Students get experience designing green buildings at Sustainable Settings | AspenTimes.com
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Students get experience designing green buildings at Sustainable Settings

John Colson

Sustainable Settings has invited architectural design students from around the region to design new buildings and other facilities for its learning center south of Carbondale.Sustainable Settings, a nonprofit agricultural and educational operation, is working with the University of Colorado School of Architecture and Planning and the U.S. Green Building Council’s Colorado Emerging Green Builders Natural Talent 2006 Design Competition to design “a cutting-edge, environmentally sensitive educational campus” at Sustainable Setting’s 244-acre ranch, said the ranch’s executive director, Brook LeVan.Sustainable Settings, on Highway 133, is now in its seventh semester of collaborating with groups of CU students.He said design students travel to the ranch and work on designs for buildings, agricultural systems and other aspects of the working ranch, which he and his staff are in the process of turning into “an experiential learning environment for the cultivation of a sustainable future.”Established in 2001, Sustainable Settings educates valley residents and others about re-establishing local farms and ranches and the concept of community sustainability. From its ranch along the Crystal River, the nonprofit has been selling eggs, turkeys, lamb and vegetables to customers in a 40-mile radius, based on the principle of keeping operations local.In hosting the 2006 competition, LeVan said this week, he is offering the Sustainable Settings ranch as a kind of hands-on laboratory for the competitors.”The competition is one where everyone wins,” LeVan wrote in an announcement of the event. “Competitors, including 14 graduate architecture and landscape architecture students from CU-Denver’s Green Building Advanced Studio, will get applied-learning experience in the principles of integrated design, sustainability, innovation and social consciousness. Sustainable Settings gets cutting-edge building, planning and landscape designs to be incorporated in the design of their new educational campus.”He said the planned expansion at the Sustainable Settings property includes intern and faculty cabins, permaculture/agriculture services, art studios, classrooms and a visitor’s center. He estimated it will cost $3.5 million to build everything envisioned in the ranch project.”Sustainable Settings’ rural campus will provide a rich and dynamic context where the institute’s permanent staff and visiting guests of all ages will be inspired to teach, learn and embrace integrated solutions for sustainable development,” he said. The competition is open to students and working professional designers who are within five years of graduation, and entries are expected to comply with the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Building Rating System.And, LeVan noted, “There is the very real possibility that winning designs will be built at Sustainable Settings’ historic 244-acre ranch.””We’re pushing the green edge,” LeVan said.Some of the students have been to the ranch recently, sleeping in traditional Mongolian yurts on the property while studying everything from the historic nature of the property and Pitkin County’s land-use codes to such basic ranching issues as ditches and flood irrigation, before moving to the design phase.Among LeVan’s goals, he said, will be to have the students come up with designs that will help establish a dairy operation, “probably the greenest little dairy on the planet,” which will enable Sustainable Settings to produce and sell raw milk to local consumers.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com.


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