Earth House Living Learning Community

2016-2017 Earth House Residents

Submit your application to live in Earth House here.

Interested in meeting the current residents, RA, and instructors? Join us at an Open House for prospective student residents on Monday January, 30th, 4:30-6:30pm at 7 Buswell St.

In Fall 2016, 19 undergraduates embarked on a first-of-its-kind experience at Boston University. In an historic rowhouse on South Campus, the residents at 7 Buswell Street became the first BU students to officially register in a Living Learning Community, which integrates curriculum with student life and housing. In the first BU Living Learning Community, Earth House, the very act of day-to-day living is the focus of inquiry and the physical Earth House facility is the shared focal object of examination.  All of the things that students and teachers normally think of as being means to an end of education – eating, commuting, showering – are inverted and transformed in Earth House to become primary topics of inquiry. As mundane as these daily activities may seem, they are actually the basis for the survival of our civilization and define our relationship with our fellow humans and our planet. There is deep philosophy in and practical consequences of how and when we do our laundry! We want to share here some of the highlights at the half-way point in our 2016-17 Earth House journey.

With support of an instructional staff from sustainability@BU, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Engineering, students formed small teams to pitch ideas for how to advance the sustainability of Earth House – from its physical systems and structure to the practices and protocols for using its water, energy and waste systems. From counting light bulb wattage to measuring showerhead water flow rates, project-based, student-led learning units were part of an eight-credit, two-year sustainability curriculum that builds student knowledge by transforming a house, and the practice of living in it, from the ground up.

Earth House Field Trip

Earth House students utilized several resources in developing their pitches. They scoured the literature and the internet to find examples of sustainable practices, philosophies and habitats, from a 1970’s vintage San Francisco experiment in sustainable housing to transportation sustainability as envisioned and enacted by Boston’s Bikes Not Bombs.  They supplemented readings by taking part in field trips and hands-on learning activities, from taking a guided tour of the Kern Center, one of the Commonwealth’s first Living Buildings at Hampshire college – a net-zero energy, water and waste facility; to hiking with the forest ecosystem manager in the Quabbin Reservoir watershed  which provides the drinking water for Earth House (and 2.2 million other Boston area residents); to hiking to and exploring the oldest weather observatory at the Blues Hills Reservation, to sleuthing heat-leaking air gaps in Earth House insulation during a Blower Door  test conducted at Earth House by the Cambridge Non-Profit Home Energy Efficiency Team.

IMG_4902Chalkboard Project List



The term culminated in a charette in which
 residents reviewed, refined, consolidated and prioritized their pitches, which have become our collective projects for implementation during Spring 2017. From designing a crucial bike connector link between South Campus to the Charles River Campus, to driving down energy use by air drying laundry instead of machine drying it, Earth House students are learning everything from how to estimate the carbon savings of these actions, to how to work with and across university and municipal officials, to how to calculate and defend an economic return-on-investment scenario. Ultimately these are critical tools Earth House residents are assembling in a toolkit to affect constructive change both in Earth House and on Planet Earth.

We’ll be meeting at Earth House on Monday afternoons in Spring 2017. Stop by during class 3-5pm, join us at our open house or contact us directly.

To learn more, contact Lisa Tornatore, Assistant Director for sustainability@BU at, or faculty team member Nathan Phillips at 617-997-1057.

Applications for Earth House 2017-2018 will be accepted through the deadline of January 30. If approved, you may select into the Earth House if space is available. Please note that if an application is turned in past the deadline and is subsequently approved, you will only be allowed to select into the Earth House if there are still available spaces during room selection. Your best chance of selecting into the Earth House is to submit your application prior to the January 30 deadline. 

Submit your application to live in Earth House here.