Middle School Students Present Ideas for Sustainable Design to Hotel Developers

Future City starts with a question—how can we make the world a better place? Recently a group of students who were regional finalists for Future City in Iowa presented their idea for a more sustainable building design to hotel developers in their town.

The students’ instructor Carole Sand said, “After the January competition, we saw an article in the Decorah Newspaper about the new Fairfield Inn and a light bulb went off — what if we could make a difference in one hotel, or possibly an entire chain of hotels? That’s when they went to work the past two months researching their ideas for a more sustainable building design for Decorah’s Fairfield Inn.”

Sofie Grouws, Isaac Roberts, Leila Johnson and Noah Lovelace from Decorah Middle School gave a 30-minute presentation to hotel developers Rebound Hospitality, on how they should build the new Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites in a more sustainable way in Decorah, Iowa. Sarah Strandberg from The Decorah Newspapers came to the presentation and spoke to the students, teacher, and developers involved.

The students put a lot of research into their presentation. They interviewed community members about solar energy and recycling, researched environmental technologies, business strategies, marketing and created a cost analysis for the project. Some of the sustainable changes the students proposed were incorporating solar panels and electric car charging stations, a recycling system, multiple-use bathroom dispensers and reducing breakfast waste with washable dishes.

Brent Nystrom of Rebound Hospitality said, “I tried to reflect on when I was 12 or 13 – there was no way I would have been that comfortable presenting something like that. I was incredibly impressed, it was well worth our time to come down and see their presentation.”

According to Todd Byhre of Rebound Hospitality, this is the best time to challenge the project planners to incorporate some of the students’ design ideas because they are in the process of design reviews so they have some flexibility with the project. “We’ll be looking at most of their ideas and seeing if we can fit them into the plan. Things like the electric charging station – I would really push for that. The cost is low and the benefit from having it available would be worth that cost.”

The Future City Competition teaches students many skills from engineering and teamwork to project management. The students from Decorah Middle School showed off the skills that they learned and applied them to a real life situation in their town.

Student Leila Johnson said, “I learned a lot about what it would be like to create a sustainable system in real life. Future City taught me about the engineering behind those systems, but this project taught me how to make a system that could actually work. I think that all businesses need to learn to be more sustainable to preserve the earth’s resources.” 

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