UM invites neighbors to see `green'

School eager to tell community about future eco-friendly building

May 09, 2008|By Janene Holzberg | Janene Holzberg,Special to the Sun

The University of Maryland has invited 900 of its closest neighbors for light refreshments tomorrow to talk about the environmentally friendly building it plans to erect at its research farm in western Ellicott City.

Postcard invitations to the informational session were recently mailed to residents of communities surrounding the school's 922-acre property, where the Central Maryland Research and Education Center has been since 1988.

Eight-foot-wide banners proclaiming, "We're going Green in your neighborhood!" went up last weekend at the center's Folly Quarter Road entrance.

College leaders will discuss their conceptual design for the 35,000-square-foot Green Building, which will feature environmentally friendly technology and examples of efficient energy use. Officials estimate the project will cost $12 million to $15 million, which it is raising through private and public donations. The start of construction has yet to be determined.

"We will use this building to produce the green technology of the future," said Brian Magness, director of development for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources on the University of Maryland, College Park campus. "We intend to be a leader in the country and the world."

The 50-year-old research farm's property is the ideal setting for the project, he said, pointing to its central location between Baltimore and Washington and "a county audience that is receptive to environmental issues."

County Executive Ken Ulman has pledged $250,000 to the capital campaign, Magness said, creating a "great partnership."

The PowerPoint presentation and question-and-answer session, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., are intended "to allay any fears about the project," said Jon Traunfeld, director of the home and garden information center on the facility's grounds.

"The only reasons I can think of why anyone might object are increased traffic and external lighting, and I cannot see either of those as having much impact," he said.

The Green Building will serve as an educational tool and draw regional visitors, including students on field trips, educators and researchers. There will also be a 300-seat conference center on the 3- to 4-acre site, which has not yet been chosen.

"We plan to blend as seamlessly as possible into the landscape," said Traunfeld. "I would think people will be supportive."

The only obstacle standing between the dream and reality is a university policy that prohibits capital funding of off-campus projects, said Magness. While there is a link on the project's Web site for making private donations, there will be no fundraising at tomorrow's event.

"We are exploring every avenue of funding, including individual foundations and local and state governments, and are projecting to have the necessary funds within two years," Magness said. "That is a very optimistic goal."

The Green Building will feature active and passive solar strategies, a silo wind turbine to generate energy, a "living machine" that biologically treats waste and waste water, light tubes that channel natural light, and rain collection systems that conserve and recycle water for cooling and irrigation.

"Our whole gig is educating, and this project will give us many opportunities to explore, perfect and share green technologies," said Traunfeld.

The new facility will house the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station headquarters, the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, the Howard County Extension office, and programs for Maryland Master Gardener, Bay-Wise Landscaping and 4-H, among other offices.

"This project presents an opportunity for us to facilitate the demonstration of green building," said Cheng-i Wei, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "People will be able to see what we can do."

For more information, call 410-531-5556 or visit the project's Web site at www.greenbuilding

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