Net Positive Outdoor Sustainability Learning Center

EPA Grant Number: SU836791
Title: Net Positive Outdoor Sustainability Learning Center
Investigators: Glasser, Harold
Institution: Western Michigan University
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Phase: I
Project Period: November 1, 2016 through October 31, 2017
Project Amount: $14,536
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2016) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Awards , P3 Challenge Area - Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Explore a new model for design and process in higher education that invites students, community members, and industry professionals to work collaboratively to develop a schematic design for a net-positive, public learning space.


A core challenge that stunts sustainable growth within the built environment is the fundamental gap between design process and final design. The industry model of design-bid-build lacks cohesion across systems and neglects collaboration among all stakeholders. The Outdoor Education Space project explores a new model for design and process in higher education that invites students, community members, and industry professionals to work collaboratively to develop a schematic design for a net positive, outdoor public learning space. The project intends to generate more renewable energy on-site than is required for the building while driving down the total project cost of a typical Living Building. The objective is to achieve schematic design through hands-on integrated design and social learning, systems modeling, resource sharing, and appropriate technology.


The Outdoor Education Space is an case study approach to forge a new, anticipatory design process for net positive building on university campuses. The challenge is not about having the technology or brain power to bring all of the ideas together, but in creating a human scale process that can. The project brings together people of diverse backgrounds to develop awareness and collaborative understanding about sustainability principles that influence the spaces we live and learn in. The design process will be facilitated through three periods of design charrettes: divergent and programming, convergent, and decision-making. Site visits will be used early on to build an experiential knowledge base, table scale 3D models and experiential learning processes will be used subsequently to help make tradeoffs and address design conflicts. These processes will be informed by Revit floor plans, Trace energy models, solar path finding, life-cycle analyses, and social learning to build capacity rapidly and facilitate an integrated, iterative design process.

Expected Results:

Phase I of the project is expected to provide schematic design for the Outdoor Education Space. This design developed by the team, professionals, and the community, will include system-level loads and specifications based on energy modeling, material and equipment cut sheets to be implemented at the time of construction, and an overall design aesthetic for the Space. Data will be open-sourced and shared on a weekly basis to create a network of people, live case study progress, and resources locally at WMU, but also provide a platform for informal sustainable learning in the built environment globally.

Publications and Presentations:

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

Supplemental Keywords:

design, integrated design, life-cycle analysis, Living Building Challenge, outdoor learning spaces, passive building, regenerative design, responsible materials, social learning, solar photovoltaics, sustainable design, systems analysis and modeling, 3-D printing / 3-D laser cutters;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report