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UKentucky Team Finalist in International Sustainability Design Competition

By: Whitney Hale - Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Source: University of Kentucky

A design proposal for reclaiming an abandoned strip mining site near Whitesburg, KY, by a team with University of Kentucky School of Architecture connections, has been selected as one of 12 finalists in an international sustainability design competition. The proposal, "Sustainable Reclamation: An Urban Model for Coal Country," for the California Chapter of the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) International Design Competition will be presented at a symposium scheduled for June 8–11, in Los Angeles. The final winners will be announced at the symposium.

RIBA design competition, "Building A Sustainable World: Life in the Balance," aims to directly and immediately address impending and current environmental problems upon us by creating design models for sustainable communities.

Finalists were selected by an international panel of esteemed architects. The proposal with UK connections from the
Center for Sustainable Cities (CSC) Design Studio, a Lexington-based design firm specializing in green residential architecture and sustainable urban design, is one of 12 finalists from seven countries around the globe. The idea is the extension of an undergraduate thesis project from the UK School of Architecture.

CSC's entry,
"Sustainable Reclamation: An Urban Model for Coal Country," presents an urban model, a civil process and a technically assisted design method by which a community of local stakeholders together with architects and technicians develop a sustainable urban community from abandoned strip mining sites reclaiming the Appalachian landscape.

The proposal is inspired by hilltowns around the world. The plan, a Town-as-a-Hill concept, is a compact pedestrian town that places those functions that in the modern town can be a blight on the visual and social landscape, below the new ground surface of a constructed hill. All large scale commercial, institutional and industrial facilities, most service functions, parking, and other activities and infrastructure that create often unsafe dead zones in a conventional town are located within the hill.

The "upper town" is supported by the Coupled Pan Space Frame, an innovative, economical, cast-in-place concrete structural system developed at UK, that is capable of large two-way spans that create the space of the inner hill and house the service systems needed for the upper town. In this way, contour strip mining benches and mountain-top removal sites are reclaimed with a constructed hilltown with green rooftops recreating original vegetated pre-mining landscape.

The proposal also employs wind energy; transports sewage through an oil-based system to power a biogas digestion system; provides electricity principally by large arrays of PV collectors; and heats the community through a unique out-of-season hot air collection and storage system. The entry is to be seen as a new urban model for the redevelopment and sustainable reclamation of the Appalachian landscape.

The CSC proposal is an extension of Michael T. Hughes' undergraduate thesis project. The competition proposal was developed by a team at CSC under the leadership of Richard Levine, director of the CSC Design Studio, architect and professor of architecture at UK College of Design. Other team members include Hughes, project manager on the proposal and now UK alumnus; Casey Ryan Mather, project coordinator; and Tagi Radmard, who provided the proposal's architectural renderings. Bill Fleming, Doug Hartig and Pongsak Chaisuparasmikul provided
additional design and research.

is a pioneering solar architect and world renowned sustainability researcher who has taught architecture at UK for more than 40 years. He is a co-founder and principal architect of the CSC Design Studio, and co-founder of the Center for Sustainable Cities at UK, which researches the theory and practice of sustainability.

Hughes, a UK alumnus, is a design and research associate at the CSC and instructor at the UK School of Architecture. He was a co-founder of the CSC Design Studio.

Mather, also a UK alumnus, is a design and research associate at CSC and is currently finishing his master's degree in architecture at UK. He also helped co-found the CSC Design Studio.

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