January 7, 2011

Community Fellows Work with Local Organizations to Improve Easton

Professor Erol Ulucakli and members of the Green Design Laboratory discuss renovation plans.

While working as an intern with Lafayette’s Green Design Laboratory last summer, Ben Boyer ’11 (Lebanon, Pa.) learned a lot about the importance of sustainable and green building practices and methods to improve homes’ energy efficiency.

“These building methods are sometimes neglected as a result of common practice despite their lower operating costs, and sometimes installation costs. Working on this project opened my eyes to this fact, as well as how easily something could be done to change it,” Boyer says.

A mechanical engineering major, Boyer was one of several Community Fellows who worked with Easton organizations on community improvement projects over the summer. This is the program’s second year, and Lafayette student interns were supported by the William T. Morris Foundation, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Wachovia Regional Foundation, Easton Hospital, and Lafayette Ambassador Bank.

The purpose of the Green Design Laboratory was to study homes in Easton’s West Ward to identify possible renovations that would improve energy efficiency, reduce heat loss, and lower energy bills. The students studied how different types of structures can be made more energy efficient and what types of improvements make the most sense.

“Spending the summer as a Community Fellow gave me practical experience working on a project and allowed me to apply the knowledge I’ve gained from class to relevant problems in the community—specifically, the unsustainable nature of inefficiently functioning homes in lower-income areas,” Boyer says.

The other Community Fellows working on the Green Design Laboratory were mechanical engineering majors Andrew Feldman ’11 (Middletown, N.J.), Kevin McGough ’11 (Wallingford, Pa.), Alexander Mednick ’11 (Nelson, N.H.), and David Wenger ’12 (Montville, N.J.). The project is headed Erol Ulucakli, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

Another group of Community Fellows worked on the Governor Wolf Athenaeum project, which involves developing a planning, architecture, and construction feasibility study for rehabilitating the building on North Second Street into a regional arts, education, and cultural center. The team included Jessica Counihan ’10, a chemistry and architectural studies graduate; Marcus Cox ’11 (Avon, N.Y.) and Ryan Flaherty ’11 (Hudson, N.Y.), both civil engineering majors; and Elizabeth Virgin ’11, an engineering studies major. David Veshosky, associate professor of civil engineering, served as faculty mentor.

The interns were responsible for conducting a preliminary program, space, green building, and cost analysis for the estimated $12–15 million project. Their work built on research done in an earlier phase, which concluded that the facility could be self-sustaining and would produce significant economic benefit and new jobs.

Other Community Fellows worked with the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership as part of the collaborative Urban Ecology Project, a multi-year revitalization effort in the Easton neighborhood.  The interns were mathematics-economics major Qiao Rong Huang ’11 (New York, N.Y.), international studies major Phouan Anh Nguyen ’12 (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam), psychology major Megan Gleason ’11 (New Suffolk, N.Y.), and English major Stephanie Smith ’13 (North Falmouth, Mass.). The adviser for the project is Esther Guzman, manager of the partnership. The project is supported by the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley via the Wachovia Regional Foundation, and the William T. Morris Foundation.

The team contributed to the development of a model green business district and an urban ecology communities network. In the business district, an incentive program will encourage commercial property owners to retrofit their buildings to make them as energy efficient as possible.  The interns also contributed to a feasibility study, developing a business mix/clustering plan, proposing financial requirements and incentives, and outlining a management structure.

Cox, Flaherty, Virgin, Huang, and Nguyen are known as William T. Morris Foundation Fellows in recognition of a $25,000 grant the foundation awarded to Lafayette in support of the initiatives. Paul Barrett ’63, who is vice president and a director of the foundation, assisted the College in securing the grant.

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