EPA Announces Winners of the First National Green Building Design Competition

Winners of the inaugural Lifecycle Building Challenge competition were announced Sept. 21 at the West Coast Green Conference in San Francisco.

Susan Bodine, assistant administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, made the announcement along with the American Institute of Architects President RK Stewart, and Building Materials Reuse Association President Brad Guy.

Winners were recognized for cutting-edge green building ideas that aim to reduce environmental and energy impacts of buildings. Agency officials expect ideas from the design contest will jump-start the building industry to help reuse more of the 100 million tons of building-related construction and demolition debris sent each year to U.S. landfills.

"Reusing valuable building materials conserves resources and reduces greenhouse gas emissions," said Bodine. "Designing buildings for adaptability, disassembly and local reuse is an important environmental protection strategy."

The award recipients from the southeast are:

  • Building Category Winner: GreenMobile Factory-built Housing Units for SE USA (Professional -- Unbuilt) Michael Berk, professor, Mississippi State University School of Architecture, Mississippi State, Miss. Adaptable mobile home unit for disaster relief and permanent use The GreenMobileTMenvisions affordable, factory-built energy efficient mobile home units that meet International Residential Code for housing with structurally-sound foundations, demount for easy relocation, and can function in a place with a limited infrastructure or no utility grid in place. They can be used for immediate disaster relief housing, including first responders, and later converted to permanent housing. The project incorporates systematic strategies for growth and change as family structures also grow and change. "Pre-fabricated plug-in" rooms, plug-in porches, and surface mounted wiring are also featured in the design.

Honorable mentions include the following:

  • Nine Components to Residential Architecture, Anthony Piede, student, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga., Flexible modular housing with steel bearing pin foundation. An integrated system that simplifies design, construction, and disassembly with a pyramid foundation raised on steel bearing pins to allow easy assembly and disassembly without poured concrete. Other featured components include modular decking frame, reclaimed wood decking, flitch beams and columns with simple screw and bolt connections, prefab structurally insulated panels, insulated glass units with optimal thermal performance, and snap-on panel aluminum roofing.
  • The Nail Extractor, Jeff Wagner, The Nail Extractor, Charleston, S.C. Nail and staple removal tool eases building disassembly. These extracting pliers were invented to aid in building restoration and renovation by removing fasteners without bending or cutting the exposed materials. During a renovation or salvage project, the amount of fastener removal that is required can be extensive and time-consuming. Though the nail extractor was originally designed to pull brittle older nails, it can also remove modern-day pneumatic nails and staples, with their slender shanks and undersized heads. The tool allows for easy, single-handed operation, using jaws that exert increasing gripping pressure in proportion to the resistance encountered during extraction.

The "Lifecycle Building Challenge" invited professionals and students nationwide to submit designs and ideas that support cost-effective disassembly and anticipate future use of building materials. Project parters are the U.S. EPA, Building Materials Reuse Association, the American Institute of Architects and West Coast Green. Green Building Blocks, the competition sponsor, provided cash awards to student winners, and Green Building in Alameda County, Calif. provided the awards.

Lifecycle building maximizes material recovery to reverse the trend of disposing of large quantities of construction and demolition debris in landfills. Reusing building components also reduces energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing and transporting materials.

In the United States, buildings consume 60 percent of total materials flow (excluding food and fuel) and account for 33 percent of the solid waste stream. Building renovation and demolition accounts for 91 percent of the construction and demolition debris generated each year, while new construction accounts for only 9 percent. Between 2000 and 2030, 27 percent of existing buildings will be replaced and 50 percent of the total building stock will be constructed.

These issues can be addressed by planning for a building or building component's eventual deconstruction or adaptation. By creating building components that can be easily recovered and reused, materials are kept at their highest value, resulting in reduced consumption of energy and resources.

The challenge grew out of a project that the EPA helped fund at the Chartwell School in Seaside, Calif. that demonstrates lifecycle building concepts. The school tested new systems including nail-free paneling, centralized utility raceways, structural insulated panel roofing, and cold joint sidewalks that can be easily moved for reuse. Results from Chartwell's case study are available on the challenge's Web site. The challenge, open to built and un-built work, was launched in January and open for four months. The categories included:

  • Building -- an entire building from foundation to roof
  • Component -- a single building assembly, system, or connector
  • Service -- a tool, method, or other idea

For more information on the competition, the complete list of winners, and to view images, please visit the Lifecycle Building Challenge Web site at http://www.epa.gov/region09/lifecyclebuilding/.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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