Thursday 12 March 2015

Energy-Efficient Homes: Past, Present and Future

Some of Saskatchewan’s early pioneers built sod houses. Later, they had the luxury of ordering a house from the Eaton’s catalogue. Unfortunately, neither of these homes was very good at keeping the cold out and the heat in.

Nowadays, builders have many more options, from solar panels and insulation to low-flow shower heads and energy-efficient appliances. The Smarter Science Better Buildings program provides students in grade 7 with a chance to test their knowledge and compare some of the different features. 

The program is offered by the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and the Western Development Museum and provides an interesting perspective on housing: past, present, and future.

Classes toured the Vereco Home when it was on display at the Western Development Museum and the partners agreed that it would be worthwhile to build on the interest that had been displayed by developing a more long-lasting program.

Museum volunteers constructed six hands-on display units. Students can compare the solar energy produced on a sunny versus a cloudy day. They can examine the energy used to create and transport various building materials and measure the power consumed by various types of light bulbs.

Once they’ve visited all the workstations, the students tour the related museum exhibits. There’s a McLaughlin motor car powered by straw gas (it wasn’t very successful) as well as the prototype for an electric vehicle now being used by the mining industry. There’s a log cabin, a sod house, and an Eaton’s catalogue home as well as a display of early electrical appliances.

The exhibit has been in operation now for three years and attendance is up from 300 last year to 475 this year. Scott Whiting, Education-Public Programs Coordinator for the Western Development Museum, says it fits a nice niche in the city. “There aren’t many field trip opportunities in the sciences with a specific curriculum link,” he explains.

The work stations fold up into sturdy wooden boxes for transportation to other cities. The program is now running at all four Western Development Museum locations (Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Yorkton, and North Battleford) and there are plans to further expand its reach to other centres.

Program information, teacher resources, and student packages for the Smarter Science Better Buildings program are available on the Western Development Museum’s website. The program is just one of the educational programs offered by the Saskatchewan Environmental Society. They are all described on the Society’s website.

Note: Smarter Science Better Buildings received a $2,000 EcoFriendly Action Grant