Organizations to host Tropical Vernacular Architecture symposium, hope to educate about sustainable living

Students at the University of Miami know that going green is important. But knowing how they can tackle the issue directly might be more difficult. This Saturday is an opportunity for students, specifically architecture students, to learn how they can make a difference.

The Emerging Green Builders (EGB) along with the Center for Urban and Community Design will host the Tropical Vernacular Architecture symposium. The symposium is designed to educate both architecture students and local professionals about the benefits of sustainable living and design in relation to tropical climates.

“We want to be able to teach people that green architecture does not have to use space-age technologies in order to have a zero carbon footprint,” said senior Brian Lemmerman, president of the Emerging Green Builders, a third year campus organization designed to integrate green living into building design. “We want it to be simple enough for the general public to understand, but also find a way to talk technically about architecture.”

Sustainable architecture includes basic changes such as having operable windows, energy efficient lighting, trees planted outside buildings for shade and cooling buildings without air conditioning.

Mark Schreiber, UM alumnus and a speaker for the event said how imperative this subject is.

“The most important aspect of sustainable living is the connection people have to nature,” Schreiber said. “If people can reconnect with nature they will achieve a mutual respect which will in turn lead them to live a sustainable life. Through good design people can gain this respect and connection to nature.”

Sustainable architecture goes beyond the natural habitat, however. It also benefits the economy. With President Barack Obama stating last week his plan to develop new energy saving strategies to save money, the symposium echoes his urgency as it addresses the cost-efficiency of ‘green’ building.

“Using local materials to build cuts cost from having everything shipped across the ocean,” Lemmerman said.

“Buildings consume about one-third of energy in the county so lowering those costs would be a major improvement,” said Denis Hector, associate dean of the School of Architecture and EGB advisor. “The very first thing you can do is look at traditional buildings which had an economic necessity to work efficiently without the use of machines such as air conditioning. You look at them, how they were designed and model it.”

The symposium will go from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday and take place at Glasgow Hall in the School of Architecture.

There has been a great effort to keep the entire event eco-friendly. The food, made of organic and all-natural products, will be donated from several local companies and all eating utensils will be made from corn-fiber which is biodegradable.

UM will also be cutting its costs and energy usage by having architect Maria Machado speak with the conference-goers from Venezuela via Skype instead of using energy for travel.

EBG members hope to have a tree planted in Miami for every person that attends. The trees will be a way to offset the carbon footprint of those traveling to the symposium.

“In the school of architecture, it is our emphasis to make the point of sustainability as standard practice,” Hector said. “It’s not just something you do when you’re feeling virtuous but it becomes a part of every design.”

The price is $10 for students and $20 for the general public. Professionals seeking CEU credits must pay $80 in advance and $100 at the door. The price includes lunch, a snack and six professional speakers.