03/07/17

Ohio State and New Albany Schools Continue Plans for Solar House Partnership

This fall, a solar house built by Ohio State students will function as an interactive laboratory for New Albany-Plain Local Schools. Once reassembled and operating on a permanent foundation, the building will provide project-based learning opportunities, showcase the achievability of clean renewable energy, and inspire youth to think more responsibly about the environment.

Ohio State students designed and constructed the solar house for the 2009 International Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. After the competition in Washington, D.C., Ohio State loaned the house to the Columbus Zoo for a year and a half and then donated it to New Albany-Plain Local Schools to enhance research, teaching and community outreach on green home technology.

Members of the community describe the solar house, now called the Easton-OSU Energy-Engineering & Environmental Lab, as a transformational project for New Albany Schools and the surrounding area. Students will gain hands on experience with green technology by helping transform the house into a science, technology, engineering and math learning center.

Students of the Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools, the Columbus State Community College, Ohio State, and eventually other central Ohio school districts, will have opportunities to use the facility.

The New Albany schools will reassemble, reconstruct and upgrade the sustainable technologies in the house by modeling enCORE, the house Ohio State students designed and built for the 2011 Solar Decathlon. Ohio State now uses enCORE to demonstrate sustainable architecture and renewable energy to its students and the community.

Mark Walters, a former Ohio State professor who advised the solar decathlon teams, said New Albany schools’ environmental consultant Bill Resch and Meera Parthasarathy, a local green building architect, approached him with a vision to place the house at the entrance of New Albany’s existing Wetland-Woodland Nature Preserve (photo: above).

New Albany High School’s environmental science program ranks among the top three in the United States and first in Ohio, Resch says. Ohio State, Columbus State Community College and 16 high schools within the Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools use the wetland site for research and education.

“If not for Ohio State, our school district would not have an 85-acre woodland wetland nature preserve within the historic village center of New Albany,” Resch says. The preserve, inspired by Emeritus Professor Bill Mitsch, former director of Ohio State’s Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, was a stepping stone to obtaining the solar house, allowing the community to nurture its environmental stewardship and outreach.

For the Easton-OSU Energy-Engineering & Environmental Lab, more than $150,000 was raised between the New Albany Community Foundation and the collaboration of Ohio State staff. In addition, the Ohio Department of Education awarded a $262,808 Straight-A Innovation grant to the New Albany-Plain Local School District to support the district’s energy, engineering and environmental curriculum.

Lingying Zhao, faculty director of Ohio State’s enCORE house, considers the New Albany schools as a key partner in educating the public of central Ohio and providing learning opportunities for New Albany and Ohio State students interested in green technology. Zhao, a professor of food, agricultural and biological engineering, received a two-year, $45,000 engagement grant from the university’s Office of Outreach and Engagement in 2015. This grant established an OSU Green Home Technology Center for advancing environmental education for students and the public. Ohio State’s Office of Energy and Environment provided $15,000 to support the outreach and education efforts.

Solar New Albany, a community organization supporting environmental education

Ohio School Boards Association Journal, story about the partnership, October 2016 edition, see page 37

Ohio State’s Solar House

Written by Natalie Michalski, Communications Assistant