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Green Buildings – the Science and Practice
ENSC 285 Three (3) credits
Instructor: Marc Companion
Course dates: Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 7:00pm – 8:15pm
Location: 110 Jeffords Hall
This course is an in-depth introduction to green buildings, the science behind their various
systems, how these systems are built, and how green buildings fit into the larger landscape.
Buildings in the US have a tremendous impact on resources, accounting for 36% of the total US
energy use, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, 30% of raw material use, and 12% of water
consumption (US EPA). In response, there is a rapidly growing industry nationwide to make
buildings more efficient, healthier and comfortable, while also reducing the impact on their
What makes a building “green” and how do we create such spaces? What can we learn from the
methods and materials of the past to make the high-performance buildings of today? This course
will explore the theory and practice of how green buildings are designed and built. By treating a
building as a system in relation to the larger systems around it, we’ll look at the fundamentals of
building science: from how a building is constructed, to how energy, water and materials move
through the structure, to the techniques for making a building energy efficient and resource-
Some of the topics to be covered include: green building standards and other metrics of
performance, thermally-efficient construction methods, passive solar design, indoor air quality
and climate control, ecological design and biomimicry in the built environment, rainwater
harvesting, green roofs, ecomachines and environmentally-friendly landscaping.
The ecological design aspect of the course will explore the fundamentals of how to design living
technologies within and around a structure, including: ecological greywater and wastewater
treatment systems, living walls, stormwater purification, habitat restoration and partnering with
engineered ecosystems to repair damaged environments.
The course will use a combination of lectures (including guest lecturers), group discussions, field
trips and a design project. The Aiken Center and other energy efficient buildings in the area will
be visited and studied.
Course Requirements and Grading
Homework assignments 20%
Design project 30%
Many lecture topics will include background readings, videos and other content that are
to be perused by you prior to a lecture. The specifics will be posted on Blackboard and it
is expected that you will have covered the material prior to coming to class.
There will be one design project that each student will complete individually, or
multiple students can conduct as a design team. The topic of the design project will be
based on the interest of the student(s) with guidance and approval from the instructor.
There will be four homework assignments, some of which will be based on the design
project to ensure that each of you is making progress on the project. Homework
assignments will be discussed in class and posted on blackboard. They will be graded on
a percentage basis (100% maximum score).
There will be four or five quizzes throughout the semester, each comprised of a few
questions and taking about twenty minutes to complete. The purpose of each quiz is to
gauge how well you understand key concepts pertaining to the course content. You will
be notified in advance of a quiz so that you have time to prepare. Quizzes will be graded
on a scale of 100 (a percent system) and each will be weighted equally.
There is no text for this course, however numerous readings from articles, journals, text
books and other sources will be provided electronically through Blackboard.
First day of class: Tuesday, August 26. Last day of class: Tuesday, December 2
A Field Trip: There will be at least one field trip to be held on a day agreed upon by the
The following is a summary of the content that was covered in previous versions of this course.
A class schedule for the current semester will be developed with input from students to ensure
your learning objectives are addressed.
Intro, housekeeping, student interests, field trips, etc.
Thinking outside the box, Eco-Cities, Buckminster Fuller & Design Revolution
Bio/ecomimicry and an intro to Ecological Design
Discuss readings. Lecture on the Anatomy of a Building – Part One
The Anatomy of a Building - Part Two.
Life Cycle and embodied energy
Exploring a building and its materials from “cradle to cradle”
Heat transfer in buildings
Moisture in buildings
The building’s thermal and pressure envelopes. Air sealing & insulation
Field work: blower door test of an existing building or home
Passive solar design principles
Energy efficiency considerations for the renovation of historic buildings and home
FIELD TRIP: To be determined
The practice of green buildings. Integrated design, UVM methods & case studies
Performance standards (LEED, PassivHaus, Living Building Challenge, etc.)
Indoor air quality, including the indoor microbial biome, lead-based paint and vermiculite
Resources & info: RBES, Efficiency Vermont, Energy Star, EFI & Real Goods green
products, Green Building Advisor
The design of ecological systems and living technologies
Natural building techniques (strawbale, COB, adobe, etc.)
The design of greywater and wastewater systems. Water reuse
Green roofs, living walls, biologically-diverse landscape systems, habitat restoration and
"Doing it on the cheap" (COB, Tiny House, shipping containers). Off the grid strategies
(rainwater harvesting, etc). Day-to-day practices
Last day of class: systems integration - pulling it all together
The instructor reserves the right to make necessary changes and additions to this syllabus and to
the Course Outline throughout the semester.
About the Instructor
Marc Companion works at the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board in Montpelier
managing programs to improve the housing stock in Vermont. He holds a Bachelors
degree in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Natural Resources Planning from UVM’s
Rubenstein School. Marc was John Todd’s first teaching assistant at UVM for the course
“Ecological Design” and worked at Dr. Todd’s non-profit, Ocean Arks, for five years.
He is a certified Building Analyst and has worked in various capacities improving the
thermal efficiency of buildings. Marc also worked for 6-1/2 years in Africa managing
environmental and forest conservation programs, and construction projects for improving
water & sanitation infrastructure.