6th Annual Sustainable Design Challenge helps teens see future solutions
Concrete made with coal ash, countertops made out of recycled airplane glass, and paint that resists mold and combats air pollution were some of the solutions for energy efficiency to be found at a student showcase this morning.
Just over 100 DuPage County high school students presented their sustainable building models at the 6th Annual Sustainability Design Challenge hosted by SCARCE at the DuPage County Administration Building.
Set up as a walk through showcase, students from Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard East, Glenbard South, and Naperville North presented their green buildings with the aid of PowerPoint presentations, CAD modeling, and handouts.
City council members, parents, and residents were welcome to stroll through the tables and listen to presentations from students about their design elements. The Challenge was to build structures that incorporate strategies from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program to reduce the environmental impact of the space, while preserving functionality.
Energy efficient design elements ranged from simple to the more complex and emerging technologies. Besides adding solar panels and wind turbines, freshmen from Glenbard East focused on planting deciduous trees near a house to provide shade and cooling in the summer and the opposite for the winter. However, a group of seniors from Wheaton Warrenville South incorporated electrochromic windows into their house of the future.
“The windows really stuck out to me because they help save energy without much effort on my part. Like, we all know recycling is good but we have to make the time to do it, and by using these windows you don’t even have to think about it.” said Sarah Cipriano, a senior in Frank Novakowski’s Environmental Biology class at Wheaton Warrenville South.
Electrochromic windows can be darkened or lightened electronically; the concept is like eyeglasses that automatically tint in bright sunlight. The benefit of these windows is to increase or decrease solar heating to a desired comfort level, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Other components of the self-sustaining gyms, cafes, and houses modeled at the Challenge were geothermal heating for a beach house, permeable pavers at a restaurant, and self-powered treadmills at an energy efficient gym. Some buildings, like a condo complex by a team from Naperville North, aimed to reduce pollution from car travel by consolidating amenities like parks and beauty salons to onsite facilities.
When asked, students said they are more conscious of recycling and ways they can improve energy efficiency in their current homes because of this project. “Back in November, when our class learned about LED bulbs, I told my parents and convinced them to switch out all of our incandescents. My mom and dad love it because they have already saved a lot of money,” said Glenbard South Senior, Aubrey Aaron.
At the end of the day, these projects were fun for the students who spent anywhere from four days to a couple of months working on their models. “I really like to see the excitement and smiles on the kids faces when I ask them questions about their designs. You can see that they learned something useful,” said Tony Charlton, Director of the Storm water Management Division for the county.
After the public viewing, students from three of the four high schools toured LEED certified buildings to see the technologies they have researched and modeled, come to life.