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U-M Team Earns National EPA Honor

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By Nancy Davis

(ANN ARBOR, MI, June 9, 2006) - Bio-Composite Building Products Draw P3 Attention

Eight long months of work paid off big for a team of University of Michigan students at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Sustainable Design Expo awards presentation May 11, 2006. The EPA's 2nd Annual P3 Awards - People, Prosperity, and the Planet - were announced in Washington, D.C. by George Gray of the EPA's Office of Research and Development.

The U-M team, featuring students from Natural Resources and Environment, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science and Architecture, was one of six teams to be named winners. Others sharing the top honor were teams from Appalachian State University, Lafayette College, Portland State University, University of Massachusetts - Lowell, and Stanford University.

Winners, chosen from 41 competing teams, demonstrated the most creative and innovative product designs for a sustainable tomorrow. The U-M team earned a $75,000 grant to develop their product, and the chance to return to next year's P3 Expo as champions.

The lead faculty member on the project was Professor Harry Giles of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning. "We put on a pretty good show on that day. The team's exhibition presentation was quite a centerpiece of the event," said Giles, adding that the UM project drew the attention of the general public as well as the judges. "The team was highly motivated and worked very well together to achieve this honor." Michigan's winning project was titled "Growing Alternative Sustainable Buildings: Bio-composite Products from Natural Fiber, Biodegradable and Recyclable Polymer Materials for Load-bearing Construction Components." An integrative educational and research project, it focused on design and construction methods of sustainable buildings.

The project developed and tested new product design concepts using bio-composite materials in load-bearing and faade elements in buildings. The elements, derived from natural fibers combined with bio-polymers or thermoplastic recyclable polymers to form matrix materials, result in a product that is derived from biodegradable, renewable and recyclable resources. The group's challenge was to develop alternative and innovative design concepts that optimize the unique properties of the materials, according to Giles.

The P3 Award was launched in 2004 to respond to the challenges of the developed and developing world in moving toward sustainability. This national competition enables college students to research, develop and design scientific, technical and policy solutions to sustainability challenges.

What is P3?
P3 is a partnership between the public and private sectors to achieve economic prosperity while protecting the natural systems of the planet and providing a higher quality of life. The P3 competition and awards provide grants to teams of college students to research, develop, and design sustainable solutions to environmental challenges. P3 highlights people, prosperity, and the planet - the three pillars of sustainability - as the next step beyond P2 or pollution prevention.

To learn more about this year's P3 Awards event, visit the National Sustainable Design Expo site, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/p3/.

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