"Several Texas foundations discussed how to best leverage limited resources to reduce greenhouse gases, and given the fact that approximately 50 percent of domestic energy use is linked to buildings, supporting sustainable design seemed a logical way to address the issue," said Ann Hamilton, senior grant officer with Houston Endowment. "The University of Houston's proposal marries architecture with industrial design to maximize energy efficiency in buildings for Houston's future."
The grants, disbursed over the next three years, will enable the college to create partnerships with industry professionals who will bring their expertise into the classroom, guiding students in the latest technologies and grooming the next generation of architects and designers. In addition, funds will be used to purchase state-of-the-art digital fabrication equipment and hire new faculty.
"We are grateful for this investment in our college," said Dean Joe Mashburn. "We are in a unique position to make an impact not only in teaching sustainable design, but in developing sustainable building components for commercial use. Using pre-fabricated components designed to be environmentally responsible will yield an environmentally superior building." Sustainable design features digital fabrication technology and industrial design to create and manufacture environmentally sensitive building components. Digital Fabrication refers to objects and prototypes designed and generated on computers using 3-D software and specialized equipment called "computer numerically controlled machines." This process is used by architects, industrial designers, manufacturers and medical researchers. It is attractive for the accuracy and quality of its components and the conservation of time and materials. It is emblematic of the college's new Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Center.
"With this infusion of new technology, talent and partnerships, the college will become a place for industry to create - with our students - new sustainable building products," Mashburn said.
The Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Center, named for the late professor and gifted designer, houses innovative tools to accommodate digital fabrication projects for architecture and industrial design students. It is a facility for rapid prototyping equipment. The Materials Laboratory, in particular, will be used by faculty and students focused on the application of new and evolving materials in design proposals at all scales, producing products through building assemblies. The center also boasts the only sloped green roof in the city of Houston.
"Digital fabrication is changing both the process of design as well as the methods used to produce designs," Mashburn said. "Students should be introduced to these evolving technologies because our industry and our environment will demand it."
UH projects such as LITEbeam, a digital fabrication project installed at the college; E-Fab, a class described in lesson materials as "exploring the intersection of emerging materials and practices with environmentally innovative fabrication strategies"; and the Graduate Design/Build Studio, a program that collaborates with public schools to create spaces that take advantage of natural resources, illustrate the college's depth and breadth of expertise that only will be buoyed by the infusion of funds from Houston Endowment and Meadows Foundation.
"The building sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and we desperately need to find ways to improve energy efficiencies and reduce carbon emissions in this area," said Linda Perryman Evans, president and CEO of The Meadows Foundation. "The UH College of Architecture will educate students about ways to design and construct buildings using environmental friendly strategies. The potential for positive impact on the environment by this program is significant, and The Meadows Foundation is pleased to be able to support the school's initiative."
Mashburn adamantly believes that reducing greenhouse gases and global warming must include real efforts from the architectural profession.
"If that is to happen, it is essential to intensify the focus on developing sustainable building components that are sufficiently affordable and appealing to become widely used throughout the globe," he said. For more information on the UH Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, visit www.arch.uh.edu/.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.