Ford Gift Helps EPICS Make Green Home a Reality

Purdue University’s Engineering Projects in Community Service program (EPICS) recently became one of five winning programs in the Ford College Community Challenge.

The program received a $100,000 grant that will go to the Habitat for Humanity (HFH)/EPICS team for building a next-generation green home in Reynolds, Indiana. Reynolds was dubbed “BioTown, USA” in 2005, when the State of Indiana selected it to showcase ways in which agricultural towns can find new uses for their products and create more environmentally friendly ways to dispose of by-products.

The Ford “C3” challenge was based on linking universities with community-based projects around the theme “Building Sustainable Communities.” Ford offered the challenge to their key university partners nationwide and, out of over 20 applicants, Purdue’s EPICS program became one of five winners. “It was very competitive,” says EPICS Director William Oakes. The $100,000 will cover the cost of the project, including building materials, graduate student technical advisors, travel, and miscellaneous expenses. “The opportunity to go to Ford was very well-timed,” says Oakes. “The grant will provide funding for the house and allow us not to have to do fundraising for the cost of building the house.”

The green-build house is the latest project in the EPICS/HFH relationship that began almost 12 years ago. The building will not only be an experiment in green technologies but also a training mission for Habitat construction managers. The organization is eager to learn more environmentally friendly building techniques. Both partners are excited about the work. “We could do something that had a state-wide or regional impact, and this resonated with Habitat headquarters,” says Oakes. EPICS has enjoyed over a decade of success with Habitat and has assisted with housing designs and helped the local chapter with its building efforts in Haiti. EPICS also works with the international division of HFH on disaster-relief home designs.

The project offers an extensive learning experience for the student team, exposing them to ways in which to incorporate green technologies into a house design and helping dispel some myths about going green. “Some of these things are perceived to be harder to use in construction. The training and education of the builders is part of the process. Students who work on the project are going to come away with a great understanding of the complete life-cycle design,” Oakes says.

The Ford grant will allow both EPICS and HFH to have broad impact in their fields. “It’s putting a very visible project in an area where many people are going to see Purdue’s mark on how engineering is directly helping people,” Oakes says. The project will last two years, with construction slated to begin in 2009.