Organisation - December 9, 2009

University shows visitors the way underground

Wageningen UR may be housing visitors and students underground. Literally. Students and staff are engaged in drawing up plans for building sustainable earth berm semi-underground dwellings.

The idea reared its head during a workshop on 'The Sustainable Campus', and was one of the two winning entries. Participants submitted designs on how the campus would look like in 2030. A student team led by Maxim Amosov came up with the 'Organic Village', which features underground dwellings in mounds. These enormous amounts of earth will be created during the construction of Orion, the new education building on campus.
'Organic fun'
The underground dwellings are intended for students and visitors of Wageningen UR and would serve as showcases of sustainable technologies and research in which Wageningen is good in. The idea is given more form by being linked to the other prize winning idea 'Biofun'. This working title will entail incorporating into the plan as many sustainable technologies as possible on the campus. These include the use of green roofs and facades, solar panels and energy from plants. 'Not forgetting the use of rain water to flush toilets, and separating waste water into grey and black', says spokesperson Marjolein Helder. 'Greywater can be purified using helophyte filters. Blackwater can be used for anaerobic fermentation, which produces organic gas and digestate which can be used as manure.'
Sheep
'Biofun' aims to close the gaps in cycles and re-use and upgrade waste substances. 'But it also involves planting more trees on the campus. These provide shadow and lessen the urban-heat-island effect'. A sustainable campus is also a liveable campus, says Helder. She therefore pleads for the return of the flocks of sheep which roamed the campus in the summer as a form of alternative grazing management. 
Both teams (three students and three staff members) receive a total of five thousand euros to produce a more detailed version of the plan, which should show clearly if such a sustainable village is feasible.
 

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