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.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and 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 approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.