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Mormon lends skills to constructing self-sustaining, eco-friendly building

Published: Thursday, June 10 2010 9:00 a.m. MDT

Bryan Hancock has found peace on a construction site.

A member of the Fairfield Branch in the Iowa City Stake, Hancock is working on a one-of-a-kind project — building the Sustainable Living Center at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa.

The campus building is designed to be off the grid and zero-energy, with heating, cooling and electricity powered totally by solar panels and an outside wind turbine. Water for the building will be supplied entirely by rainwater — filtered and stored in an underground cistern.

The first building of its kind, the Sustainable Living Center is said to surpass LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum, the highest standard in LEED, and complies with the Cascadia Living Building Challenge — two of the most rigorous certifications in ecology-friendly buildings.

Hancock, who is the only Latter-day Saint member on the crew, mentioned that he would not be able to work on Sundays. After some conversation, the crew agreed it was better not to work on Sunday because there was not good energy on the site when they did. Since then, no one has worked on the Sabbath.

Hancock says lessons from the Book of Mormon have influenced his attitude.

Having worked in plumbing, heating and cooling since 1983, not to mention other jobs installing solar panels, Hancock is not short on "know-how." But he was "told repeatedly to call engineers and ask about everything."

"Up (until) this commercial project, I had done several other projects with these materials and it was a bit of a dent in my pride to have to call the engineers on everything," he said. "After each call, I realized that the engineers for this project were correct, and indeed, it was better installation than if I had gone on my own thoughts and intuitions."

The Sustainable Living Center will serve as an office building with classrooms and workshops. The hope is that the building will be a teacher, showing students and visitors how to incorporate green techniques into their own lives.

In effort to conserve energy and resources, all materials used in construction have been made in the United States. Instead of steel beams, whole aspen trees have been used, which builders say have near equivalent strength to steel when left whole.

"It was a totally different feel when they lifted up the whole trees," Hancock said. "It felt wholesome."

Completion of the structure is planned for fall 2010.

e-mail: hloftus@desnews.com

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