A multidisciplinary group of students is working on the Auburn Environmental Park District, a 130-acre parcel of land in the city of Auburn for sustainable development and green businesses.
The city provided WSU’s Institute for Sustainable Design and the Integrated Design Experience (IDeX) with $95,000 for the project. Twenty-one senior architecture students are working with approximately 20 civil engineering and organic agriculture students to develop the plan.
The project will provide students with hands-on experience, increase the value of the Auburn properties and grow high-value green jobs. The master plan for the district also aims to improve the energy and water performance of existing buildings and create a transit-oriented downtown.
Michael Wolcott, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Deborah Ascher-Barnstone, professor in the School of Architecture and Construction Management, are working with the students to build an engineering, architectural, stormwater management, and biological plan for the space.
Todd Beyreuther, Karl Olsen and Cara Poor, clinical assistant professors in architecture and civil engineering, are also working with the students.
“The Auburn project is important because of the integrated design component,” said Ascher-Barnstone. “More and more, firms discover that they need to begin projects with all the professionals at the table at the beginning.”
The zoned area of Auburn consists of two parkland areas, two commercial and light industrial areas, and one neighborhood zone. In particular, the students are working to create a sense of unity within these areas.
“My plan is to submerge or elevate the two railroads and open up the space to reunite the city of Auburn as one city rather than three districts” said Hung Ngo, senior architecture student.
Students want to increase the amount of outdoor activity through construction of bike paths, parks, organic farms, retention ponds and all-purpose open spaces.
“The residential area is a completely dead space because it is surrounded by industrial buildings,” said Ngo. “We want to make the neighborhood more alive by increasing outdoor activity such as bike paths.”
“One of my ideas was to utilize the large amount of parking lots by building a parking garage and using the unneeded parking lots for green spaces,” said Jessalin DeFord, senior architecture student.
The students hope to develop a plan that transforms the suburban districts into a more transit-oriented development by mixing residential and commercial areas to maximize access to public transport.
They still are mulling over the details in order to determine what will take place on each acre, but all potential components work to reduce waste, reuse energy and manage stormwater.
“Some students are looking at ways to diminish noise pollution from the highway and make it visually disappear,” Ascher-Barnstone said. “Others are looking at strategies to retrofit the original building, such as planting green on the roof to absorb more water to keep it from running into the street and make it available for other uses.”
The professors have high hopes for the students and the future of this project that will potentially continue into the spring semester.
“I think the students will be able to imagine some inventive solutions to Auburn’s challenges,” Ascher-Barnstone said.
The students will present their plans to Auburn residents on Nov. 3.