Emporia contacts: Bill Hanlon

Submitted by Ben on Fri, 09/05/2008 - 09:28

My green networking here in Emporia, KS took a big stride forward yesterday when I had lunch with Bill Hanlon, author of Outside the Box.

His story is similar to mine, in that he spent a year hitchhiking around the country and wound up in Emporia (though he says he spends most of his free time in Lawrence and advised me to do the same).  That was 35 years ago.  For 17 years he's been a building instructor at Flint Hills Technical College, one of the few building programs where the students do every phase of the building themselves. 

He got fed up with building houses the same old way, so he started looking at innovative ways to make the foundation, walls, etc. more efficient, and the result was a 60% or greater reduction of heating costs -- he says the actual benefit is hard to measure because the houses wound up being different shapes and sizes. 

He had trouble getting institutions like Habitat and FEMA to take his innovations seriously until John Deere hired him to review the plans for their new plant in Greensburg (the town that was destroyed by a tornado and decided to rebuild "green" -- see the video) and he took it from a design that "my students couldn't have done worse if they tried" to a LEED Gold certification.  Now the local Habitat affiliate has joined the tech students in building according to his guidelines.  He emphasizes that he is a builder, not an architect, but he praises the LEED guidelines for helping builders and architects get on the same page.

This is "green building," not "natural building," more similar to the kinds of houses at Abundance Ecovillage or Cypress Villages than to Lonnie's strawbale house.  He's interested in learning more about natural building, and in reducing energy consumption even farther.  So I hope if Lonnie or Martha make it down this way, they'll stop in and meet him!  I lent him the binder of materials from Lonnie's solar-energy class that I audited 2 years ago.

He asked how I'd like to get involved.  I said right now my main need is to get more connected in Emporia.  I said if he'd like to start a sort of support group, under the auspices of the technical college, for homeowners who want to make their houses more green, I could organize it.  We'll see where that goes!

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