Students Design High-Tech, Eco-Friendly Dorm
Sustainability is a topic students at Florida Tech are invested in. Seven construction management students designed an eco-friendly dorm that encompasses the aspects of green-living.
“The Green Panther” dormitory raises on-campus living standards and aligns them with Florida Tech’s high academic standards. Ralph Bahous, who minors in sustainability, characterizes the dorm as “high-tech, green and luxurious.”
The Green Panther dorm consists of 224 suites that can house up to 448 students. Each suite is divided into two private bedrooms with a common space in-between. Each bedroom a floor-to-ceiling glass face wall, king-size bed, TV, desk and a small lounge chair. The common space includes a bathroom with two private stand up showers, a kitchenette with mini fridge and washer/dryer. The luxuries of the dorm include fine details such as door handles, wood flooring, marble countertops to a community gym, indoor swimming pool and rooftop patio.
The Green Panther dorm will be high-tech in terms of the equipment it will be running on, such as the air-conditioning system. According to Bahous, tapping into Florida Tech’s existing chill water plant would decrease air conditioning costs dramatically and would run more stable.
“The rainwater retainment system and solar parking are key elements of our green objective however, there are many small details incorporated into our design such as double-paned windows and low flush lavatory equipment that contribute to our green vision,” Bahous said.
When calculating the costs, the team came to $46.5 million, which comes to around $100,000 per bed. Once the rainwater retainment system and solar parking are paid off, each will save the school an average of $27,000 & $82,000 respectively on a yearly basis.
“If you were to rent each room for $800 a month,” Bahous said, “you would recoup your investment after 10 years, not including the green features and the dining hall on the first floor, which provide financial benefits as well.”
The main inspiration behind the project was the student body. When Bahous’s team initially surveyed students and asked them if they were interested in paying extra for a more luxurious room, 70% of them said yes.
“In today’s world, if you do not harvest what is free, you are not taking full advantage of your resources,” Bahous said. “As Thomas Edison once said, ‘I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.'”
Bahous said the biggest surprise during the project was the cost of construction. However, throughout the design process, each team member was able to find ways to lower costs.
“It is remarkable how, when a given sector matures, material prices tend to drop. We were able to discover this in-between our first meeting in August and our submission in April,” Bahous said.
Teamwork was a key factor in the team’s success. They were able settle disputes by having constructive debates and conversations ending in the best possible outcome for their team. Because of this, they were able to set a goal and reach it. As a result, Bahous’s team took home the Best in Show Award for the construction management department during the 2016 Northrop Grumman Engineering and Research Student Showcase.
Bahous advises students to start thinking of project ideas right when classes start.
“When that first day of class comes after summer holiday, and you’re in Senior Design One, try as much as you can to foresee the upcoming year,” Bahous said. “Try to know what you’re good at, what you want to achieve, and then specify the guidelines of your project.
Bahous’s main takeaway from this experience was every class he took throughout the years was useful and important. The combination of those classes taught him the skills and knowledge that he was able to use and incorporate into the final project.
“Research will always be important because whether you are a student in college or the CEO of a company, staying knowledgeable and updated in your field is a necessity to understand and grow in the environment you are working in,” Bahous said.