CALA project urges

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

From the waste materials produced during construction of new buildings to the paper used in the stages of design, the field of architecture has a significant impact on the environment.

The University’s College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture is working to cultivate the interest of future architects in studying and building environmentally friendly design and construction.

“Greening CALA” has been developed by a combination of faculty, staff and students to incorporate these ideas and keep communication active between campus groups working toward a similar goal.

“Our college generates a lot of waste,” said Virajita Singh, research fellow and lecturer with the Center for Sustainable Building Research. “The College of Natural Resources and CALA are committed to the
sustainable development movement.”

CALA has implemented some of its ideas of sustainable design into the renovation of the architecture building.

“This is an eye opener to see how integrated or not integrated environmental issues are in our profession,” said CALA Dean Thomas Fisher. “The new building is an opportunity for us to say we now can inhabit it in a more sustainable way.”

One benefit students can see in the remodeled building is the addition of photovoltaics, a floatable solar collection device.

A kiosk will be set up for students to see the exact amount of energy produced at any time.

“This will demonstrate to us and to students how much energy it can generate,” Fisher said.

The photovoltaics will have an incredible impact, Singh said. The goal is to be able to use the building as a living lab to find out which methods of sustainability work the most efficiently.

Along with physical changes to the school, “greening CALA” has also brought new courses to the curriculum.

Undergraduate and graduate students can both take classes dedicated to building and designing in an environmentally friendly manner.

While no sustainable development design major is offered in the college yet, it is a goal CALA is shooting toward, Singh said.

Sarah Birtles, research specialist for the sustainability center, said she has been working on a “green” map of the University.

Pending a grant from the Office of the Executive President and Provost, Birtles will develop a Web site with clickable images of University buildings to find environmental information from those sources. She anticipates this will help connect people across campus working toward the same goal.

Birtles, along with Singh, is hoping to get the grant and be able to start a course – titled Green Mapping: Tracking Sustainable Development at the “U” – for spring semester to help students get involved with sustainable development and identify “green” efforts on campus.

“To be able to move forward, we must take stock on what has already been done,” Birtles said.

Lauren Huynh, an architecture graduate student, said people in the United States are not as aware of how important sustainable development issues are. These methods are practiced daily in Europe.

Huynh said she thinks it’s important to get more students involved in “greening CALA.”

“A large part of sustainability affects architects. It affects the air we breathe, and it even affects our life span,” Huynh said.

She said she has been volunteering her time to do research and participates in student groups dedicated to “green” issues.

Huynh said despite not being paid she will continue her research because she feels it is important to teach people about the effect buildings have on the environment and vice versa.

Fisher said the movement is not just faculty motivated.

“Students are pushing (‘greening CALA’) at least as much if not more so than the faculty,” he said.

In national opinion, Minnesota is ahead of most states on environmental sustainability issues, Singh said.

“This is a very exciting time,” she said. “The University and colleges like ours can make a difference in educating the next generation on how to view the world.”