Evergreen State College interns focus on sustainability

Over the course of Spring quarter, two interns from the Evergreen State College, Melissa Rasmussen and Aaron Sauerhoff, met weekly with our Executive Director, Sean McGrady. They looked at the sustainability metrics of Quixote Village, how best to improve them, and how to design and build future villages to be even more socially and environmentally sustainable.

Aaron’s specialty is ecological building and construction. He ran a blower door test of the tiny house cottages and the community building to see their airtightness and airflow. Aaron discovered the buildings could use some help with ventilation and wasted heat. He is recommending future villages be built to PassivHaus standards, which require a sealed air envelope around the building with careful ventilation and attention to recapturing heat, which provides a healthier home environment and significant cost savings (80% over utilities costs in a conventionally built structure). Implementing this change could save Panza tens of thousands of dollars per year in operating costs at the Orting Veterans Village. For future villages beyond that, improving the design to include solar power, natural construction materials, energy systems integration, and a more social and efficient village layout, could improve outcomes and reduce costs even further, and make Quixote’s model one that can be proudly shared and replicated as a model for sustainability.

Over the summer, Aaron will be coordinating a Design Challenge for Quixote’s third community within a program at the Evergreen State College. Serving as Teacher’s Assistant (TA) to the Sustainability Director, Scott Morgan, Aaron will be in a position to further his work with Quixote Village while providing a real-world opportunity for students at Evergreen to engage in service to a community issue in a tangible way. A student at Evergreen himself, Aaron plans to graduate next year with a degree in Ecological Building and Community Development.

Melissa specializes in system design and ecological thinking, and has worked with the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Evergreen State College. She turned her attention toward assessing the landscaping challenges at Quixote, which range from shade issues, increased heat in the summer, and little sanctuary for individuals outside of their cottage homes.. Melissa brought in several classmates from Evergreen to make specific recommendations for shade and permaculture tree plantings, fixes to the lighting system to improve residents’ safety and sleep, and a gazebo to provide social relief and make good on what was originally planned. With these in place, she recommends incorporating these improvements into the design of future villages, and adding features such as a greenhouse attached to the community building to provide cooling, fresh air, delicious food, and a lovely place to sit all year round, saving food and heating costs and providing valuable opportunities for meaningful work and personal respite for the residents.

Over the summer, Melissa will be working to formalize the team’s recommendations into a report, and to launch and run a crowdfunding campaignto provide Quixote with the funds necessary to invest in these improvements. She will also be continuing her studies at Evergreen in a context that allows her to continue her efforts in sustainable infrastructure development in Olympia and West Africa. She hopes to bring the evolved Quixote model to communities across the Northwest and beyond, providing the means for dignified, sustainable lives for all people everywhere – homeless, veterans, post-incarcerated, young families, youth, and seniors first. Melissa aims to graduate in 2019 with a degree in Ecological Design and Community Development.

The two have made friends with several Quixote residents, including Tony, Bruce, and Brad, who showed himself very keen on the design of the gazebo. The pair attended community dinners and asked for comments and feedback from the residents, in order to make sure their solutions were aimed appropriately to address specific needs in the community. (Lighting, for instance, turned out to be a big one – several residents hang multiple layers of curtain to block the light from the miniature streetlight along their sheltered paths – there are ways to fix this!) Aaron and Melissa are both exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to work with Sean, Jaycie, Jill, and all the residents of Quixote Village, and hope to continue their work in support of the mission of Quixote Communities for a long time to come.

Blog entry written by Melissa Rasmussen – Quixote Village spring quarter intern