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A design for a zero energy ready elementary school created by students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ School of Design and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry has been named a finalist in the U.S. Department of Energy Race to Zero Design Competition.

The Race to Zero inspires collegiate students to become the next generation of building science professionals through a design challenge for zero energy ready buildings. By definition, these high-performance buildings are so energy efficient that renewable power can offset most or all of the annual energy consumption.

The School of Design/SUNY ESF team is one of 40 finalists and one of eight selected in the elementary school category. Student representatives from the team will present to industry-recognized jurors April 20-22 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Students from the School of Design’s environmental and interior design program (EDI) and industrial and interaction design (IID) program worked with SUNY ESF construction management students on the initial submission for the competition. The students used the single-story Bear Road Elementary School in Syracuse, which consists of 36 classrooms, as the subject of their design and renovation proposal. They applied modern architectural and interior design concepts while using current technologic efficiencies of materials and systems. Challenges included rehabilitation of the existing structure; an existing east-west building orientation; a 90-day construction schedule; and a strict budget requirement of $20.9 million.

The students also strived to exceed standard applicable building codes and to advocate design strategies that would increase the health, well-being and productivity levels of the elementary school students.

“The teamwork between Syracuse University’s environmental and interior design and industrial and interaction design students and SUNY ESF was challenging at first because of the different backgrounds each major held; however, with constant perseverance and determination we managed to push through into the final competition,” says Yiyi Luo ’19, team leader and an EDI major. “But all of this would not have been possible without the experience and knowledge from each major to put forth their best solution towards the sustainable design.”

“We had a such a unique dynamic,” says Seyeon Lee, assistant professor of EDI, who served as supervising faculty along with Bekir Kelceoglu, assistant professor of IID, and Mohamed Elzomor, assistant professor of construction management and sustainable construction. “The challenge was for the students to learn strengths and weaknesses of each other and use them to their advantage. This was a great learning experience for both students and faculty as well as a successful cross-university collaboration effort.”

In addition to their faculty, the students received guidance from three upstate New York firms: King and King Architects in Syracuse, IBC Engineering in Rochester and Ashley McGraw Architects in Syracuse.