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Green Project Grows

While the Brickyard was crowded with groups promoting products for sustainable living last Friday, including everything from low-impact mouse pads to high-performance solar panels, Andy Fox was busy putting the finishing touches on an ambitious project to convert the space between two residence halls into a green oasis.

If he found it ironic that he was too busy working on a sustainable project to participate in Earth Day events, he didn’t admit it.

Click for larger image.
Students work through Earth Day to finish a sustainable project next to Owens Hall. Andy Fox takes a break, in photo at top.

“Every day is Earth Day,” he said.

Hands-On Learning

Fox, an assistant professor of landscape architecture, is helping to transform campus by incorporating real sustainable construction projects into the curriculum. Graduate and undergraduate students in landscape architecture and related fields get credit for taking part in these design/build studios.

This semester’s project was the second phase of a three-year effort to create an environmentally friendly corridor, called “the Artists’ Backyard,” between Turlington Hall and Owens Hall. If you didn’t know to look for the sustainable features, you’d probably miss them. There’s a cistern that collects rainwater off the roof and diverts it into a nearby rain garden, drought-resistant plants to reduce the university’s landscape maintenance budget, and permeable bricks in the walkways that help filter water bound for the storm drains.

All the physical improvements, from the wooden benches and chairs to the planters and lighting, were built by  the students. Project costs were covered by University Housing.

Out of Their Caves

Beyond the ecological benefits, the new development will offer students a lush, quiet environment to study, collaborate or just relax.

“We want to get the students out of their caves,” Fox said. “We’re creating a responsive campus landscape that’s all about what the students need. It’s going to be the perfect backyard.”

University Housing and the Department of Landscape Architecture are hosting a project completion ceremony beginning at 1:30 p.m. Friday, May 4, in Burns Auditorium, Kamphoefner Hall. A ribbon cutting will take place at the project site immediately following the ceremony.