the ADA.   
  • Research into Education and Engagement at the GRoW Home
    • A graduate student within Architecture & Planning identified other operational Solar Decathlon homes across the country, and conducted interviews with the institutions where they are permanently installed in an attempt to learn more about their use, outreach plans and ability to successfully communicate the unique nature of the buildings’ design.    
    • An engineering student researched educational and engagement opportunities to ensure that once sited, the GRoW home will be a living example of what sustainable buildings and sites should look like.   
  • LEED and the GRoW Home
    • Once permanently sited, the GRoW Home will most likely be filed under LEED’s Building Design and Construction (BD+C).  Extensive research was conducted to determine if it would be possible to attain Platinum certification (which would be UB’s first building to achieve such status).  Energy modeling for the home is currently being conducted by a student within UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  The LEED research and energy modeling work is in progress and will be included in the final report.
GRoW Back.
Grow home being built.