Indiana State University Newsroom

1920s house showcased as home of Institute for Community Sustainability

November 19, 2013

Indiana State University has not only restored a nearly 100-year-old house near campus, it has turned it into a showcase for 21st century sustainability.

In fact, the home at 11th and Chestnut streets is the headquarters of the university's Institute for Community Sustainability.

"Sustainability is a big part of what we all have to be thinking about and working on as we go forward," President Dan Bradley said. "I think it's wonderful that ISU can continue to build and draw in others in its efforts that go back decades really is sustainability."

Bradley, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, and state Rep. Clyde Kersey were on hand for a ceremonial ribbon cutting and open house at the home, located on the grounds of Indiana State's community garden.

The Institute for Community Sustainability was founded in 2012 as a part of Unbounded Possibilities, a five-year, $5 million program aimed at helping the university do more to address community and societal needs. The 1920s house is intended to serve as a living example for alternative construction solutions for the community.

The Nov. 15 ribbon cutting and open house celebrated all of the hard work that was contributed to the house, said Jim Speer, executive director of the institute, who thanked all those involved with the home's reconstruction.

"A part of our connection with residents [is that] we can take homeowners walking through the house and talk about sustainable renovations that are possible in a home," Speer said.

Sustainable materials used in the house include bamboo foir floors, which grows nearly 10 times faster than oak, and locally grown hickory for cabinets, requiring less energy to transport than wood grown far away. Paint selected uses no volatile organic compounds, harmful fumes commonly found in paints.

"It's our office space for the Institute for Community Sustainability," Speer said. "We tend to have interns in there working on research projects and then we also use it as a living lab to do research there as well."

Student and faculty volunteers constructed a 40-person deck on the back of the house, which can be used as an outdoor classroom or meeting space. Other purposes for the house include cooking classes using produce grown in the community garden.

The garden may be one of the most utilized purposes for the sustainability house. Hundreds of people use the garden and enjoy doing so.

"The garden serves ... different things for different people," Ashley "Rose" Newton, student garden coordinator, and Indiana State senior said. "But generally speaking it allows for people who are here in Terre Haute, or maybe students who don't have access to grow their own food, to do so. It saves money, and it's a healthy and sustainable alternative to just buying from the grocery store."

The garden is also a means for the university and the institute to give back to the community, Newton said.

"The gardeners ... are required to donate 10 percent of their goods to food drives or shelters," she said.

Those who work with the institute hope more students will become involved with what the house has to offer to the community.

"We are two blocks off campus, so it's not usually a space that people associate with ISU," Speer said. "With the open house we hope that people become more aware of that space and start to use it more."

Photo: - Local and state officials join Indiana State University, faculty, staff, administrators, students and volunteers in cutting a ribbon Nov. 15, 2013 to ceremonially open a renovated 1920s era house on Terre Haute's Central East Side as the office of the university's Institute for Community Sustainability. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Jim Speer, executive director of Indiana State University's Institute for Community Sustainability, speaks during a ribbon cutting and open house for a renovated house that serves as the institute's office. A covered deck seen in the background can be used as an outdoor classroom at the site, which also is home to the university's Community Garden. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Contact: Caroline Savage, assistant director, Institute for Community Sustainability, Indiana State University, 812-232-8502 or

Writer: Sadie All, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or