The Learning Barge: Environmental + Cultural Ecologies on the Elizabeth River

EPA Grant Number: SU833195
Title: The Learning Barge: Environmental + Cultural Ecologies on the Elizabeth River
Investigators: Crisman, Phoebe
Current Investigators: Crisman, Phoebe , Selim El-Barasi, Ayman Ibrahim , Donovan, Adam , Martin, Alexander , Cobbina, Ama , Daley, Andrew , Schnittka, Christine , Tate, Clark , Willkens, Danielle , Davis, Eliza , Binney, Erin , Dorr, Erin , Fugate, Ezekiel , Omar, Fahrad , Binns, Ian , Pint, James , Schwartzberg, Jayme , Rominger, Jeremy , Lafsky, Kate , Pabody, Katherine , McConnaha, Kelly , Day, Kevin , Barnett, Kim , Smetana, Lara , Bandara, Laura , DiBianca, Lauren , Hural, Matt , McClelland, Matt , O'Donnell, Molly , Budzinski, Neil , White, Nora , Richbourg, Phoebe , Edgecomb, Zoe
Institution: University of Virginia
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2006 through May 30, 2007
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Technical Challenge to Sustainability: A University of Virginia interdisciplinary student team will design and fabricate the Learning Barge—a 3,600 sf. floating K-16 environmental education field station powered solely by site-based solar and wind energy systems. Research is in partnership with The Elizabeth River Project (ERP), a non-profit environmental group whose mission is to clean up the Elizabeth River—one of the most contaminated tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. The 30’x120’ recycled barge will also support a contained bed wetland that filters greywater and creates habitat. The barge, slightly smaller than a typical 1/8 acre urban single-family lot, will make this self-sufficient energy demonstration real and applicable to every American.


The Learning Barge team uses a holistic, integrated design approach to this challenge involving multiple disciplines and several public, private and governmental institutions. Off-the-shelf, state of the art solar technologies will be innovatively integrated into the barge’s design, building systems and the construction process. Sustainable building concepts will be used, including rainfall and grey-water reuse systems, composting waste disposal, passive solar concepts and daylighting, and material choices.

Expected Results:

The predicted result is a completely energy self-sustaining educational environment. Data acquisition systems will measure actual energy performance and computer simulation will be utilized to predict annual performance and to evaluate the system’s economic and comfort benefits.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

pollution prevention, ecology, ecosystems, waste minimization, green building, rainfall harvesting, sustainable development, alternative building technology, alternative materials, ecological design, energy conservation, energy efficiency, monitoring, measurement methods, life-cycle analysis, cost benefit, environmentally conscious design, green roof, outreach and education, clean technologies, innovative technology, renewable, water, watersheds, sediments, estuary, human health, chemicals, PAH, discharge, indicators, aquatic, remediation, bioremediation, restoration, conservation, public policy, community-based, socio-economic, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, VA, EPA Region 3,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, energy conservation, clean energy, sustainable development, green design, environmental sustainability, conservation, energy technology, solar energy, alternative energy source, wind energy, environmental education

Relevant Websites:

UVA Learning Barge Web Site Exit
Elizabeth River Project Exit

Phase 2 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    The Learning Barge: Environmental + Cultural Ecologies on the Elizabeth River  | Final Report