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(Posted 10:30 a.m., July 22)
Projet Karyne goes old school in insulating Gisèle Lalonde greenhouse

By Fred Sherwin

Carl Maisonneuve adds some wet mud to a wheelbarrow full of straw as his daughter Elyse mixes it together with another volunteer. Fred Sherwin/Photo

There's old school and then there's ooooold school. Projet Karyne organizers took the later route when deciding on how they would insulate the walls in the La Serre Solaire de Karyne greenhouse at École secondaire publique Gisèle Lalonde.

Straw and mud has been used by various civilizations as far back as the ancient Eyptians. It was the building material of choice in Europe in the 1400s and the early settlers used stray and mud to build their homesteads in the early part of the 20th century. In fact, straw and mud is still being used among tribes people in many African countries.

"Straw and mud is an excellent building material, especially for a greenhouse," says Project Karyne director Carl Maisonneuve. "It keeps the heat in during the winter and it keeps the room cool in the summer. It's also excellent for venting the high humidity you have in a greenhouse.".

More than 20 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to help insulate the greenhouse on Saturday. Two people were in charge of turning the clay into a wet mud, while four teams of volunteers mixed the wet mud with stray before another team of volunteers jammed it into the wall cavities.

Once the mud in the straw dries, a series of lattices will be placed over it and then the wall will be finished off with an earth plaster.

The straw and mud insulation is just one aspect of the greenhouse which will include a series of innovative technologies both old school and modern technology in its construction.

The greenhouse will be used by students in the school's highly-skilled environmental program who want to branch into the sciences or environmental studies. It will also be used to to teach general units in a variety of courses.

The entire Maisonneuve family got down and dirty on Saturday including daughter Elyse and sons Paul and Marc.

Karyne Maisonneuve passed away from complications with her cancer treatment in 2006 at the age of eight. The Maisonneuve family launched Projet Karyne in collaboration with École secondaire Gisèle Lalonde shortly afterwards.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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