Published on 09/16/10

UGA students design sustainably, win big

By Sarah Lewis

A University of Georgia senior engineering group placed third in a recent international competition for the sustainable design it developed for a hospital in Orlando, Fla.

The contest, which is sponsored by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, challenged students to create a sustainable building. The 2010 competition was the first time a UGA team took place in the competition.

The team designed a patient tower, which is to be green, water and energy efficient, for the hospital. They were given a footprint with specific components to be included. Teams were judged on how well they integrated sustainable engineering and architectural designs within the guidelines of the project.

The UGA team included Ben Fleetwood, Steven Barrett, Michael W. Cerny, Peter Dempsey, Andrew Raessler, Jeffrey Michael, Brittany Romig and Clay Waters. They all were able to apply their classroom knowledge to a real-world setting, said Tom Lawrence, an engineering professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the team’s advisor.

“The project was great practice for students to see how a design process takes place for a building and how design decisions are made,” Lawrence said. “It was as close as you could get to experience what life would be like working for a design firm after graduation.”

“The competition was a lot of work. It took a while to start because of the large scope of ASHRAE, and we had to narrow down aspects of where we thought we would do the most,” Romig said. “I feel like we could’ve worked on the project for another year.”

The competition took place during the students’ senior design course Engineering Design Project. Students were able to choose the topic for their design class, and this group chose sustainability. The semester of hard work paid off for the students in the end. Tackling a competition with architectural aspects, without an architect program, was a challenge for the students, Lawrence said.

“No one came from an architectural program. So the students were able to go outside of their normal topic area. They were able to gain appreciation of what an architect would do, and essentially taught themselves some architectural skills,” Lawrence said.

Sustainable and efficient buildings are becoming more popular among engineers and architects. Romig believes society will take a step towards sustainable buildings in the future, and getting involved now was a great experience.

“There is such a wealth of information about sustainability, and I feel we only scratched the surface,” Romig said. “If anything, it got me more interested in what ASHRAE stands for. Efficiency can be improved in all building systems, and it can really make a difference.”

The competition opened their eyes to how to work in a team setting, too, Romig said. Every part of the project overlapped because different systems are interrelated.

The third-place win allows a member of the team to attend the ASHRAE winter conference in Las Vegas in January, where professional and student members of the organization will come together to learn about updates in the industry. The team will get their award there.

Sarah Lewis is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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