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Green Building System Class Projects

April 26, 2016 –  

By Dan Hindman

SBIO 3324, Green Building Systems, was held in Fall 2015.  The class discussed the definition of green building, concepts in green building structures (water, site, materials, energy, indoor environmental quality) and discussed some of the various green building certification systems.
The students also participated in a series of service learning style projects, where the students were able to study more in-depth areas related to green building.  The students were assigned clients and had to develop the goal and scope of the project, then execute the project according to the client’s needs.

The projects included:

Springhouse Community School – Springhouse Community School is a private high school located in Floyd, VA.  The school focuses on project-based learning and has a large focus on the environment and environmental science.  The school is located at the Floyd Eco-Village, which has a large acreage for continued growth.  The high school students wanted to design and specify a tiny house to be built on site.  The house would be a small 1-2 person building that was off-grid with a total budget of $30,000.  SBIO 3324 students served as mentors to the high school students, explaining the green building concepts and acting as coaches.
Plenty! – Plenty! Is a local food bank which accepts donations of both canned and fresh food.  Plenty! Emphasizes health and includes a cannery and kitchen where local people can learn to cook.  As the foodbank grows, storage space is a priority.  To help out with the storage of non-food items, SBIO 3324 students built a custom shelving unit from recycled materials.  Materials were obtained from the Wood Engineering Lab and donations from Shelter Alternatives.  The final unit will be installed next week.
Tinyhouse – Tinyhouse is a minimal living concept which has been featured on many home renovation shows lately.  Tinyhouses are anywhere from 80 to 300 square feet.  Working with a Highland Farm, a local farm and music venue, a group of students from SBIO 3324 designed a tinyhouse unit to be built onsite.  Originally, the owner expressed an interest in building the house as well, but this was beyond the scope of the class.
Energy – Many students were interested in learning more about energy sources which could be used to make a home ‘off-grid’.  One student group was asked by Dr. Hindman to examine different energy solutions for housing and discuss the positive and negative aspects.  Various items explored included using a generator from a small stream to a Tesla Powerwall to thermoelectric camping stoves.
Green Building Education – While green building education has been at Virginia Tech for many years (SBIO 3324 first began in 2009), there is little education in green building at the high school level, particularly for trade-oriented students.  This group developed a lesson and interactive activity (game) to share the concepts of green building with high school students.


David Jones, Cody Wykle and Patrick Joseph assembling shelves for plenty David Jones, Cody Wykle and Patrick Joseph assembling shelves for plenty

Green Building Perceptions – Understanding the current attitudes of the architecture, engineering and contracting community to green building is important.  This group, with Dr. Hindman, has devised a survey to be sent to contractors to understand their opinions and feeling about green building.  Students became Internal Review Board (IRB) certified surveyors, developed the survey based upon previous research and submitted all the paperwork to the IRB.  The survey will commence in the Spring semester. The entire class would like to extend a special thank you to our clients, specifically Joe Klein from the Springhouse Community School, Jonathan Vandergrift and McCabe Coolidge from Plenty!, and Mike Hedlesky from Highland Farm.


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