Smart city designs earn ASU sustainability students Verizon grants

September 18, 2015

Last fall, ASU’s School of Sustainability teamed up with Verizon to offer a groundbreaking new course — the Smart City and Technology Innovation Challenge.

Students spent the semester learning about the latest in smart technologies, and brainstorming how they could be applied to cities for the benefit of urbanites. They molded their ideas into business propositions, which were carefully considered for generous grants from Verizon. Aerial view of Downtown Phoenix Three ASU sustainability students have been awarded grants for their ideas generated in the Smart City and Technology Innovation Challenge. Download Full Image

Now, the judges have spoken and the challenge’s three winners have been announced.

First-place winner Alex Slaymaker is in her second year in the School of Sustainability’s Master of Sustainability Solutions program and has a passion for eliminating waste.

“Cities of the future will view sending waste to the landfill as an outdated inefficiency that hurts their bottom line and reputation,” she said.

Slaymaker’s waste-reducing proposition, PHXflow, is a vibrant online waste networking platform created for small- and medium-sized businesses interested in selling, donating, purchasing or exchanging unwanted materials with other businesses in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

“Picture a for all different kinds of waste, from wooden crates to leftovers,” Slaymaker said.

In Phoenix alone, enough waste is generated in one year to fill Chase Stadium seven times. Although recovered materials account for one stadium’s capacity, the Brookings Institute estimates that over $500 million worth are exported from the Phoenix metropolitan area each year. Half are sent across the world to Asia, where they are transformed into new products that are sold back to the United States.
The remaining six stadiums of waste are sent to landfills, even though 50 percent is compostable, 15 percent is recyclable and 23 percent is recoverable.

PHXflow aims to correct this by allowing companies to inject by-products back into the regional supply chain so that others can create wealth from what would otherwise be waste - a matchmaking proposition now backed by a $5,000 grant.

Christopher Frettoloso, the second-place recipient of $2,000, conceived BetR-block, LLC.

BetR-blok, pronounced “better block,” manufactures sustainable, low-cost building materials from recycled paper and other cellulosic materials. The company designed and built low-cost, energy-efficient equipment to pulp, mix and press recycled paper, cardboard, straw, palm fronds and other regionally-available plant material into affordable construction blocks.

Given the skyrocketing costs of materials and construction along with the pressing need for low-cost, sustainable homes, the company — which joins Edson’s cohort of 2015 start-ups — sees it as a matter of time before BetR-blok becomes a construction material of choice.

Alex Cano is the challenge’s third-place recipient of $1,000 and the innovative mind behind BISTEG-USA. His proposition tackles the aesthetic concerns associated with current solar technologies, which are often relegated to out-of-sight places like rooftops.

The technology Cano is researching takes advantage of recent advances in thermocouple materials that generate electricity from temperature gradients. The devices he envisions are constructed of glass blocks or small window panes — materials that are easier on the eyes and provide a wide range of display options.

Amit Jain, director of Verizon Corporate Strategy, is pleased that the Verizon grants will support such smart and sustainable endeavors.

“I was impressed by the enthusiasm of everyone involved in this course, from instructor Colin Tetreault to his talented cohort of students,” Jain said. “Verizon is committed to accelerating the pace of innovation, making this partnership with the School of Sustainability very much worth our while.”

Perhaps the real winners of the Smart City and Technology Innovation Challenge are the city dwellers who benefit from the future outputs of these savvy student ventures.

Communications specialist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability


ASU receives top sustainability awards from Arizona Forward

September 18, 2015

Arizona State University received two first-place Crescordia awards at the Arizona Forward Environmental Excellence Awards, which honor projects focused on improving sustainability in Arizona. The 35th annual awards gala was held Sept. 12 at Chateau Luxe in Phoenix.

Presented as a partnership with Salt River Project, this year’s event featured eight awards categories that included more than 120 entries from across the state. ASU took home two of the 17 first-place Crescordia awards and one of the 31 Awards of Merit. two men working in flower bed In addition to state-of-the-art fitness features, the Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus houses the ASU School of Nutrition and Health Promotion’s Exercise & Wellness program on the second floor and includes a rooftop pool. Download Full Image

“The Arizona Forward Environmental Excellence Awards recognize outstanding contributions to the physical environment of our local communities and is a benchmark for promoting sustainability, conserving natural resources and preserving our desert environment for future generations," said Bruce Nevel, associate vice president of ASU Facilities Development and Management.

ASU’s redevelopment of College Avenue on the Tempe campus took top honors in the site-development category. ASU Facilities Management Grounds/Recycling received the SRP Award for Environmental Stewardship. The Downtown Phoenix Sun Devil Fitness Complex also received an award of merit in the buildings and structures category.              

Site development (public sector): College Avenue — Redeveloped as a partnership with the City of Tempe, the section of College Avenue from University Drive to Veteran’s Way features increased walkability, bicyclists’ access, lighting and event space. The development incorporates the adaptive reuse of nearby vacant buildings and land such as the Art Annex and the addition of the LEED gold-certified College Avenue Commons. The corridor takes advantage of a single concrete-paving design to blend indoor and outdoor spaces. The space also is close to major transit options, such as Valley Metro bus and light rail, which provides a safe and vibrant pedestrian environment.

SRP Award for Environmental Stewardship: ASU Facilities Management Grounds Services/Recycling — The grounds and recycling programs have actively contributed to the university’s zero waste and sustainability goals. Both programs’ efforts have grown in scale and impact within the last ten years. Some of these initiatives include: compost of all green landscape waste at Singh Farms and the collection of coffee grounds to be used for fertilizer on campus, repurposed cooking oil to power grounds equipment, and the creation of a blue bag recycling program to complement the current commingled blue recycle bins on campus.

Buildings and structures (Award of Merit): Downtown Phoenix campus Sun Devil Fitness Complex — Constructed in direct response to student feedback, the 73,800-square-foot recreation center boasts modern fitness and weight areas, a two-court gymnasium, an indoor track and a rooftop swimming pool. The complex also houses the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion’s Exercise & Wellness program on the second floor. Energy efficient resources such as a variable refrigerant flow air system and natural day-lighting complete this state-of-the-art facility.

Arizona Forward is a local association for public and private sector entities that works to advance sustainability and improve the environment through thoughtful advocacy.

Pedro Silva,
ASU Business and Finance 

Wendy Craft

Marketing and communications manager, Business and Finance Communications Group