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Stardust Center joins ASU’s College of Design

January 29, 2008

Since the inception of the Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family in January 2005, there have been strong links between the Stardust Center and the College of Design.

Collaborations between faculty and programs were a natural outgrowth of the work of the two groups in an informal but active sharing of knowledge, students and projects in the arenas of housing, sustainable building materials and practices, as well as the promotion of good design.

The two units are now formalizing this connection with the Stardust Center administratively moving from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs to one of the family of academic programs and research centers that are collectively under the banner of the College of Design.

With a mission to improve the growth of quality affordable homes and sustainable communities, the Stardust Center has been involved in two major demonstration homes on the Navajo Reservation (2005) and in the town of Guadalupe (2006). Students from the college’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the Housing and Community Development program participated in both projects. Two graduates of the college are employed by the Stardust Center as designer-architects. Sherry Ahrentzen, Stardust’s associate director for research, is a research professor in the College of Design and a professor in the college’s doctoral program.

As a starting point, that is a good track record – and that makes the future of this partnership full of possibilities. College of Design programs, including the Herberger Center for Design Research, the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, the Planning and Design Academy, and the academic units will further collaborate with Stardust in research and funding opportunities, urban design and housing projects, and community and professional outreach.

During its short life, the center already has earned several awards for excellence, including the 2007 Valley Forward Crescordia for Environmental Excellence and the 2007 Brian Michelsen Housing Heroes Award in the category “Sustainable Design” at the opening reception for the Governor’s Forum on Housing. Both awards were for the Guadalupe Demonstration House.

At the end of October, the Stardust Center was notified by Urban Land Institute-Arizona that it was selected as the recipient of a $20,000 ULI Community Action Grant along with partner LISC Phoenix (Local Initiatives Support Coalition) to develop a presentation toolkit and campaign strategy to engage local residents, business groups, community organizations and civic leaders in discussions about challenges presented by the population growth of metropolitan Phoenix, as well as realistic solutions and designs for building sustainable, affordable and healthy neighborhoods.

The center continues its work with community development corporations, tribes, public agencies and developers in creating residential developments that are affordable and sustainable. There are eight residential developments – with more than 800 units total – that either are under construction or in the pipeline for development.

The Stardust Center’s associate director for design, Daniel Glenn, is working with partner Chicanos por la Causa on a 47-unit subdivision under construction that uses structural insulated panels, a construction system that speeds on-site construction and creates a highly insulated home that reduces cooling and heating requirements. This project will be the first “Green Communities” project in Arizona.

Green Communities is a national green building program developed for affordable housing that focuses on using environmentally sustainable materials, reducing negative environmental impacts and increasing energy efficiency.

The Stardust Center will continue to be located at the ASU Mercado in downtown Phoenix and is searching for a new director. Sherry Ahrentzen is interim director.

For more information about the Stardust Center and its projects, visit the Web site