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Instructors are designing greener programs at PCC

Story by Eloise Holland. Photos by James Hill.

AmandaThese days everybody is trying to find a way to be greener. Amanda Ferroggiaro, chair of the Interior Design program at PCC’s Sylvania Campus, believes one of the biggest hurdles is making sure everybody has the right information.

“The power of misinformation is big,” said Ferroggiario, who grew up in Maryland and has a graduate degree in interior design from the University of Oregon. “I’m interested in educating myself and then as soon as I can, turning to educate our students.”

As part of this effort, Ferroggiaro recently took part in an internship to learn more about sustainable lighting and deconstruction techniques. The internship was supported financially through a National Science Foundation grant that awarded PCC almost $700,000 to infuse sustainability content, practices, tools and techniques into PCC programs that impact building construction.

Ferroggiaro split her time between the ReBuilding Center in North Portland and Portland Energy Conservation Inc. in Southwest Portland.

At PECI, she worked with the residential lighting coordinator to develop lighting packages that utilize practices in sustainable light design. At the ReBuilding Center, Ferroggiaro learned more about the process of deconstruction, where old buildings are dismantled — rather than demolished — so the parts can be salvaged and reused.

Ferroggiaro will now take what she learned and incorporate it into her curriculum at PCC. For example, she has modified one lighting assignment so that students must use 90 percent high efficiency lighting such as light emitting diodes (LEDs) and fluorescent lights.

“I think students are really craving to know how to do the right thing,” said Ferroggiaro. “There’s definitely a sense of responsibility and a sense of ownership with the environment, and I think it’s just great that the faculty has had an opportunity to step up to the plate and meet that need.”

PCC’s National Science Foundation Grant

Ferroggiaro is only one of many PCC instructors who will benefit from the NSF grant. Architectural drafting instructor Denise Roy recently completed an internship at Earth Advantage in Southwest Portland, where she focused on learning the latest in green building. In the next two years, instructors from core programs will take part in similar industry internships.

NSFParticipating faculty members include Spencer Hinkle, Shannon Baird and Bob Steele from the Building Construction Technology program at Rock Creek Campus and John Shaw, Sally Von Entress and Rick Willebrand from the Facilities Maintenance program at Cascade Campus.

NSF grant project coordinator Todd Sanders believes these internships are vital to the health of PCC programs.

“Industry partnerships are at the core of our effort,” said Sanders, instructor in mechanical engineering. “These industry partners help us determine what is important for the students to be knowledgeable of and can help expose our internship faculty to the necessary skills.”

Sanders added that the Northwest is home to many cutting-edge industries that are at the forefront of their fields. Having PCC students train with the latest practices gives them a competitive edge in today’s tough job market.

While Ferroggiaro and other instructors are learning about new technology and green practices, architecture and interior design instructor Dorothy Payton is in the middle of a one-year faculty position, supported by the NSF grant, to fill in for instructors taking part in internships.

With a longtime passion for all things sustainable, Payton ran her own architecture practice for 20 years. She was heavily involved in the growing regional and national sustainability movements and even helped start such groups as the NW EcoBuilding Guild.

About 10 years ago, Payton’s interest began to shift to teaching as she thought about the future of the sustainability movement and how she could reach more professionals with her message.

“It’s very clear to me that instead of designing buildings, I’m building designers,” said Payton, “and that has been percolating the whole time, but now here at PCC I have a chance to really do that. And, to me, it’s much more exciting than doing a building.”

NSFSustainability in the classroom and beyond

Because PCC has the ability to quickly respond to industry needs, the college already has degree or certification options to serve emerging green technology needs.

“Green” courses of study include renewable energy systems, alternative fuels, solar voltaic manufacturing and sustainable building. These educational pathways include classes in a wide range of academic programs including Electronic Engineering Technology, Facilities Maintenance, Microelectronic Technology, Civil Mechanical Engineering Technology, Automotive Services, Chemistry, Architectural Design and Drafting, Interior Design and Building Construction Technology.

Payton thinks a cross-disciplinary approach is the right one. “We aren’t going to solve the issues about planetary stewardship or resource management or social equity – Is there enough to go around? And how do we make sure there’s enough to go around fairly? – without collaborating. It’s too complex,” she said.

Ferroggiaro adds that this complexity means that, even armed with the latest information about sustainable practices, students will still be making tough decisions in their future careers.

“There’s no perfect material,” said Ferroggiaro. “There’s no perfect appliance. There’s no perfect way of doing things. We just want to focus on best practices.”

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