Above Is the final product of the sustainability project made by me and three others. Along with it is a short video walking around the space.
At the beginning of this project,we began to go to different areas that used the sustainable design process. This was a very helpful step because it got our ideas flowing for what we wanted to do for our final on-campus project. After that, we began the prototyping process and conducted empathy interviews to see what the teachers and students valued and what they wanted to see to make our school more beautiful and sustainable. Once we had all of our resources it was finally time to start actually building our projects. Our group began working right away, this was helpful, because we were then able to stay on track better. My initial thoughts on the project were very positive, and almost always remained this way. At some points, I did feel frustrated with clearing out space but this feeling didn't last for long. In the end, I was very proud of what our group had made. Even while still in the building process we already saw peers and teachers using the space to relax and study. While on the field trips I feel that I learned a lot about how to efficiently use sustainable design. While up in the Twin Buttes Community we were able to see how people were able to make a sustainable organic garden and how it provided to the community it was in. Another area in Twin Buttes that peaked my interest was how they made sustainable housing. One of the ways they did this was by reusing wood chips and concrete to make more organic cinder blocks. One of the main questions I had while there was, “Why do you choose to make sustainable houses and gardens when it is more work in the building process?” After exploring what the group of builders had created the answer was very simple. They wanted to do something better for the earth while at the same time making a very efficient final product that requires less work in the end. After Seeing this I was much more interested, especially when they showed us a house that required little to no heating or cooling. In my own words, I think that sustainable design is something that is able to reuse things that would otherwise be thrown away or to find more organic and efficient substitutes to use for everyday things. This project showed me how to use better things for the environment while doing the same thing as using something more efficient for the users and environment. I learned that sustainable design can also be created by nature and do the same thing that we are trying to do. When it is created by nature or made by humans with things from nature it is more self-keeping. This is why this makes it such a good option because it almost never needs to get many touch-ups. Because it is so simple to keep it makes sustainable design a good way to build things. This is one of the reasons this building design is becoming more popular which is why I loved working on this project while being able to learn more about it.
One of the most important things this project was about was knowing what the user's needs were. The way we got this information was by going around to school asking teachers and peers questions about what they want and what could be improved. Without doing this we wouldn't know what to add or take away from the final project to make it more usable and enjoyable. This helped me to know what I could do to make a project I was proud of instead of creating something that no one would want to use. Our entire group mixed together all of our information from the interviews, and it allowed us to gain more insight as to what we wanted to create. Once we had this it made it easier to create our design sketches because we knew what many people wanted from all of the sources. While doing this project we were allowed to have a lot of freedom. By doing this the teachers gave us the space to add the creativity that we wanted. I did really enjoy the style layout of this project because though there wasn't as much structure as I was normalized to in previous projects, it made me responsible for the work I was doing rather than just scraping things together by using an outline. Another reason the freedom was helpful was that it allowed no projects to be the same. Because of this, the final school campus is a more unique space instead of being more similar which it easily could have been with an outline. When we first started this project we began by clearing out space. To do this we started by raking, this was a very large process that took three days away from the project. While doing this we also removed any dead sticks in the trees and any still on the ground or near it. This was the most time-consuming portion of the project due to all of the debris surrounding the area that we chose to work on. After we had one very large pile of everything we put it into trash cans and hauled it to the dumpster, this process took almost a whole day of two-four people working on it. One of the other things that we also had to haul out were the pieces of asphalt laying in the hill. After removing more than half we decided to use them along with other natural rocks to make a path connecting the two sets of stairs. After everything was cleared we also made stairs by digging out dirt into stair form. We placed pieces of measured wood to prevent erosion but after this didn't work we also placed pieces of cut metal hammered into the ground to stabilize the wood. The metal was also recycled trailer that was pulled out of the creek. Once everything was done we finally placed the hammock as our final step.
The largest HOHAM skill that I used in this project was refinement. This was a crucial skill because our space needed so much work in order to make it a nice space. We spent almost all of our time working on specific things to keep everyone on track. Our project was a fairly simple idea yet everything that we put into it made it more complicated. All of us raked for many days until it was almost all done, then the other two moved onto making the stairs for almost the rest of the project. By spending so much time on this we were able to make a final project that we were thoroughly impressed with.
The biggest problem that we ran into during this project that was solved was the stair building issue. We went through about four versions before we were able to make the final ones there now that are actually usable. The first way that we tried was to just dig out dirt in the hillside in stair form. After spending a little less than a day on this we realized that just the dirt alone wouldn't hold up with the foot traffic and weather erosion. Then we decided to add cut pieces of wood for more support. We took more of the dirt that kept falling down ruining the stair shape and mixed it with water to add some sort of mud building that we had previously learned about somewhat in the project. When this mud did almost nothing to add support we decided to make the third version of the stairs. This version included adding gravel to the mud mixture and adding it to the top once the mud was packed down around the wood and stairs. In the end, we took right angle pieces of metal and hammered them around the corners into the ground to make our final stairs. This gave me and the rest of my group members a very accomplished feeling and I'm happy that we continued to persevere.
My biggest HOHAM that I need to work on to be a good PBL is advocacy. I feel this because about half of the time I come across a problem or something I would like to know more about I choose to not say anything. By doing this I am only not helping myself and I don't get as much out of the assignment or project that I could have. If I work on this more I can allow myself to learn more. I also felt like if I did this more in the active project I could have asked opinions more to see if there were any refinements that could have been made.
The most frustrating portion of the building process that we were unable to solve was the second row of stairs on the second hill leading down to the cleared out space near the creek. This process was also time-consuming and had many attempts put into it. We first started by placing large pieces of asphalt found in the hillside while we were removing everything from it. We decided to recycle them instead of throwing them away. We used these as a temporary fix to get down the hill while working on other things. When we got to the third version of the other set of stairs we also started working on the lower set. This was a steeper curved hill making it more difficult to create the steps. We then decided to slightly dig a flatter spot for each step to sit on in attempts to make it more stable. When this didn't work we decided to carry the mud building idea from the other stairs to this. Because this set of stairs was more natural we decided this would be the best option. We packed mud and gravel to the stairs slight helping with the issue of them rocking while being stepped on. Because adding metal on this area of steps wasn't an option due to the loose dirt we stuck with the mud. We poured buckets of water from the creek to see how it could hold erosion and rain. The test did not result as good as we had hoped but in the end, there was no other option so the stairs somewhat rock while you step on them to go down. Though this is a disappointing feeling I am still very proud of how far they had come.
In the beginning, I thought that success would be making something similar to what the sketches looked like. While going throughout the project I realized that it was very important to look back at planning but it was impossible for it to be exactly what you wanted. All the planning put into what we were doing was helpful, yet I found it was best to see what inspiration would hit you instead of attempting to do exactly what you thought would happen. When this started to happen I was much happier with the work that was getting done. Now I think that success in the project is something that you made using your own hands and creativity. I am much happier with what was made once we let most things go and we just worked. Because of this, I think that everything in that space is much more natural. I'm glad that we went with the flow to make the space, and I'm also happy that we were also able to work together as a group and stick to a schedule to now have that space.
The one major piece of advice I would give to a student starting this project would be to collaborate with your group to stay on track. This was one of the most major pieces of the project. The group I was working in had fun while working on the project, but while doing this we were almost constantly working. I think that working in this style makes it much easier to get things done. We had a somewhat spoken schedule that we were following and this made everyone more motivated to get the work done. The other three people in my group worked and collaborated very well with me so we were able to be honest with each other if we had certain opinions. To be in a group with others that have similar personalities and interests was amazing to do, yet we did not allow this to become too distracting. This is why I think all of these things allow for a very successful group.