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Thu, June 27

Designing the Future

PRESCOTT ­ A spiral staircase. A boat-dock area. A gourmet kitchen.

These were just a few of the features a group of teenagers hoped to incorporate into the designs for their dream houses this week.

The teens were taking part in a "Design Your Future" summer program at the Ecosa Institute in downtown Prescott. The weeklong workshop sought to introduce young students to elements of sustainable design.

So, even as they were dreaming up amenities for their perfect homes, the young students also were learning about the advantages of environmentally friendly building practices, such as straw-bale construction, passive solar design and non-toxic materials.

Antony Brown, the director of Ecosa, said he hopes the program will get students thinking about sustainable building practices earlier in their education.

During the regular school year, Brown said, "We get college students who usually are already into the design field. If we can get them sooner, we can indoctrinate them into being sustainable."

The four local students who turned out for the free workshop all had an obvious interest in architecture, although some said they were uncertain whether it would be their chosen career field.

"This is one of the many fields I'm thinking about getting into," said 15-year-old Kevin Hagberg, as he sketched in features for his two-story home.

Culinary arts also appeals to him, and Hagberg was incorporating that interest into his dream house. "Having a large kitchen is important to me, because I like to cook," he said.

Along with other aesthetic preferences such as a spiral staircase, energy-efficient options also figured into Hagberg's design. "I want to use straw bales, because that seems like a good idea," he said. "And solar panels on the roof would be nice."

Of the four participants, Katie Hein, a senior at Prescott High School this fall, was the most committed to architecture as a career.

"This is what I was planning on going into," Hein said, adding that the workshop had helped to convince her the choice was right. "I like designing buildings and areas. It's like putting puzzles together."

Even though Hein had not given much thought to sustainable design previously, she said the workshop had introduced her to the advantages of environmentally friendly building practices.

Hein was busy adjusting a condominium plan that Brown's college class had designed this past semester. After taking their original design to the City of Prescott for review, the college students had learned that their Dameron Street condos needed to allow for a utility easement.

Hein and fellow workshop participant Ben Zucker, 14, were working to realign the buildings around the easement. While Hein was sketching in changes on the site plan, Zucker was using a computer program to adjust the buildings' windows and stairwells on the new configuration.

Brown noted that this summer's workshop, which a Yavapai Community Foundation grant helped to pay for, was a pilot program "to see if this is viable, and whether we want to do it again." About three days into the week, Brown said, "I've been really impressed with the quality of the students."

And the teenagers' ideas might end up ultimately as a part of a real project. Brown said the Dameron condo project, which Ecosa is designing for a client, likely would incorporate some of reconfigurations coming from the teen workshop.

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