Environmental Science Students Create Eco-Friendly Structures

This week, Scott McCormick’s Environmental Science students designed and built their own eco-friendly structures with some help from Matt Martino in the Center for Innovation & Design (CID).  

The project is part of a unit on Life Cycle Analysis, in which the students examine competing products that serve the same function and decide which ones are actually better for the environment.  

To build their eco-friendly structures, the students began by sketching their ideas and selecting their building materials, which were produced by Mr. Martino using the laser cutter. They could choose one structural material (heavy timber, steel or concrete masonry units), two cladding materials (wood, aluminum, natural stone, or vinyl siding), one roofing material (wood, aluminum, or asphalt shingles), and one piece of clear acetate to represent glass. 

Before they started, the students were shown two very different sample structures built by Mr. McCormick and Mr. Martino. 

“There’s not one right answer to this project; there are lots of good answers,” said Mr. McCormick. “I want the students to come up with a creative and thoughtful design and be able to present a rationale for using the materials they selected.”

In making their decisions, the students weighed the pros and cons of each material — keeping in mind various factors including time to decompose, cost, source of the material, embodied energy, toxic chemicals used in production, potential to be recycled, and projected useable lifespan. The students also had to consider the optimal direction the glass should be facing, and how much waste they were producing in the building process.

The students took two or three class periods to complete the building phase of the project. After that, they will write an analysis of their design and its environmental impact.

“The project dovetails nicely with the work Matt (Martino) is doing in the CID,” said Mr. McCormick. “Hopefully it will make a memorable and lasting impression on the students and the choices they make in the future.”


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