CU-Boulder Opens Field Laboratory For Sustainable Building Practices

April 29, 2005

The College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder has established a unique teaching and learning laboratory to give students the opportunity to practice sustainable building techniques in an outdoor setting.

The public is invited to attend a grand opening reception for the new Field Laboratory for Applied Sustainable Technologies on Tuesday, May 3, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The reception will be held at the laboratory, located directly east of the Administrative and Research Center at 3100 Marine St. on CU-Boulder's East Campus.

Attendees will be able to ask questions about building with straw bales and other sustainable technologies. On hand at the event will be CU-Boulder Professor Bernard Amadei of civil, environmental and architectural engineering; Mark Schueneman, executive director of the Colorado Strawbale Association; Dan Chiras, a nationally recognized expert on green design, natural building, and passive solar energy; and students who have developed sustainable systems for the new laboratory.

The university approved the laboratory, which consists of a 400-square-foot straw bale structure with a concrete acrylic roof, as a temporary facility through the end of 2005. The lab has been an integral part of a civil engineering course, Sustainability and the Built Environment, which covers topics such as eco-materials, sustainable water and wastewater systems, renewable energy, waste and waste products, green building, straw bale construction, natural plasters and building with earth and straw.

The goal of the facility is to be self-sufficient, generating its own power using photovoltaic panels and possibly biodiesel, and collecting and processing enough rainwater to complete all on-site projects.

The laboratory is part of the Engineering for Developing Communities initiative, an educational program started by Amadei. He also founded the nationwide nonprofit organization Engineers Without Borders-USA, which uses volunteer labor to conduct engineering outreach projects in developing communities around the world.

"The sustainable building techniques being studied at our outdoor lab can be implemented in both industrialized and developing communities," said EDC program coordinator Robyn Sandekian. "Students are using readily available 'waste' materials, including straw, previously used concrete and crushed plastic bottles to build a structure that is both earth-friendly and person-friendly -- that is, healthy, energy-efficient and low-impact."

For more information visit www.edc-cu.org/FLASTlab.htm or call Sandekian at (303) 735-6708.

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