Architecture graduate student wins design prizes

Alison M. Lang, a master’s candidate in architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, was part of a team that recently took two prizes in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Second Annual Green Building Design Competition.

Open to architects, reuse experts, engineers, designers, planners, contractors, builders, educators, environmental advocates and students from across the United States, the Green Building Design Competition featured judging in three categories.

The Building Category examined the construction of an entire structure, from foundation to roof, while the Innovation Category focused on a particular building component, tool, policy or strategy. The Outstanding Achievement Awards recognized projects in three subcategories: Best Greenhouse Gas Reduction Design, Best School Design and Best Residential Design.

“Reducing construction and demolition debris from our country’s waste stream is an important long-term environmental goal,” said Jimmy Palmer, EPA regional administrator. “These innovators are creating reusable building components for the green buildings of tomorrow.”

Lang’s team — which was formed under the auspices of the HOK Intern Program in Chicago — won both the Student Innovation Category and the Best School Design for their proposed “tran/spot: transient awareness center.”

Assembled in empty lots across Chicago, the structure would serve as a kind of modular, movable community center. A double-sided media wall and adjacent gathering space could be used for films, presentations, lectures, rallies, protests “or anything else the community requires or desires,” the designers noted.

Meanwhile an interactive display board would feature news, events, job openings and other community information, which passersby could access and update through an integrated WiFi zone.

Each center would be built largely from recycled cardboard tubes, which the designers note are lightweight, affordable, easily transported, waterproof, fire resistant, durable and biodegradable. The tubes would be mounted on a grounded track system and connected by thin wiring and recycled aluminum. Covering the surface would be photovoltaic panels, which could adjust to angles of between 19 and 40 degrees, in response to changing seasons, climates or other conditions. The energy produced would power the media wall, with any excess funneled to the city grid.

In addition to Lang, the tran/spot team included students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Kansas State University and the University of Illinois.

The jury was chaired by Brad Guy, president of the Building Materials Reuse Association, which co-sponsored the competition. Other sponsoring partners included the American Institute of Architects, Southface Energy Institute, West Coast Green and