UH ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS BUILD SOLAR STRUCTURE FOR
MCREYNOLDS MIDDLE SCHOOL
It’s a hot day of triple digit heat,
but the students of the University of Houston’s Graduate
Design/Build Studio (GDBS) brave the temperatures to share their
very own green project with the students of McReynolds Middle
School. That same blazing sun that heats up the construction
site will be the sun that powers the Solar Shade Tree specially
designed and built by the graduate students for the campus.
The Solar Shade Tree project is giving 14 UH graduate students
hands-on experience to see a project from idea to completion.
Each year, the GDBS, now in its 22nd year, works on
site-specific solutions to climate-influenced building problems.
Not only are the graduate students in the program building a
gift for the students at McReynolds, but they are also getting
an exceptional learning experience. The graduate students are
using the skills they have developed through their studies
including design diagramming and construction process sequencing
to working with vendors, ordering supplies and applying for
permits through the City of Houston.
“To be out here and see it and build it with your own two hands
is extremely rewarding. It’s an invaluable experience,” said
Mike Rhodes, GDBS student.
Throughout the process, UH architecture professors Patrick
Peters and Mark Dillon have been working side-by-side with the
students. The professors and their students are building the
Solar Shade Tree near soccer fields on the campus. With only
young trees currently adjacent to the fields, the Solar Shade
Tree will provide some relief from the sun for the McReynolds
students and their families.
“Also, it provides a venue for outdoor learning and, in its
design and interaction with the natural environment, provides
several teaching moments for the math and science curricula
among others,” Peters said.
The Solar Shade Tree will be constructed using steel, concrete
and wood to withstand Houston’s hurricane force winds. It will
be 13 feet wide, 44 feet long and stand 12 feet high. Four 150
watt solar panels will power the low voltage fans and LED
security lights and charge batteries to allow it to work
independently off of the power grid.
UH GDBS collaborated with the SPARK School Park Program for
funding for the project. The SPARK program helps public schools
develop their playgrounds into community parks. SPARK receives
letters of interest from the schools interested in participating
in the program. Those schools most in need of parks are normally
“It’s a benefit that we’re doing this at an underprivileged
school where kids may not have thought about going to college.
Maybe if they see this structure, it could inspire them to
decide they want to go,” Rhodes said.
The Solar Shade Tree was completed in mid August. For more
photos from the construction site, visit the
Green UH Facebook