Meet the Winners of the "Green" Tree House Competition
We're branching out, quite literally. This past fall, Design Institute held a tree house design competition for high school students, challenging them to come up with a "green" design concept and display their work with visuals that would include a floor plan, details and renderings. The goal of the competition was not only to expose local high school students to the possibilities of the interior design profession, but to see what design skills this upcoming generation has. Cash prizes for the top three winners provided an additional incentive for the participants.
As the projects began to roll in, DI staff began to buzz with excitement. Everyone was impressed with the variety and quality of the design solutions. "The caliber of the work was surprising given the minimal amount of design training received," commented Liz Barry, interior designer and DI admissions representative.
The panel of elite judges was comprised of leaders in the sustainable design community:
- Doug Kot, Executive Director of the US Green Building Council San Diego Chapter
- Zachary Pannier, Sustainable Expert at DPR Construction
- Jennifer Montgomery, Project Manager at Schmidt Design Group
- Robert Thiele Principal Architect at Robert Thiele Associates
- Lynn Froeschle, Principal Architect at Lynn Froeschle Architects
The judges spent a significant amount of time reviewing each submission and then rated them on a variety of criteria from sensitivity to the environment and the tree to the integration of building systems such as HVAC, plumbing, electric, etc. On December 12, 2011, after months of preparation and anticipation, the winners finally emerged.
First place went to Banks Ireland, a freshman at Poway High School. Second place went to Quan Ly, a junior at the Preuss School at UCSD. Third place went to Kimberly Ngo, a senior at Westview High School. While all the concepts were strong, each student's implementation of the criteria could not have been more different.
Kimberly Ngo, who has wanted to be an interior designer since middle school, designed a space that works with all the elements of nature. Whether literal or figurative, there are reminders of nature and its necessity to human life all throughout the space. Kimberly paid special attention to how the design would hold up through a natural disaster, but that doesn't mean she didn't put time into the interior aspects. And the judges took note: "Well thought out space...I love the interior design with elements to remind people to think of nature...Well conceived and well presented." Though the final product was impressive, Kimberly admits to having some difficulties. "It was a bit nerve-racking at first but I just went step by step and worked my way through." A valuable lesson for any budding designer.
Quan Ly took a more pragmatic approach, although his inspiration came from a fantasy drawing. His tree house design is equipped with features including solar panels, handicap accessibility, and tinted windows that can control the amount of light and thus the temperature in the space. Quan was the only student to submit a 3-D scale model. "I just felt the drawings and the printed 3-D renderings didn't tell the whole picture." He left no stone unturned and this attention to detail, which was admired by the judges, ended up paying off: "The design has a clear concept and is well presented. The siting of the house is a strength and an opportunity."
And the first place winner? As the son of an architect and an artist, design is in Banks Ireland's blood. "I think design is cool. It's just fun." But great design doesn't come from just having fun; Banks spent every weekend working on and refining his project and still put in 6 hours the last night. Banks gained insight and learned a new approach to design after visiting a sustainable house owned by some family friends in Mexico. This was his inspiration. Like all of the entrants, Banks did a significant amount of research, which is how he decided to include soda bottle lights. "It was actually a YouTube video I saw. You fill them up with water and chlorine and the light shines through at 60 watts." The judges were all impressed with Banks' design solutions: "Great attention to detail. All of the materials...are very creative...and designed to avoid damage to the tree." One of the judges actually wanted to move in! And just in case his dedication to sustainable design wasn't obvious, he created all of his boards from recycled content. Though this clever candidate was the clear winner for many of the judges, Banks was humbled when he received the call that he had the highest score. "I was amazed. I couldn't believe that I won."
With one successful high school design competition finished, DI is already gearing up to make this an annual event, with a different design challenge each year. If DI has learned anything from this competition, it's that you can see the future of the design industry by taking the time to see what the upcoming generation can do. They might not be predictable, but they should never be underestimated. Congratulations to all of the participants. We look forward to seeing your brilliant ideas in the future.
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