Soaking Up Solar

This week we fired up the new solar panels for the first time. Under the clear February sun, electrons jumped right into action, creating almost 40 kW of electricity for the new Margaret A. Cargill Lodge. This is a big step toward our goal to make the MAC Lodge net-positive for energy, and towards meeting the Living Building Challenge requirement that all electricity in the dorm be made from renewable energy. Flipping a switch to turn on the solar was a simple move; behind that action is a trail of decisions and lots of planning. Each new solar installation presents unique challenges to consider. How much power is needed? Where will the panels be located so they can gather the most energy? What path will the created electricity follow as it travels from the panels to, for example, the light in the dining room? What system design and components are most efficient? Which will have the smallest impact on ecosystems? Here in northern Minnesota, studies show that reliable renewable power systems incorporate a variety of strategies. The best plans begin by examining ways to reduce the demand for electricity. A smaller system will cost less right off the bat. In the case of MAC Lodge, architects incorporated daylighting through window locations with the strategic placement of solar light tubes to bring sunlight into the interior hallways and larger group spaces. When purchasing appliances like washers, driers, and refrigerators, we chose those with the best energy ratings. Next, we made the decision to enlist the help of every student living in [...]

Vendor Spotlight: Lloyd’s Construction Services

Taking a Ship Out of the Bottle When most people hear the word “demolition”, images of sledgehammers and front loaders are usually what come to mind. The abundance and popularity of home renovation television shows has made this phase of remodeling appear almost fun and fairly straightforward. However, in the case of a Living Building Challenge (LBC) where recycling and reusing existing materials is as important as the building materials selected, demolition quickly becomes thoughtful, meticulous deconstruction. In the case of Lloyd’s Construction Services, a third generation Minnesota company, this challenge is exactly what they had been preparing for over their 35-year history. John Lloyd founded the business with his father when he was only 17 years old and with nothing but $500 in savings and a 1952 GMC truck. Lloyd has described the demolition side of his business as “taking a ship out of the bottle”. Much of their business has always focused on salvage, reuse and recycling, but never have these words been more applicable than during the careful deconstruction of the old West Dorm for the renovation into the new Margaret A. Cargill (MAC) Lodge at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. An ambitious 17 year old and his 52 GMC truck Before approaching Lloyd’s Construction Services, Pete Smerud (executive director of Wolf Ridge ELC) had already been told by three contractors that the LBC requirements of his renovation plans couldn’t be met. In a Living Building Challenge when demolition and renovation of an existing structure is a part of the project, the burden placed on the demolition [...]

That’s a Wrap! Prosoco Products: Doing it Differently

Doing it differently: Prosoco products as an example of contractors using products and techniques they've never used before Working to LBC standards has raised the bar for the Margaret A. Cargill Lodge builder teams. They have stepped up and jumped over that bar every time. The use of new, unfamiliar products is one example. The envelope of a building is absolutely critical to its energy performance. A commonplace technique is to use adhesive-backed rubber tapes and foams to seal the gaps between the window and the exterior wall, yet adhesive, tape, and foam products often contain toxic chemicals, as well as result in cut off waste. At the MAC Lodge all window and exterior doors were sealed with LBC Declare labeled Prosoco products. This thick, liquid-applied product is painted on, filling even the tiniest gaps. It dries to become the flashing, the seal to the window, and the seal to the house wrap combined. Another benefit is that Prosoco's R-Guard is breathable, helping to reduce moisture related problems in the future. Donate to Wolf Ridge Today! This was brand new technology for the contractors. They have found it a great product for accomplishing a very tight envelope - one that they will likely promote the use of on future jobs. Once again, the Living Building process has challenged us to explore alternatives to the norm in our construction plans. Openness to change is helping us choose less toxic, better performing products for the Margaret A. Cargill Lodge, and growing the scope of alternatives for the building trades in our region. Tweet!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, [...]


I’ve often thought of the West Dorm as a “home away from home.” School kids move in on Mondays ready to make the place their own. They haul their sleeping bags and clothes off the bus and up into their rooms, thrilled to be on this grand adventure north. Summer campers gather around the fireplace to play board games as they wait for darkness to settle in and stars to come out. In fall’s morning glow, eagles and ravens soar by the great room windows. A parent-chaperone relaxes on the window seat reading a novel during a mid-winter afternoon break. The West Dorm is a place with heart – the kind of place memories are built. Even so, I and others up here are excited to see the old interior walls coming down, making space for the new. Betsey imagines the cozy sitting areas that will allow smaller schools to have private gathering places. Teachers look forward to the ease of grouping students into new rooms with in-room bathrooms and showers, similar to the current East Dorm rooms. The new spaces will be perfect for making lifelong friendships during Summer Family Camp. And through it all, that iconic fireplace will still be there. As you look at these photos, I invite you  to imagine this coming winter with me: Kids will still get off the bus in a rush to see their home away from home. The fireplace will still be a central gathering spot. The sun will pour in through the windows on an expanded great room…. There will [...]