EPA to Support Pratt Students in Design of Sustainable Technologies following Natural Disasters

July 25, 2006

Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering has received two “People, Prosperity, and the Planet” (P3) grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aimed at sustainable technologies for use in regions crippled by natural disaster.

One of the $10,000 awards will support students in the identification and development of technologies relevant to the construction of sustainable homes in a part of Louisiana that was devastated by floodwaters after Hurricane Katrina. The second will focus on development of a mechanical aerator to help restore shrimp and fish hatcheries in tsunami-torn Indonesia.

“The goal of the first project is to assist residents of the gulf coast area by attempting to identify relevant technologies that show promise for improving the durability, affordability, and accessibility of housing,” said David Schaad, assistant chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), who will act as a faculty adviser on both projects.

“In the second, students will undertake a project to develop a prototype mechanical aerator to be used in aquaculture livelihood restoration projects in and around Banda Aceh, Indonesia.”

Professors Joe Nadeau, Robert Kielb, Martin Brooke, John Board, Chris Brasier and Tom Rose will also serve as faculty advisers for the grant aimed at constructing sustainable homes after natural disasters. That effort represents a partnership between Duke, Habitat for Humanity and the Planning and Housing Departments of St. Bernard Parish, La., one of the places hardest hit by Katrina last summer.

The Louisiana effort will expand upon the course, Natural Catastrophes: Rebuilding from Ruins, offered by Schaad in the aftermath of Katrina in which students followed the life cycle of natural disasters through an interdisciplinary series of invited experts. The course included a service learning component in which students spent their spring breaks involved in the cleanup and recovery effort in St. Bernard Parish.

Students enrolled in four courses next year (Advanced Living Technology Design, Architectural Engineering II, Integrated Structural Design, and Integrated Environmental Design) will explore housing rehabilitation strategies and housing reconstruction designs that demonstrate innovative technologies, energy efficiency, accessibility, “green” building techniques, and/or other features of innovative design to be incorporated as part of the reconstruction effort, Schaad said.

The Indonesia project follows an excursion made by Schaad and five engineering students to Banda Aceh following the Christmas tsunami of 2004. The EPA award will support the further development of a mechanical aerator by students in the design course Environmental Engineering and Water Resources.

The “T. A. Brown Mechanical Aerator” project is named in honor of engineering student Tyler Brown, who participated in the trip and was principally involved in conceptualizing and fabricating the prototype aerator, Schaad said. Tyler was killed by a drunk driver in October 2005.

Students involved in both projects will compete their design solutions at the P3 Award competition held in Washington, D.C., next spring. The two Duke grants were among 42 awarded by the EPA.

Duke was one of 41 teams that competed for the P3 Award last May. The interdisciplinary student team competed with actual technology prototypes related to the Duke SmartHouse, including a solar tracker, a hot water recovery system, a photovoltaic water cooling panel, and a grey water recovery system.

The P3 Award was launched in 2003 to respond to the challenges of the developed and developing world in moving toward sustainability. The national competition enables college students to research, develop and design scientific, technical and policy solutions to sustainability challenges. Their designs will help achieve the mutual goals of economic prosperity while providing a higher quality of life and protecting the planet.