More Than Just a Pretty Face-UGA Student Group Discovers the True Meaning of Sustainability
Athens, GA, April, 2009---With many home magazines showcasing “green”
designs, Dr. Megan Lee’s Senior Studio Design class from the University of Georgia’s Furnishings and Interiors Program is taking this trendy design theory back to its most basic level. This group of 29 soon-to-be industry professionals has taken on the task of planning a major renovation for the over-30-year-old Jesse B. Denney Tower, an Athens Housing Authority high-rise for the elderly. The class is split into groups, each of which is devising a set of plans to remodel the structure--focusing specifically on the changes that would save energy and resources and would cater to the mobility needs of Denney’s mature residents. It hasn’t taken long for the students to realize this job is more than an exercise in resource management. The project, while a vital learning tool about sustainable and accessible design, has become a statement about crossing socio-economic borders. The project has grown into a community partnership between the University’s Furnishings and Interiors Program and this often-forgotten segment of the city’s population. The students have combined sustainability principles with the goal of making the space feel less transient and institutional and more like a home. They hope that the revitalization of the building also will revitalize Denney’s residents. “It’s visiting the site that has really clinched the project’s mission for me, declared UGA senior Elizabeth Sims. “As I’ve gotten to The existing space (above) know the residents, I’ve come to realize that their stories are not so different from with the designers’ proposed improvements my own and that, in these economically uncertain times, any of us potentially (below) could be forced into these same living conditions. The Denney residents deserve a better place to call home, if only out of respect for their age and the obstacles they’ve already overcome.” The student plans include construction budgets, but, even if they’re never implemented, the practical lessons these students are learning will undoubtedly make them appear anything but “green” to their future employers.