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Students to turn university housing ‘green’

2/14/2013

By Beth Miller
 

Students from three schools at Washington University in St. Louis, including the School of Engineering & Applied Science, are participating in a pioneering project to make some university-owned housing more sustainable.

Andrew Cruse, assistant professor of architecture, and Christof Jantzen, I-CARES professor of practice in architecture, of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, are leading the project, called “The Quadrangle Experiment,” designed to find the most efficient way to renovate 1920s and ‘30s-era apartment buildings owned by Quadrangle Housing to become more environmentally friendly and to make better use of the space.
 
Quadrangle Housing, the university’s non-profit housing office, is in the midst of a $100 million, project to renovate 850 units of housing in Parkview Gardens over six years. The apartments in the six-family buildings were originally built for families, but now serve primarily undergraduate and graduate students.
 
Last fall, Cruse and Jantzen taught a seminar course cross-listed in engineering and architecture to develop an experimental framework for testing redevelopment strategies in the buildings around the topic of energy.
 
“This is a great opportunity for students and for this type of research to ask questions in an atypical way and to bring students into contact with real-world questions,” Cruse says. “This serves both academic and administrative interest.”
 
This spring, a group of 12 architecture students is working on the design for two neighboring buildings, known as a dyad, in Parkview Gardens. Their studio is in one of the Quadrangle Housing-owned buildings at 702 Westgate, a former six-family building that has been renovated and converted into studio space.
 
For this studio, students will design renovations for 745 and 749 Westgate Ave. One building will be renovated using standard procedures and used as a control, while the other will be renovated using sustainable procedures and best practices with the ultimate goal of net-zero energy, water and waste. At the end of the course, one or more designs will be chosen to present to Quadrangle Housing and the public. Those designs will be turned into construction drawings over the summer, with construction scheduled to begin next fall.
 
Students also will focus on reusing and retrofitting these structures and evaluate the demographics and needs of the tenants. In addition, they are considering how renovations will affect Quadrangle Housing’s operating and capital budgets. 
 
Over time, students will compare energy data from both buildings to determine the effectiveness of the sustainable renovations.
 
“When you look at energy use in the U.S., 40 percent goes to buildings,” Cruse says. “Twenty-one percent goes to residential, and 19 percent to commercial, but most of the emphasis is on energy savings for commercial buildings, when residential is more than half of the story.”
 
Cruse and Jantzen have collaborated with others at the university, including Phil Valko, director of sustainability, as well as Arye Nehorai, PhD, chair and the Eugene and Martha Lohman Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Humberto Gonzalez, PhD, assistant professor, both of the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering, seeking both internal and external funding for the project. They also are working with other partners in the community.
 
Cruse says the seminar course for engineering and architecture students is planned for the fall semester to continue to the design and implementation process. 

 

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Leaders of “The Quadrangle Experiment” collaborated with others at the university, including Arye Nehorai, PhD, chair and the Eugene and Martha Lohman Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Humberto Gonzalez, PhD, assistant professor, both of the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering.
 
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