Friday, May 29, 2009

TCU helps PGA go green

Just a few months ago Michael Slattery got an unexpected phone call from the Crowne Plaza Invitation at Colonial.

Officials there and with the PGA tour were looking to green up their image and wondered if TCU’s Institute of Environmental Studies could help.

“They would provide a place for us to showcase the latest innovation in green design,” said Slattery, director of the institute.

He quickly called a meeting of his “Green Team,” including environmental studies professor Tony Burgess, graduate students Jon Kinder and David Williams and art professors Cameron Schoepp and Chris Powell.

“I said ‘this is an opportunity to show what we are doing and to how we can change things to create a more sustainable model for the future,” he said.

With little budget and lots of ideas, the team went to work.

The result: the Green Pavillion – a white modular structure where fresh breezes replace air conditioning from generators and native plants on the skydeck add to the natural habitat, drawing butterflies.

Sitting on a small hill by the first fairway at this week’s PGA stop in Fort Worth, the pavilion is already attracting lots of media exposure as well as curious onlookers who wonder, just what is that contraption?

The open air shelter has the typical amenities of an entertainment tent – there’s a bar and plenty of viewing spots to take in the golfing action, but with a much lower carbon footprint. Even the flooring, easily replenished bamboo, was chosen based on sustainability. 

Designed with the help of California architectural firm Anderson and Anderson, experts in modular design, the pavilion can be taken down and reassembled with relative ease.

“It’s really like a bunch of Legos,” said Williams.

He and Kinder spent most of this spring assembling the structure, which uses steel donated by Advantage Steel in Fort Worth and white shadecloth on eaves that will be able to move up and down depending on the sun’s position and time of day. Eventually, the structure will also have solar panels on the winged eaves, and will also integrate wind power from a turbine placed a dozen feet away.

Kinder and Williams graduated in May and now run Prairie Designs, a company that helps firms build greenroofs with plants designed to thrive in the hot Southwestern summer sun. They plan on continuing with this project as it evolves and takes their firm into new directions, Kinder said.

Plans are for the pavilion to travel to other PGA events and, further down the road, make appearances at NASCAR races, Slattery said.

“In order to have a healthier future, we have to design out way to that,” Slattery said. “We can’t just wait and hope something changes. This is one way to design something in a way that’s more sustainable for our planet’s future.”

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