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Professors, Students Make Environmentally Sustainable House

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By: Gabriel Khouli
In: Ball State Daily News exit EPA
Section: NEWS
4/26/07 at 11:19 PM EST

Sometimes becoming more technologically advanced seems an awful lot like returning to a more primitive lifestyle building with straw instead of wood, collecting rainwater out of a cistern and using solar energy and bacteria to transform waste water into fertilizer and clean water. But when environmental protection and energy conservation are taken to the fullest extent, the result is fitting humanity into nature, not the other way around.

Tim Gray, assistant professor of architecture, said Ball State University's work with straw buildings and environmentally friendly land systems earned them a $1,000 Green Globe grant on Wednesday from the Green Building Initiative, an organization that supports environmentally friendly building practices. The award was given at an Environmental Protection Agency competition in Washington, D.C.

The EPA competition was part of a program called 'P3 People, Prosperity and the Planet' and was designed for university students working on sustainable projects. Building sustainability means protecting the environment and reducing costs while being a useful part of society.

Last semester, Gray's architecture class built a straw building, and this semester landscape architecture professor John Motloch's class designed a system to make the building carbon neutral, meaning it produces as much energy as it uses, senior Kelly Woodward said. The class designed the building to be heated using solar energy and made plans to convert wastewater into clean water and fertilizer using solar energy and bacteria, she said.

More than 40 projects were presented at the competition, which was the second phase in the EPA's P3 program, according the program's Web site. The first phase involved a $10,000 grant from the EPA to begin a project, around $9,000 of which was used to build Ball State's straw house, Gray said.

This week's competition began the second phase, where six projects received $75,000 grants to continue their research. Ball State's group did not receive one of the larger grants, but their $1,000 grant was one of three smaller grants given out.

Despite not receiving one of the $75,000 grants, Gray said he and Motloch are still planning to finish the project and will continue to look for other sources of money to support the project.

Once completed, the project will be used as an educational tool to show people of all ages the process and benefits of sustainable building.

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