By Jenn Watt
Since its inception in 2009 Abbey Gardens has been growing and its produce includes more than just veggies. Each year the sustainable living centre adds something new fostering businesses and expanding its programming.
This summer the newest outcropping will be well underway in the form of an off-grid alternative energy presentation centre built by Fleming College students and housing local business Haliburton Solar and Wind.
Fleming College’s sustainable building design and construction program takes on a project each year putting up a functional structure during the course of the summer semester.
Students receive hands-on experience using building techniques such as straw bale and rammed earth construction and traditional timber framing while the landowner pays for materials and permits.
Ted Brandon training officer with the college says Abbey Gardens’ proposal was an ideological fit with the program as the site will not only be built with sustainable methods but will include a demonstration of alternative energy.
“It’s really exciting because oftentimes our clients want the sustainable building stuff but because of cost they’re not able to do as much with alternative energy as we would like” Brandon says.
Haliburton Solar and Wind will be investing some $50000 or more in the building’s power system. The company will be based in the new building which will also be open to the public for tours and demonstrations.
“We’ve been looking for the last year for a home [for the business] and part of the metrics around that was a location we could put in our own demonstration centre that would include our GridZero system which was our award-winning system that we won in 2015 with a combination of wind and solar and a GridZero Outback radiance system” says HSW president and CEO Brian Nash.
The building will be about 1200 square feet and located up the road from the Food Hub behind where the ponies are kept.
Abbey Gardens operations director Heather Reid says the new structure is part of the long-term plan for the organization.
“One of the things we’ve been working on since the brewery located here is the idea of incubation support for other small businesses” Reid says. Aside from renting space to Haliburton Highlands Brewery Abbey Gardens also provides space to Into the Blue Bakery and County Coffee.
“One of the areas we’re trying to promote is sustainable energy” Reid says. “The fit with Haliburton Solar and Wind really provides some interesting connections from that point of view and from an educational point of view as well. Having a demonstration type of building that also houses a business is a neat connection.”
Fleming College Haliburton campus’s sustainable building design and construction program still has some openings for students. Students get real-world experience putting lessons into practice – this year in building the alternative energy presentation centre at Abbey Gardens. Students must be high school graduates but no prior construction experience is needed. Classes start April 18. Contact Fleming College at 705-457-1680 for more.