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Desert Doghouse: Green living for canines

October 08, 2009

More than 80 youngsters from 10 Arizona high schools are putting green theory into practice for the first annual Desert Doghouse competition, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 24 at Arizona State University.

Fifteen student teams will exhibit doghouses they have designed and built according to challenging standards for environmental sustainability.

The team judged to have produced the greenest structure will display its winning canine domicile at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Nov. 11-13 in Phoenix, an event expected to draw about 30,000 people from around the world.

“This offers students in our community a rare opportunity to participate in the world’s largest expo highlighting innovative engineering, design and entrepreneurial ventures aimed at protecting and improving our environment,” says Deirdre Meldrum, the dean of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Desert Doghouse is organized by ASU’s Del E. Webb School of Construction, a part of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and by ASU’s Emerging Green Builders, a student organization of the U.S Green Building Council that works to develop future leaders for the green building movement.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to do a hands-on project that will teach them skills that align with Arizona’s education standards,” Meldrum says.

Highland High School in Gilbert will bring three teams to the event. Skyline High School in Mesa and Estrella Foothills High School in Goodyear will each have two teams competing. One team each will come from Tempe High, Carl T. Hayden (Phoenix), Metro Tech (Phoenix), Liberty (Peoria), Bourgade Catholic (Phoenix), Vail (Tucson), Chaparral (Scottsdale) and Payson high schools.

“Students in our agricultural engineering classes are on board with the green trend,” says Curtis Willems, an agriculture education and engineering instructor at Highland.

“I think they found the idea of green doghouses kind of cool, and thought it is something they can get creative with,” he says. “Plus, they are really competitive.”

The teams’ doghouses will be judged by design, engineering and construction professionals from more than 20 companies supporting the event, including ON Semiconductor, General Dynamics, Salt River Project, Target, Kitchell Construction, DPR Construction, Gensler Architects and Smith Group architects, Kinetics, Sundt, Gilbane Construction, Arrington Watkins Architects, Texas Instruments, Core Construction, PK Associates, HDR, Okland, CH2MHill, IFMA Arizona, Mortenson, Sears Gerbo Architecture, and Adolfson & Peterson.

Industry professionals and ASU architecture and construction students are mentoring the doghouse teams, and educating high school students about fundamental concepts of sustainability and the built environment.

“This is a good way to connect high school and college students with the design and construction industries and cultivate the next generation of sustainability experts,” says Allan Chasey, an associate professor in the Del E. Webb School of Construction.

Students are required to use recycled materials to build their doghouses. This is an important practice in sustainable construction because it reduces the amount of waste piling up in landfills, Chasey says.

“The idea is for students to spend as few dollars as possible but to still be as creative as possible,” he says. “We made the instructions flexible to allow students to be innovative, and they are responding. We’ve already heard about them making some resourceful uses of repurposed materials.”

Students’ doghouses will later be available to be auctioned during block parties in Tempe and Scottsdale coinciding with the Greenbuild Conference and Expo. Proceeds will go to the construction of a sustainable home in the Phoenix area by Habitat for Humanity.

For information on the Tempe event, visit

Desert Doghouse competition day will include demonstrations of the skills of canine members of the ASU and Tempe police departments.

ASU Sun Devil mascot Sparky is also scheduled to make an appearance.

The day’s activities also will include public tours of one of ASU’s showcase green buildings, Interdisciplinary Science & Technology Building 2. ISTB2 is certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

The event is free to the public, and people are invited to bring their dogs. Pet owners must comply with ASU policy requiring dogs to be on a leash at all times. Dogs also are not permitted inside buildings.

The doghouse exhibition will be on campus lot #46 outside the Urban Systems Engineering building on University Drive, west of McAllister Avenue and east of College Avenue.

Visitors can park in the Rural Road parking structure on campus, free of charge. For a campus parking map, visit

For more information on the Desert Doghouse event, visit

For more information on the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, visit