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OU College of Architecture Students, Faculty Win National Competition, Receive $90,000 EPA Grant

April 30, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEAS                                   

CONTACT: Dan Butko and Lisa Holliday,

NORMAN – University of Oklahoma architecture students and faculty were awarded a $90,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency after winning a national competition in which they demonstrated their Compressed Earth Block building technology on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., April 21 through 23.

“Congratulations to the OU team from the College of Architecture for winning this prestigious national competition,” said OU President David L. Boren.  “It is further evidence that our college of architecture is taking its place among the best in our country.”

The team was composed of OU graduate student Matt Reyes, construction science students Molly Lyons and Kyle De Freitas, and architecture students Herve Sivuilu and Aaron Crandell along with construction science assistant professor Lisa Holliday and assistant professor of architecture Daniel Butko.  

“We are super proud of everyone involved in this win for OU, the College of Architecture and sustainable construction,” Butko said.  “The EPA program managers, officers and judges shared as much enthusiasm for the project as we have, even telling us that this is how science should be approached.”

OU was one of only a few universities demonstrating a building technology. Other groups highlighted solar and wind power during the expo.

“We were one of the most popular groups at the expo. Everybody has a house, right?” Holliday said. “The students were able to engage professionals, the public and the judges with this unique and ancient idea of building with earth.”

The grant will allow the team to build a compressed earth block house in Norman, in association with Cleveland County Habitat for Humanity. The team will compare the home to a conventionally wood-framed house recently built on an adjacent lot by the Cleveland County Habitat for Humanity using National Green Building Standards. Both houses will be instrumented, monitored and compared for all national standards of sustainability. The ultimate goal is to design a system whereby Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the United States could use this technology to provide affordable housing that is more resistant to wind damage and more environmentally sustainable than those built with conventional technologies.

“I learned about this type of technology when I was finishing my master’s degree. I was so excited to be able to further my knowledge and use this as a research opportunity while pursuing my Ph.D.,” Reyes said. “This grant will allow us to go full scale with our research intent, including a detailed comparison of the Compressed Earth Block home and the conventional home over the course of a year. The grant also will expand student involvement as research assistants, and I’m excited to help lead that venture.”

The Smithsonian Institute has said that of the 40 technologies that will change the way we live in the future, building with earth is No. 1 on the list. Faculty and students in OU’s Sustainable Building Program have given five peer-reviewed papers on this research in the past year and have received three more invitations to present their work.

“This research is so important to the college and our goal to be on the cutting-edge of technology and research in the planning, design and construction disciplines,” said Charles Graham, dean of the College of Architecture. “Building technology like this will change the way we live in the future. This collaborative effort, not only within our own disciplines, but those outside of the college, creates unique learning opportunities for our students and furthers our commitment to the community and the built environment.”

Compressed Earth Block technology has a variety of benefits, including being environmentally friendly and inexpensive to produce, creating less CO2 and using less natural resources. CEBs are bullet-proof, insect resistant, and retain heat and cold to stabilize interior temperatures.

This multidisciplinary faculty and student collaborative research project began in fall 2010 with testing completed at the College of Engineering’s Fears Lab on OU’s Norman campus. The entire research team includes graduate and undergraduate students and faculty from various colleges and departments, including the Haskell and Irene Lemon Construction Science Division and divisions of Architecture and  Landscape Architecture in the College of Architecture and the College of Engineering. In addition to Dean Graham and professors Holiday and Butko, OU faculty involved in the project include associate professor Bill McManus and assistant professors Scott Williams and from the College of Architecture and  Chris Ramseyer and Mike Schmitz from the College of Engineering. Holliday and Butko co-taught a course in fall 2011 focusing on designing and building a Compressed Earth Block house.

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