OSU students develop sustainability plan for construction of new teaching hall

OSU students develop sustainability plan for construction of new teaching hall

Students recommended six areas to maximize efficiency and diversion, including minimal waste dining services, composting and the recycling of C&D debris.

February 1, 2022

Students at Oklahoma State University (OSU) have developed a plan to identify potential sustainable solutions for the university’s New Frontiers Agriculture Hall, a teaching, research and OSU Extension facility.

As reported by The Ponca City News, Ferguson College of Agriculture students Makenna Paniel and McKinly Dortch presented their recommendations to the New Frontiers design and architectural team as part of a recent capstone course led by Karen Hickman, professor and director of OSU’s environmental science undergraduate program.

“Finding a sustainability building project was a particular interest of mine because there are many types of career paths in the sustainability field, and this was an opportunity to see how my interests could be used in a tangible project,” Dortch told the paper. “When I heard about the opportunity for us to work on the project for the new building, I was very excited to be able to contribute to my campus. Also, working on a building from scratch allowed me to think bigger and get creative.”

The duo worked with another capstone class to survey current OSU students regarding their preferences about the design of the new building, and more than 70 percent of the respondents favored sustainable and eco-friendly implementations.

As a result of their research and findings, Paniel and Dortch developed recommendations for six areas to maximize the efficiency and sustainability of the new building, including minimal waste dining services, composting, native pollinator planting, green roof, rainwater catchment and recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) debris.

Composting efforts

OSU currently composts landscaping waste and preconsumed food scraps from the Student Union. However, Paniel and Dortch agreed there is much greater potential to divert food waste, single-use plastics, paper scraps and even paper towels from the landfill. Within their development plan, they recommended expanding composting in the new building to eliminate brown waste and food waste.

“Having eaten on campus for four years, I saw firsthand how much food is wasted,” Dortch says. “I am also aware of the capability OSU has to implement a compostable dining program that could be run by the agricultural department similar to other campuses, and I think this is a perfect opportunity to pilot it.”

Recycling of C&D debris

The students also recommended the recycling of C&D debris because of its benefits, such as natural resource savings, avoided landfill disposal, energy savings and reducing the carbon footprint.

Randy Raper, assistant vice president of facilities for OSU Agriculture, told The Ponca City News that this sustainable activity already has been incorporated in the construction process for New Frontiers Agricultural Hall.

“The gravel that was used to cover the many truckloads of fill dumped on the building site was recycled from the parking lot and from Ag North that was removed to make room for the footprint of the new facility,” he said. “The construction crew will continue to recycle construction and demolition debris when available.”

Raper added that the design and architectural team is grateful for the students’ input and the group is considering the recommendations they provided.

New Frontiers Agricultural Hall is expected to open for classes for the fall 2024 semester.