STILLWATER — Solar panels and goat herds could soon be coming to Oklahoma State University campus housing.
OSU officials are developing a housing option designed to encourage its residents to be more socially and ecologically aware. Known as an eco-village, the project will incorporate ideas about sustainable living and living in a socially integrated community.
Philippe Garmy, a clinical instructor in OSU's hotel and restaurant administration department, said he got the idea as he was sitting on the balcony of his apartment in north Stillwater, looking out over a golf course.
He said he began thinking about what would happen if all the 21st century accoutrements of an apartment complex were stripped away and replaced with features such as vegetable gardens, orchards and space to keep animals for eggs or meat. The buildings themselves would be sustainable in their use of energy and water.
After considering the idea for a while, Garmy approached Melanie Page, director of OSU's Institute for Creativity and Innovation, and Jane Talkington, project director for the institute's Wake Up and Dream initiative.
Page and Talkington agreed to help Garmy implement the idea on the condition that Garmy — a veteran of several Michelin-starred restaurants — cater their meetings.
Taking the long view
From the beginning, Page said, the project development was designed to be a long process, allowing time for as much public input as possible. The institute has held a series of public meetings to discuss the plans for the project, with more scheduled in the weeks to come.
“The three of us could have sat down and designed this in an afternoon,” she said. “But that makes it our thing.”
Garmy said the institute expects to have plans ready to submit to administrators by mid-spring. OSU Residential Life has expressed interest, he said.
Once the project is complete, the specifics of day-to-day life will largely be left up to the residents, Page said. Space will be set aside for residents to pursue any projects they choose.
So if a student moves in one year and is interested in aquaponics, he or she could start a group to pursue that interest, Page said. The next year, another student could start a group for solar technology.
Page said she'd like to see the village bring in goats for lawn care. Talkington hopes to see the village create a bed-and-breakfast where guests could live off the grid for three days or so.
Although the plans haven't been established, there's been discussion about allowing faculty members to live in the community, as well. That could reinforce the idea of having an integrated, heterogeneous community, rather than having single students segregated from married students and all students separated from faculty, Talkington said. That sense of integration could make the community a richer, more vibrant place to live, she said.
“If you provide the platform for community, it will spontaneously occur,” she said.
If you provide the platform for community, it will spontaneously occur.”
Project director for the institute's Wake Up and Dream initiative