Campus News

UB’s GRoW Home moves to North Campus to become clean energy center

Aerial view of the GRoW Home being moved into its place at the Solar Strand by a large crane.

The GRoW Home was moved from the South Campus to a site at the Solar Strand along Flint Road near Maple Road on the North Campus.  

Gallery photos: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

By DAVID J. HILL

Published September 2, 2020

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“It’s both exciting and important that projects like this have a life beyond the design studio or classroom. And what a life! ”
Martha Bohm, associate professor
Department of Architecture

UB’s national award-winning GRoW Home has changed addresses once again, and this time it’s permanent. The 1,100-square-foot solar structure has relocated next to the Solar Strand near the Flint Road entrance to the North Campus, where it will serve as a clean energy center for the campus and the public.

“As a project that has brought together hundreds of students, faculty and staff from across the university over the years, the GRoW Home is a tangible example of the unique hands-on learning opportunities with real-world impact that UB offers,” says A. Scott Weber, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“The move to the North Campus will showcase the work of our students, faculty and staff, as well as UB’s strong commitment to and leadership in renewable energy and climate action,” Weber adds.

The GRoW Home placed second overall in the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored Solar Decathlon in southern California in 2015. Funding from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority’s REV Campus Challenge program paved the way for the structure to be permanently installed on the North Campus and exhibited for the past 18 months behind Hayes Hall on the South Campus. Hayes is home to the School of Architecture and Planning, whose students and faculty played a lead role in the home’s design.

“The story of the GRoW Home reaches back more than seven years and has been shaped by more than 400 students from across UB who have taken it from concept and construction, to exhibition on the international stage and, finally, to its siting on UB’s North Campus,” says Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

Permanently siting the GRoW Home within internationally renowned landscape architect Walter Hood’s 750 kW Solar Strand on the North Campus will serve to leverage the university’s commitment to solar energy and highlight UB’s ability to successfully generate solar power, as well as establish 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 Home’s new location at the entrance to our North Campus reinforces the university’s commitment to achieve climate neutrality and the work our campus is engaged in with advancing UB’s 10-in-10 strategy,” says Laura Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration.

Crews from Ledge Creek Development worked over the summer to prepare the foundation where the GRoW Home will be placed on the North Campus. It will now be known as the GRoW Clean Energy Center. Among the biggest changes to take place is an interior transformation that will shift the building from a single-family dwelling to a clean energy center. Once the transformation is completed and the building is open, it will be staffed and accessible to visitors by appointment.

It will also serve as a field classroom, as well as meeting and reception space for students and community members. Other uses include:

  • Gathering and orientation space for K-12 clean energy tours in collaboration with the UB Solar Strand.
  • Housing exhibits and learning opportunities related to renewable energy and the structure’s original design.
  • Meeting space for Western New York clean energy and sustainability organizations.
  • Hosting small class seminars and student sustainability club activities.
  • Showcasing the expansive sustainability work being conducted across the university.

Technological enhancements will include interactive displays, solar energy generation, ultra-building efficiency and more.

Its new, final siting will also pay homage to the journey that has taken the GRoW Home from Buffalo to California and back, while making a strong statement about the future of clean energy at a major entrance to campus.

“It’s both exciting and important that projects like this have a life beyond the design studio or classroom. And what a life!” says Martha Bohm, associate professor in the Department of Architecture, who, along with fellow associate professor Nicholas Rajkovich, played a key role in the project’s formative years.

“This building has traversed the entire country, and will now stand sentry at a UB campus entrance. Not only this, but students who worked on this project have been out in the working world for five years, bringing their collaborative creativity and energy savviness to design professions in need of innovative thinking,” Bohm adds.

Bohm led a studio in fall 2017 in which seven graduate students spent the semester developing a vision for the siting of the GRoW Home on the North Campus. Over the years, students and faculty from the School of Architecture and Planning and several other schools and departments across campus have contributed significantly to the GRoW Home, as has the support of individual donors and organizations.

All of these partnerships over the years have paved the way for the GRoW Home’s next chapter, one that will help UB tell the story of the future of clean energy.

“The complement of a zero-energy solar home and solar array as land-art installation demonstrates what is possible when we work together toward new possibilities for beauty, ingenuity and resiliency in climate-responsible design,” Shibley says.