Refreshing Update: Initiative 3 is Complete!

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By Scott Boylston

Think of our blog reporting as reminiscent of the days before transatlantic cable. It’s not that it’s bad or inaccurate, it’s just that it sometimes takes a while to deliver the news. Even Communication Arts magazine and the Savannah Morning News (…twice), managed to report their stories about the project before we did (you have to get to page 2 in the CA article before you read about the Whitemarsh Project).

In case you were wondering, that party at Whitemarsh Plaza we wrote about back in March did take place. As a matter of fact, that Refreshing Opportunities, Part 2 party marked the completion of Emergent Structures Initiative #3! If you prefer moving pictures over reading, here’s a great 5-minute movie to watch about the project, thanks to documentary filmmaker Billy Voermann.

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And here’s a short history of the making of a modest outdoor eating area made form 98% reclaimed materials:

Some time back in May 2010, a conversation was had about a picnic table out of reclaimed material at Savannah’s first Certified Green Restaurant, and that conversation was enough to get the idea onto our project matrix as Initiative 3.

In June 2010, a Sustainable Practices in Design class at SCAD decided to use the picnic table as the impetus to green the strip mall.

In August, 2010, at the end of that first class we had a big party which set out an ambitious agenda for the mall, with composting programs, energy efficiency, renewable energy, greenroof, permeable paving as a core part of ‘Greening the Great Ungreen.’

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The materials for the large planters came from a denailing party, and an ongoing cedar siding reclamation on Jones Street. And the above plaque, printed on reclaimed cyprus and bolted to the wall near the outdoor eating area, tells the history of the materials. This kind of plaque will accompany each of our projects, with the hopes of creating a tour of Savannah based upon the history of materials reclaimed from buildings around the region.

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The collaborative nature of this project is emblematic of our mission:

Only with the innovative interaction of Emergent Structures, a restaurant owner, a property manager, SCAD classes and students, USGBC-Savannah’s Emerging Professionals, and deaniling volunteers from throughout the community could this project have come into existence. While there are perhaps more efficient ways to make wooden boxes, there are very few that are richer in community-wide interaction.

In fact, the very first picture in the post is not of a single class from SCAD, but two. We were fortunate enough to have Sara Jo Johnson’s Contextual Research class at SCAD involved with extensive research and insights into the motivations and practices of the business owners at Whitemarsh Plaza. This research, as well as the work done by the sustainable practices class, will go toward the ongoing effort to establish effective sustainable business practices within stripmalls across America.

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The Refreshing Opportunities, Part 2 event was held along the sidewalks, in the stores and in the parking lot of Whitemarsh Plaza. While the outdoor eating area was a visual centerpiece, visitors could walk along the walk way to learn about innovative e-waste management, dog-hair reclamation, energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy installations, stormwater management controls, green restaurant supply purchasing secrets, and any other number of ideas that were researched and co-created by and for the business owners along the mall. Among other partners to thank is the Savannah Tree Foundation for bringing 4 Live Oak saplings for the planters so that the Thrive staff can nurture them until it’s time to plant them.

We will continue to update here–there’s too much to post in one post.

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In the above picture SCAD student Mohammed Bakarman shows off some of the innovative uses for shorn dog hair coming our of Paws on the Island in Whitemarsh Plaza. The hat in the middle of the table was created by Anna Keck.

The making of the planters really deserves its own story, but for now, between the photos below, the video link at the beginning of the post, and a sincere expression of gratitude to Ted Cheecharoen and Yahayra Rosario Cora for the initial design of the planters, and the development and construction leadership of Meagan Hodge and Kate Rusek, will have to do.

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And thanks to the entire Winter 2011 Sustainable Practices in Design team:

Mohammed Bakarman | Stephen Bernasconi | Stephanie Farah | Meagan Hodge
Jennifer Jeng | Jenny Nelson | Kate Rusek | Hannah Walsh

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