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Organizing Fellows: Nathanael Fortune (Physics) & Ann Leone (French Studies and Landscape Studies)

We human beings have created a tricky dilemma for ourselves. We continue to draw materials from the natural environment to build and maintain the structures that we inhabit, while knowing that these materials will not last forever. We must learn to produce structures to house us that will maintain the ecological balance, but how can we produce a house that produces all the energy that it uses? Will a house that is sustainable in environmental terms also be an emotionally-sustaining, life-producing "home" for its inhabitants? What are the factors make a house into a home? Is it enough to consider homes as simple individual units, when we must live in relation to one another? Shouldn't we be able to imagine the ways that homes can be knit together into a sustainable "communities"? What should be their forms, and their size, and their relationship to nature? These are the sorts of problems that this project will consider.

These are the sorts of problems and questions that will be taken up in this year-long project. In addition to the individual research of participating Fellows, one aspect of this project will be the design and computational modeling of affordable, energy efficient, and environmentally sustainable passive/active solar homes that will be appropriate to the local climate and economy of western Massachusetts. Participating Fellows may or may not choose to work on this project-within-the-project as part of an interdisciplinary team. Either way, it is hoped that the collective expertise of all the participants can be drawn upon to identify and overcome material and design obstacles to the construction of sustainable houses, as well as to consider the social, psychological, cultural, and historical factors that make dwellings more or less comfortable, functional, emotionally enriching, and delightful for people in their communities.

The purview of the project will be broad and may range from a consideration of housing construction techniques and regional building materials, to historical changes in family structure, demographic trends, and the design and planning of communities and landscapes. In addition to bringing together participating Fellows from a range of academic disciplines at Smith College, the project will seek out the expertise of practitioners in the Smith College physical plant department and energy office, as well as those in the local community who have been active in the effort to create sustainable local economic development and affordable, energy-efficient housing.
This project will serve to advance the individual research and scholarship of the participating Fellows, while also being a catalyst for innovations in the creation, design, and construction of housing, homes, and communities.


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