On January 16th Skyline Turbine delivered two Air Breeze turbines to the UVA learning barge. An interdisciplinary team of University of Virginia students and faculty are collaborating with community partners on an innovative service-learning project to design and build a floating, sustainable classroom. Located on the most polluted tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, the Learning Barge will provide interactive K-16 and adult education about how the river and human activities are inextricably linked. Unlike environmental education centers located in pristine “nature,” the Learning Barge will traverse an important urban river linking Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Moving to a different river restoration site every few months, the Learning Barge will teach participants about the tidal estuary ecosystem, wetland and oyster restoration and sediment remediation efforts, and the Elizabeth’s economic and transportation significance as a major port. The design harnesses energy from sun and wind, filters rainwater and gray water in a contained bed wetland, contains composting toilets, and utilizes recycled materials and “green” technologies. The Learning Barge itself has been carefully designed to teach visitors about power generation, water collection and filtration utilizing native plants, and other environmental issues.
This spring the Barge is in the final stages of building in anticipation for the launch in the summer of 2009. The Elizabeth River Project, a Portsmouth-based non-profit, will own and operate the Barge as a critical instrument in their educational and environmental mission to clean up the river ‘one creek at a time’. It is estimated that once operation, the Barge will be visited by 19,000 students and adults every year.
The project has already been recognized nationally with honors including the American Institute of Architects’ 2008 Education Honor Award, 2008 Collaborative Practice Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2007 EPA P3 Sustainability Competition Award, 2007 Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 2007 NCARB Prize, 2007 Go Green Award from the James River Chapter of the United States Green Building Council, and the 2006 Collaborative Design Award from American Society of Landscape Architects.
To learn more about the project please visit http://www.arch.virginia.edu/learningbarge/index.html