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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Architecture building looks to go ?net-zero?

By Jake Hibbard

By 2015, the U hopes to create the most sustainable college building in the United States by wrapping it in a gigantic blanket of sorts.

At the Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, Brenda Scheer, dean of the College of Architecture and Planning, presented the plan to renovate the Architecture Building into a “net-zero” building that would not cost the U any money for energy expenses. To reach net-zero status, a building not only has to reduce its energy consumption, but it also needs to be producing energy on its own from sources such as solar panels, said Brad Baird, director of development with the college.

“(Soon), we’ll have the building all wrapped up in a blanket,” Scheer said. The “blanket” would be a glass structure built around the renovated building. Having a separate structure covering the building keeps heat inside of it longer, she said.

Planning for the renovation should be done by 2013, Baird said, and the building is supposed to be complete within two years after that. The project is expected to cost $13 to $18 million.

There are no higher education buildings in the United States that are net-zero, Scheer said.

“This will be the first of its kind in the country,” she said. “It’s a way for us to lead by example.”

Even if the building doesn’t become net-zero, it still needs to become more sustainable, Scheer said.

“(The architecture) building was built at a time when energy consumption wasn’t an issue,” she said, estimating that the U spends $140,000 yearly for its energy costs.

The building won the 25 Year Award from Utah chapter of the Architects’ Institute of America, which recognized how well it was built and had been maintained, Baird said. Because it’s an award-winning building, however, Baird said careful design will have to go into the renovation to “preserve its original design.”

Baird said many U students were involved in initially brainstorming the idea and hopes this trend will continue throughout. The student voice is crucial for a project like this because they are the ones that will actually be using the building, he said.

The job market for graduating architects and designers is becoming more competitive, Scheer said. For students, being involved in a project such as this helps separate them from the pack, she said.

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