April 27, 2014 UT Students Win U.S. EPA Sustainable Design Challenge

UT students participating in the Green Oak Project traveled to Washington, DC, where they competed in and won the second phase of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability. Their project will receive up to $90,000 in grant funding to apply their designs to real-world applications and implement in the marketplace. 

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University projects from across the country were exhibited April 25–27 as part of the National Sustainable Design Expo. Seven winners were selected by a panel of experts from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Green Oak Project developed oak construction techniques that use undried oak, which is known as “green” oak and mostly used for shipping pallets, as a low-energy and carbon-friendly wood product. The project received $15,000 in the first phase of the competition to investigate the material.

“There is very little contemporary architectural or engineering knowledge in the US about using green oak in building design, and no recognition of this type of construction in building codes,” said Ted Shelton, associate professor of architecture and the Green Oak Project leader. “Our work is responding to the properties of oak pallet cants  in an effort to transform this resource to structural uses while requiring no operational changes for local sawmills.”

This is the second time that a project by the UT College of Architecture and Design has been selected for and claimed the prize of the second stage of the competition. The UT New Norris House, which competed and won in 2008, was supported by EPA funds. It later became one of the most sustainable homes in Tennessee, and eventually led to changes in policies and building applications in the state.

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At the Expo, twenty-three students and faculty of the Green Oak Project constructed and demonstrated a full-scale building prototype using the wood. They showed the mechanical testing and architectural construction documents that validate its viability as a sound building material.

The Expo served as an opportunity to discover innovative cutting-edge technologies developed by university students and their faculty advisors and experience sustainable products that are currently available. It also acted as a learning tool for students to display and defend their research.

“All of us are learning about a more sustainable way of constructing residential or small commercial buildings,” said Miranda Wright, a graduate architecture student who is working on the project. ”Students are learning to research and test construction methods, and think outside the box when it comes to norms. We are all learning how sustainability can be about understanding current practices for bigger opportunities than those presently utilized.”

To learn more about the competition and the entries, visit the EPA P3 website.

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EXPLORE:

Discover the work of the UT Green Oak Project through its blog and Twitter page. Students also shared their experiences through the college’s Instagram and Graduate Architecture Facebook accounts.

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RELATED:

EPA recognizes 7 university teams,” Mechanical Hub. 28 Apr. 2014

UT Students to Compete in EPA Design Challenge in Washington, DC,” Tennessee Today. 23 Apr. 2014

CONTACT:

Kiki Roeder (865-9746713, kroeder@utk.edu)