February 10, 2011

A Green Solution to Housing Pollution

“Rather than just talking about rebuilding the community, Jonathan Spodek and his collaboration with the Muncie community are making a visible difference.” –Steve Herron, Graduate Student, Architecture

Whether it’s green cars, green energy, or green business practices, the word “green” seems to have found its way into every aspect of our daily lives as a symbol of a more responsible, sustainable world. However, as our nation continues to pour millions of dollars into green technologies, is the possibility of a green lifestyle a truly sustainable idea?

Jonathan Spodek
Ball State Associate Professor of Architecture, Jonathan Spodek, believes it is and has spent the last 20 years building on his vision of a greener community—literally. Spodek specializes in rehabilitation construction techniques that use pre-existing (often abandoned) homes to create more eco-friendly structures.

Utilizing this knowledge, and seeing a need to address the growing number of abandoned homes in Muncie, Spodek, in true entrepreneurial spirit and together with Bill Morgan, Muncie's historic preservation officer, founded EcoREHAB, a not-for-profit organization. The new non-profit qualified for receiving an $85,000 Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Building on the HUD funding and in collaboration with EcoREHAB and the Muncie Unsafe Building Authority, the Ball Brothers Foundation funded Ball State with a $75,000 award to launch the city’s first EcoREHAB Model Home and Assistance Center under Spodek’s project direction. The major goals of the project are to:
  1. Rehabilitate existing houses while promoting and following sustainable building practices.
  2. Provide an immersive learning experience for Ball State University students.
  3. Establish a design assistance center for private home owners and other non-profit entities that provide technical assistance in sustainable design.
  4. Offer outreach training programs to communities, community development corporations, and individuals on methods of integrating similar programs.
Spodek and his dedicated team of students have already met their main objectives. In fall 2010, the first EcoREHAB home was built, and construction is already underway to develop a second EcoREHAB home.

Floor Plan A (click to enlarge)

Floor Plan B (click to enlarge)

With a focus on eco-friendly architecture, don’t expect to see “Jetsons”-inspired homes with fancy gizmos and equipment. Spodek explains, “It’s not just about expensive technology. When we’re finished, these are not million dollar showcase homes; they’re projects that are environmentally friendly, energy efficient, and affordable.” This, he believes, should be the ultimate goal of a building project and hopes to teach his students that good design goes beyond aesthetics. “Good design,” he says, “addresses a human need. A quality place to live is a fundamental need, and if we can accomplish that, that’s good design.”

More than just an in-class assignment, the project allows students to fully immerse themselves in what they’ve learned, something that Steve Herron, an architecture graduate student, really appreciates. “It’s about getting your hands dirty,” he said, “and learning through doing, as opposed to just reading and listening.” Historic Preservation major, Julie Collier, echoes these sentiments and adds, “I think sitting in a classroom can be stifling sometimes. It’s engaging to be in a nontraditional learning environment. At least for me, it has been a very beneficial experience.”

Of course rehabilitating existing abandoned homes into green homes does not come without its share of challenges—rotting wood, unstable roofing, and broken sewer lines, to name a few. However, for Spodek and his band of strong-willed students, this project not only represents a way to gain experience, but also symbolizes a tangible effort to help rebuild the infrastructure in some of Muncie’s most at-risk residential areas. “It’s really a great cause for the entire community of Muncie,” said Julie. “I think it’s a great thing Jonathan Spodek is doing and he just pours his whole life into it—it’s admirable. He expects a lot, but he gives a lot too.”

It is uncertain if the future rests solely on green technology, but at least for the city of Muncie, a professor and his students are committed to building a brighter future for their community—one home at a time.

You can find more information on this project on the BSU website at "Fighting Blight," or by contacting Professor Jonathan Spodek at 765-285-1919 or jspodek@bsu.edu.

1 comment:

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