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VIDEO NEWS: Building green in 48 hours

By James Daly '13, Video by Juan Yanqui R. '14
March 4, 2011

There’s a new “green” building on campus — one that has no central heating, can fit just two people comfortably, and resembles an ice house with a large window on one side.

Yet on a cloudless winter day, even with temperatures outside lingering in the single digits, the temperature inside this "T-shack" sitting on Buntrock Plaza can reach up to 90 degrees.

Designed and constructed by 16 St. Olaf students participating in a Real Architecture Workshop (RAW) sponsored by the college, the T-shack draws on thick insulation, solar energy, and recycled materials to retain warmth in an eco-friendly fashion. At the public unveiling of the shack, which is a cross between an ice house and a Japanese tea house, College Pastor Bruce Benson and Dean of Students Greg Kneser demonstrated its thermal prowess by drinking tea in their T-shirts.

Paul Neseth '83, who led the recent T-shack workshop in Dittmann Center, calls RAW the "realization of a longtime dream." He co-founded RAW Design Build last year for the purpose of "giving young architects and students critical real-life design and building skills that expand their value and impact as architects." Neseth is also a lead architect and co-founder of the award-winning, Minneapolis-based LOCUS architecture.

The St. Olaf T-shack project began on a Friday night with a crash course in green architecture principles. Students began building Saturday morning and finished Sunday evening. Along the way Neseth advised the students and imparted his extensive knowledge of carpentry and sustainable design.

Professor of Art/Art History Wendell Arneson says that the T-shack workshop is part of the St. Olaf Art Department's response to student demands to bridge the gap between liberal arts and the professional world. "It's how we articulate the teaching of design not only in the context of fine art," he explains, "but in the context of product design."

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or