Engineers inspire student interest in sustainability for Earth Day
Wiesbaden Middle School eight-grader Ashley Barclift takes notes during an Earth Day presentation by sustainable engineering manager Rich Gifaldi with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District.

WIESBADEN, Germany - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District is showing students how building smart can be very green and secure.

Think about saving money. Think about military strategy. And think about all the countries that are implementing laws mandating that within the next 20 years new construction will have to be sustainable.

"It's really about an awareness of sustainability - what's currently being done and what's important for the future," said Rich Gifaldi, sustainable engineering manager for ACOE's Europe District in Wiesbaden, who spoke before an eighth-grade class at Wiesbaden Middle School for Earth Day.

Gifaldi's presentation included an explanation of sustainability which is a move toward constructing facilities with energy-saving components. The engineer also focused on the federal government's move for net-zero energy building - a concept for a facility to produce as much energy as it uses.

Net zero can be accomplished with smarter building practices such as triple-paned glass windows or one-foot of insulation to help create vacuum environments. That same building would also have energy-making capabilities, giving it a strategic advantage in a time of war or natural disaster.

"It's a huge deal when you think of the military strategy behind (net-zero energy building)," said Gifaldi.

"Beyond saving the government money, we're thinking security. We're talking about a building that can support itself. It's a readiness measure for our troops, for our military."

Gifaldi's Earth Day presentation was informative on two levels - sustainability practices and the future of engineering. Gifaldi said he hoped the students would recognize different career possibilities other than the traditional.

It's not something most children aspire to be - a sustainable engineering manager. There are no quick-witted comedies or heart-pounding dramas on television that focus on the energy-saving engineers of our time.

The word sustainable creates no stir among grade-school students as they rattle off their hopes and dreams for the future.

Sure young people want to save the planet. But how can constructing new buildings help to do that'

"I learned that small things make a big difference, and it makes me think I can do it at home," said Wiesbaden eighth-grader Kai Fleming. "It also makes me think I should pay more attention in math class."

Page last updated Thu April 28th, 2011 at 10:38