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Who Is Professor GREEN?
Affordable Housing and Sustainable Building

Laura Middlebrooks
Spanish Program
School of World Studies
College of Humanities and Sciences

Project overview

The mortgage crisis and the unethical lending practices that contributed to it have highlighted the serious lack of affordable housing in the United States.  The subsequent economic fallout has set the stage for a redefining of the “ideal” home.  This project explores sustainable residential building practices, including environmentally safe materials and an ecologically responsible scale of building.  The CTE Small Grants program has funded “the analysis and prototype production of an energy-efficient component” of a green house to be built by VCU students as part of the School of Engineering Senior Design Studio.

Given that the Senior Design Studio runs August to May and the CTE Small Grants funds are released in January, the $2000 awarded for this proposal is being utilized in the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010.  The eight-month delay allows the funds to  support the year-long efforts of fourth-year students Gary Artybridge, Josh Greenberg, Kris Kidd and Brandon Tomlin in designing a “Low Cost Sustainable Model Home.”  Their advisor is Dr. Ramana Pidaparti, and in their proposal these students summarize their project in the following way:

[W]e seek to design and produce a low-cost, sustainable shelter from unprocessed recycled materials.  Use of these raw recyclables will add elements of structural support and thermal insulation, allowing the builder to spend less money on traditional building supplies made of more valuable resources.  We will also implement energy efficient innovations as well as renewable energy generation designs.  We wish to pursue this project because it will provide cheap, sustainable housing with a smaller impact on the environment than typical building projects . . . .

We propose to design and build a shelter that is structurally sound using a large percent of recycled and waste materials.  We will also be adding sustainability by aiming for high energy efficiency and possibly using solar or wind energy collectors to meet the power needs of the inhabitants.  There are currently a handful of specific uses of recyclables to test and analyze.  Among these ideas is the creation of a sandwich board out of sheets of plywood and the ends of aluminum cans.  The strong, rigid ends of the can could be layered between the plywood sheets and could serve as a floor or wall panel.  We will also investigate using the middle parts of the aluminum cans to create siding and/or roofing for the structure.

In achieving these goals, we will have to do a lot of engineering analysis.  We must evaluate the structural soundness of each innovation.  All of our designs have to safe enough to bear the expected loads with a reasonable factor of safety.  Also, we want consider the thermal properties of our materials, so heat transfer calculations must be done.  Finite element analysis software will be used to do both the structural and thermal simulations . . . .

As part of the multi-disciplinary effort of this project, the website http://www.whoisprofessorgreen.vcu.edu/ has been approved and is currently under construction.  It will serve as a bilingual blog for related events, including collaboration with VCU’s Green Unity group.  Spanish 300 students will be invited to participate in and write about events that will be interpreted into Spanish.  A Spanish-English Translation and Interpretation Program student, Andrew Pocta, will be translating the webpage from English to Spanish as well as interpreting upcoming events.  Given that “Who is Professor GRE3N?” will be completed in the current academic year, an additional report will be submitted at this time in 2010.

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Last modified: June 20, 2013
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