A Washington State University student team was one of the 2019 winners of the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA COTE)  Top Ten for Students Design Competition.

With their design for a waste to energy power plant, the students were one of 10 teams selected nationally out of 172 entries and almost 500 students. The team included graduate students Haley Ladenburg, Sean Anderson, and Tobias Jimenez. Their faculty sponsor was Omar Al-Hassawi, assistant professor in the School of Design and Construction.

The annual competition, in its fifth year, challenges students to use architecture, natural systems, and technology to create strategies that would protect and enhance the environment. This year, students were tasked with addressing and designing for climate change, moving towards a more carbon-neutral future.

In their project, the students found an architectural solution on how to get a waste to energy plant accepted into a small neighborhood.

The WSU team’s concept integrated the plant into a mixed-use building adjacent to an existing waste management transfer station on a site in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. The power plant would combust all post-recycled and sorted municipal waste from the transfer station to provide electricity for the community.

“We were trying to grapple with this issue of two contrasting things — a super big industrial machine and the human experience,” said Anderson.

Playground integrated into a WSU architecture project.
The students planned to humanize the facility by coupling the power plant with mixed-use urban uses such as a large park and playground.

The students planned to humanize the facility by coupling the power plant with mixed-use urban uses such as, retail, office, a large park, and a visitor center to showcase the power plant. Professionals from Miller Hull Architects provided guidance on the project and insights about the site, including the landscape and environment of the Wallingford neighborhood.

“It’s not just about making a building — it’s about addressing the societal issue,” said Anderson. “The competition is like a medium for us to make a statement about a bigger issue in society.”

As part of the prize, each of the students receives a cash prize and a stipend to attend the AIA National Convention in Las Vegas, June 6-8, where their projects will be displayed. The students are also offered a paid summer internship at an architecture firm doing  work in sustainable design. Jimenez was offered an internship with Miller Hull Architects in Seattle, WA and Ladenburg and Anderson were offered internships at Studio MA in Phoenix, AZ.

“It is extremely exciting to win this very prestigious design competition, not only for the students but also for our school,”Al-Hassawi said.