Studio 804 begins construction on new EcoHawks research and teaching facility

Fri, 01/18/2013


Charles Linn
School of Architecture, Design & Planning

LAWRENCE — Early in January a group of University of Kansas architecture students started the foundations of a new research and teaching facility for EcoHawks, a KU School of Engineering student research program, on KU's West Campus.

EcoHawks focuses on sustainable energy for transportation, including alternative fuels and the interconnection between water and energy production. Its students started by converting a 1974 Volkswagen into a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in 2008. Since then they’ve branched out into other technologies, including biofuels, photovoltaics and shrouded wind turbine research.A rendering of the EcoHawks research and teaching facility currently under construction on KU's West Campus.

Likewise, students enrolled in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning’s Studio 804 course take a hands-on approach to learning. Each year the full-time class designs and constructs a technically sophisticated, highly sustainable building. Four of the buildings they have built over the last five years have received U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum ratings, the highest the council can award.

 “The ideologies and goals of Studio 804 and EcoHawks are so similar that it makes the collaboration of the two groups a natural,” said Dan Rockhill, the J.L. Constant Professor of Architecture, who directs Studio 804. “Both of the programs are based on the idea that students learn best by being deeply involved in the actual design and making of things.”  

“This new building will provide badly needed new space,” said Chris Depcik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who directs the EcoHawks program. “It will replace our current location in an old barn on campus.

“We will be able to use the features of this unique facility to demonstrate sustainable energy and transportation education,” he said. “It will allow the program to grow in size and scope, enabling the research and fabrication of next-generation vehicles and sustainable energy projects.”

Calculations by Studio 804’s students predict the building’s photovoltaic panels, and a proposed wind turbine could produce up to 12 percent more energy than the facility will consume. The excess electricity can be fed into power lines and the savings credited to the university through net metering.

In keeping with the EcoHawk’s mission, electric vehicle charging stations will be provided, along with showers for those who bicycle to the building. The building will feature other advanced energy-conserving technologies such as motorized sun-shading devices, Aerogel insulating panels and variable-volume refrigerant air conditioning.

Recycling is also important to EcoHawks and Studio 804. The studio will use surplus aluminum from the economically distressed aircraft industry as well as glass left over from a failed building project in Kansas City, Mo., in the building. 

“It is an honor to be working with this group,” said Depcik. “From the start, both Studio 804 and the EcoHawks had a common vision of what the building should contain and how it should function. The result will be a glimpse into the future of integrated energy systems, a future where buildings, vehicles and inhabitants all interact with the electrical grid to conserve resources for the betterment of society.”

“All together transportation and buildings consume 70 percent of the nation’s energy annually,” said Rockhill. “And yet reducing their impacts is seldom studied in an integrated way, as it can be in this building. Studio 804 and EcoHawks are proud of their efforts to create a more sustainable future by putting ideas into action in a truly unique way.”

Studio 804 estimates that construction on the building will be complete by June 2013.


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Poet offers insights to Jayhawk experience through wordplay "Welcome to KU. Where questions rest, in stacks of answers from the past. …" Listen to Topher Enneking, a spoken word poet and former KU football player, as he weaves the experience of KU and its traditions through this storytelling and wordplay performance. Learn more about KU traditions at Welcome to KU. Where questions rest in stacks of answers from the past. Where dreams crawl out of bed And learn to walk Uphill both ways. Where freshmen stand on stilts And hang from the rafters, While the wheat waves In a fieldhouse Where the Phog rolls in Helping us to see Through the past into the future. Haunting hosts giving handouts in a heritage Too heavy to grasp til you add to it. So it may be born anew, Allowing our boots to stand in the ash of oppression’s hate But shine bright as the sun While war cries of warriors past Ring in our ears long after their battles are won. Memorials telling time, “you don’t have to stand still.” Because the top of the world Is just up that Hill. Where our natural history is an awe-struck echo Of world’s fair and equal Past, present and future, prelude and sequel. Where our flags fly above planes. Where we build in chalks that can’t be erased. Stone edifices made to last So you would walk Past their doors, down their halls And let your voice fill their room. Because only in empty silence can destruction loom. So stand tall. Wrap your arms around this crowd Sing our alma mater and sing it out loud. Let your voice sing in chorus and reach other nations Beckoning new Jayhawks to spark new collaborations Because you are the mortar that will hold these walls upright. Your future Your dreams are why Jayhawks did fight For the tradition before you Was merely prelude For what will come next now that you’re at KU.

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