14:02 PM

UHD's Team Gator Green Earns Audience Gold for Sustainable Dorm Designs


By Mike Emery

The University of Houston-Downtown is not a residential university, but students from around the region recently pitched ideas for a sustainable Gator dormitory.

During the recent Gulf Coast Green (GCG) Conference’s Student Competition, student teams developed and presented plans for green dorms located next to UHD’s College of Sciences & Technology Building. It should come as no surprise that among the top placing teams was a pair of UHD students.

Hector Melchor and Mariann Ribar comprised Team Gator Green, which earned the Audience Choice Award, as well as third place in the overall competition.

Melchor and Ribar were required to create designs for a student residence hall, The Gator Nest, that would accommodate 100 students and be able to function during a pandemic. Gator Green developed a proposal that met LEED v4 (providing flexible, performance-based sustainability measures), WELL (ensuring health and well-being in buildings), Fitwel (supporting healthy workplace environments), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention building guidelines.

“We designed the building to promote social distancing while encouraging safe socialization,” Melchor said. “Rather than having a roommate as in traditional dorms, our design proposed having a neighbor separated by a glass partition with a sliding door. Under normal conditions neighbors can easily socialize, and during a quarantine event, the glass partition creates comfort by reducing the feeling of isolation.”

An additional feature of The Gator Nest is student parking that would include some covered spaces with solar-powered lighting.

Melchor and Ribar also designed The Gator Nest so that the proposed building would be elevated (avoiding the risk of flooding). A section along its southern perimeter would capture water runoff while an eastern portion of the building would serve as a marsh (providing flood control and promoting biodiversity).

Melchor is majoring in Structural Analysis and Design Engineering Technology and Ribar is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Control and Instrumentation Engineering Technology. Both are UHD SUSTAIN Scholars and are interns with GreenNexus Consulting. 

“We both wanted to represent our school well,” Melchor said. “Placing third and winning Audience Choice was just a bonus. Our win not only belongs to us, it also belongs to our professors, Dr. Lisa Morano, Dr. Vassilios Tzouanas, UHD’s Sustainability Coordinator Juan Martinez and GreenNexus Consulting for their great leadership and educating us in sustainability.”

The Gulf Coast Green Conference and Student Competition was conducted virtually. The event was sponsored by Kirksey Architecture, Gensler, Walter P. Moore, Dally & Associates, Texas Coastal Exchange, Browne McGregor Architects, Engineers & Consultants Inc., and Upchurch Company.

“Events such as the Gulf Coast Green Competition are important to students because they offer us an opportunity to showcase our ideas and academic skills in front of industry leaders,” Melchor said. “Competitions and conferences also provide students opportunities to learn from peers at other universities and from the judges’ feedback.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) – the second-largest university in Houston – has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.

As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 61,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).

For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.

UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and awarded UHD a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.