Build it green, and they will come; SU student designers wow attendees at international Greenbuild exposition
Build it green, and they will come; SU student designers wow attendees at international Greenbuild expositionNovember 16, 2007Martin Wallsmwalls@syracusecoe.org
Education is a key component of sustainability, so when the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems (Syracuse CoE) planned its exhibit for Greenbuild 2007 — the international exposition of the U.S. Green Building Council, a leading organization in the sustainability movement — it got students involved, collaborating with six fourth-year industrial and interaction design majors in SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts: Dana Beierle, Shayna Bentkover, Jason Bonaventura, Sarina Fiero, Marguerite Schumm, and R.J. Wattles, all under the guidance of associate professor Don Carr.
The Syracuse CoE, a federation of companies and institutions that create innovations for buildings and urban environments, asked the students to design a 20-by-20-foot “green” exhibit that reduced, reused and recycled materials, created traffic, and put the Syracuse CoE’s best foot forward as a representative of more than 140 academic institutions, organizations and businesses, and of the Central Upstate region, under the “New York’s Creative Core” banner.
Greenbuild provided an ideal opportunity for members of the Syracuse CoE to attend technical workshops, promote the Central Upstate region, and develop new collaborative relationships. In addition to Syracuse CoE staff, a team from SU attended the conference, led by Ben Ware, vice president for research, and Eleanor Ware, senior vice president for human services and government relations. SU faculty members who traveled to Chicago were, from the School of Architecture, Ted Brown, Kevin Lair and Michael Pelken; and, from the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, Thong Dang and Ez Khalifa.
The students’ innovative design certainly caused a stir at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The main structure — made from 16-inch-by-9-inch information cards die-cut so they could be slotted together and built — attracted hundreds of attendees and encouraged them to ask questions about the exhibit, the Syracuse CoE, SU and the Creative Core. Visitors were encouraged to take cards away, with the idea that the exhibit would be deconstructed over the expo’s two days, substantially reducing return shipping and the exhibit’s carbon footprint.
The “takeaway” cards weren’t the only green innovation the students created for the November exposition:
- The Syracuse CoE exhibit was made with no materials containing formaldehyde or polyvinyl chloride.
- Furniture was constructed using bamboo non-formaldehyde plywood, with soy-based adhesive, from e2e Materials of Ithaca, a Syracuse CoE partner. The furniture was upholstered with reused T-shirts purchased from the Salvation Army.
- Flooring was purchased from FLOR, a company that sells eco-friendly, modular carpet tile. It was donated to the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce after Greenbuild for use in its community room, thereby reducing the need to expend carbon shipping the flooring back to Syracuse.
- The exhibit used no external electricity. Instead, students built a bicycle generator to power compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs.
- Other structures were built with sustainable and/or recyclable materials: bamboo plywood, balsa wood and cardboard.
- All students took sustainable transportation (the train between Chicago and Syracuse). Syracuse CoE and SU staff who flew had air travel emissions offset with carbon credits.
“The biggest challenge during the project was not being able to see some of the elements until we were in Chicago,” says Dana Beierle. “We outsourced the cards, for instance, and didn’t see the final product until we were at Greenbuild.” Still, Beierle says she was pleased with the sustainable design: “We did well in comparison to other exhibits. Others were selling sustainable building products, but they were using PVC, TVs and lights in their exhibits.”
The success of the students’ design wasn’t measured solely by the number of visitors it attracted. Press interest was high, too. Reporters and photographers from CNBC, CBS, BBC, the Xinhua News Agency, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Syracuse Post-Standard, Engineering News-Record and Exhibitor magazine stopped by to chat with the students and Syracuse CoE representatives.
Perhaps even more significant for the students was the interest shown by native Central New Yorker S. Richard Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the USGBC and a Syracuse CoE board member. Greenbuild is a two-time IMEX Environmental Meeting Award recipient. This year, all exhibitors were encouraged to create exhibits that reduced materials, waste, and energy and resource consumption. When Fedrizzi was introduced to the students by Ben Ware at an evening reception hosted by the Syracuse CoE and SU, he told them how thrilled he was that they took to heart his exhibition’s call for sustainable booths.