Curry Caputo '95, left, is leading an energy retrofit of the COA pottery shed.Curry Caputo '95, left, is leading an energy retrofit of the COA pottery shed.Led by building scientist Curry Caputo ’95, the retrofit workshop series aims to make the pottery studio more comfortable and reduce heating fuel and electrical consumption in line with COA’s energy framework, while providing opportunities for students to engage in experiential and practical work, make mistakes, and gain familiarity with a range of tools.

“By inviting students in and doing the project as a series of workshops, we are building community ownership of the retrofit. Just having someone come in and do the work, it’s a lot Building scientist Curry Caputo ’95 is the president of Sustainable Structures.Building scientist Curry Caputo ’95 is the president of Sustainable Structures.less tangible, and students don’t get the chance to understand what’s going on,” said Spencer Gray ’17 of the Community Energy Center (CEC). “The opportunity to work with people who are highly skilled in these different fields gives students an opportunity to get information that they would never get otherwise.”

Caputo is a familiar figure on COA’s campus lately. He led an energy audit of all campus buildings, which, in turn, influenced the current energy framework. Part of the follow-up work to the audit has included installation of new mechanical climate controls for several buildings, and a heat pump system for Thorndike Library. Early stats indicate that these steps have significantly lowered energy use and fossil fuel dependency.

The scope of work for the studio retrofit made it a great candidate for doing in house and involving students, Gray said. Other retrofits are being scheduled for future terms, and should continue to provide opportunities for students to build their practical skill sets and energy acumen.

“Looking at systems in the building and then going back to class and talking about heating and energy systems allows students a whole new way of looking at things,” Gray said. “If you haven’t seen how those pieces fit together, it’s much more difficult to understand the concepts and designs you are studying.”

The Pottery Studio retrofit includes the removal of old fiberglass and foam insulation, installation of dense-pack cellulose in the walls and loose fill in the attic, a new electric heat pump system capable of heating and cooling, and a ventilation system—made necessary by how much tighter the building will be, Gray said.

The COA pottery studio, where beginning and intermediate ceramics take place.The COA pottery studio, where beginning and intermediate ceramics take place.

This work moves the building off of fossil fuels onto a system that we can use alternative sources of energy for,” he said. “It’s our energy framework in action, and it’s what we are here for.”

COA’s energy framework, adopted in early 2017, aims to create a fossil-fuel-free campus by 2030. Central components of the energy plan include classes and project-based learning where students can practice the interdisciplinary skills needed to promote responsible energy use. Thus, students are to be involved in designing, constructing, maintaining, and monitoring all necessary changes on COA’s campus, islands, and farms.

The energy retrofit of COA's pottery studio will put the building in line with the College's Energy Framework, which calls for a fossil-fuel-free campus by 2030.The energy retrofit of COA's pottery studio will put the building in line with the College's Energy Framework, which calls for a fossil-fuel-free campus by 2030.The CEC offers continuity and support to a variety of energy initiatives, both on and off campus, so that they may be replicated and scaled in communities across the state. Through hands-on projects, data collection, and educational outreach, the CEC aims to be a resource for homeowners, businesses, municipalities, and nonprofits. The goal is to empower these entities to rethink their energy consumption and generation in ways that offer economic prosperity and create resilient communities. To that end, the CEC explores and implements innovative, renewable energy projects that increase public participation, utilize novel forms of financing, and optimize local governance to establish successful community sustainability initiatives.