Skip to main content
From left, architecture students Paul Attea, Sherif Sugiyama, Wilson Kessel, Noah Poor and Tyler Rasnake.
From left, architecture students Paul Attea, Sherif Sugiyama, Wilson Kessel, Noah Poor and Tyler Rasnake.

UT students head to Washington, DC, this week to compete in the second phase of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability.

The projects will be exhibited on the National Mall April 25–27 as part of the National Sustainable Design Expo. Winners will receive up to $90,000 in grant funding to turn their designs into real-world applications and implement them in the marketplace. The projects will be selected by a panel of experts from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Green Oak Project of the UT College of Architecture and Design developed oak construction techniques that use undried oak, which is known as “green” oak and mostly used for shipping pallets, as a low-energy and carbon-friendly wood product. The project received $15,000 in the first phase of the competition to investigate the material.

“There is very little contemporary architectural or engineering knowledge in the US about using green oak in building design, and no recognition of this type of construction in building codes,” said Ted Shelton, associate professor of architecture and the Green Oak Project leader. “Our work is responding to the properties of oak pallet cants, which are used in shipping, in an effort to transform this resource to structural uses while requiring no operational changes for local sawmills.”

This will be the second time that one of the college’s projects has been selected for the second stage of the competition. The UT New Norris House, which competed and won in 2008, was supported by EPA funds. It later became one of the most sustainable homes in Tennessee, and eventually led to changes in policies and building applications in the state.

At the Expo, twenty-three students and faculty of the Green Oak Project will construct and demonstrate a full-scale building prototype using the wood. They will show the mechanical testing and architectural construction documents that validate its viability as a sound building material.

The Expo will serve as an opportunity to discover innovative cutting-edge technologies developed by university students and their faculty advisors and experience sustainable products that are currently available. It also serves as a learning tool for students to display and defend their research.

“All of us are learning about a more sustainable way of constructing residential or small commercial buildings,” said Miranda Wright, a graduate architecture student who is working on the project. “Students are learning to research and test construction methods, and think outside the box when it comes to norms. We are all learning how sustainability can be about understanding current practices for bigger opportunities than those presently utilized.”

A project from the UT Biosystems Engineering and Environmental Science—”Eco-friendly Additives for Biodegradation of Agricultural Mulches”—also will compete.

To learn more about the competition and the entries, visit the EPA website.

From left, architecture students Paul Attea, Sherif Sugiyama, Wilson Kessel, Noah Poor and Tyler Rasnake.


Kiki Roeder (865-9746713,

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,