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Green Building Exam


Green Building ModelGreen Building ModelStudents in Berkeley High School's Green Academy 10th Grade Introduction to Environmental Science presented their green building designs to a panel of community experts as a part of their final exam on Wednesday, January 23. Teacher Kate Trimlett designed the exam to give students a hands-on opportunity to show how well they could integrate concepts into a cohesive project, and then explain their work to others.

Roof top garden, solar, raincatchment and clothesline.Roof top garden, solar, raincatchment and clothesline.

Working alone or in teams, students designed homes for a green future. Most homes included standard items like solar panels, compost bins, and clothes lines. Each home featured unique and surprising elements of creativity and design.  One design specified bioluminescent indoor lighting by using living organisms to produce a comfortable yellow light. Another home was sited on two rivers in order to provide water, transportation, small scale hydro-electric power and temperature moderation.

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Student creativity abounded in the actual construction of the models -transforming cardboard into walls, plastic packaging into windows, and rolled magazine paper into window blinds. A portion of a water bottle made for a curved "glass" shower stall in one home, while another house featured "skylights" made from empty plastic applesauce cups.

Nearly every group highlighted the connection between the green features of the home and the green lifestyle of the residents. Imagining themselves in one home, a group of students noted: "We won't need a TV or video games; we'll have each other to keep ourselves entertained." Another group planned to take their home entirely "off the grid" and realized their "free time" would be spent gardening, hanging laundry, and exploring the woods near the home. Many groups advocated communal housing to place many families in one building to share energy intensive rooms like kitchens while minimizing the physical footprint of the building itself.

Student Design teamStudent Design teamTo prepare students for the final exam, Trimlett organized a field trip funded by the Altamont Education Advisory Board and led by Bay Area Green Tours. Students toured green homes and businesses to learn more about design thinking and to study specific systems such as energy or water. Elements from the field trip such as rain catchment systems, reused and salvaged materials, passive solar heating and daylighting were present in most designs.

Judges included educators, architects, executive directors from two environmental non-profit organizations, parents and others.  Each judge was tasked with measuring student effort and understanding in several green-building concepts including the siting and location of the building, the use of renewable or reusable resources, efforts to reduce construction impacts, the use of green space, and other factors. Judges tallied their scores using a modified LEED scale to award silver, gold or platinum status to the designs.