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Architecture team wins quarter-million-dollar prize

Giving News

Professor Steven Moore

By Jamey Smith

The light bulb went on in a big way for an interdisciplinary team of UT students and faculty, and Austin Energy has recognized their bright ideas with a $250,000 prize. The team won first place in the electric utility’s national competition for cost-effective ways to integrate utility lines into urban areas while protecting trees and promoting future plantings. Austin Energy introduced the contest in 2006 after a severe ice storm hit the capital city, resulting in fallen tree limbs causing serious power outages to homes and businesses.

Led by Steven Moore, a professor in the School of Architecture, the team comprised graduate students, faculty, and professionals in architecture, landscape architecture, planning, engineering, business, law, and public policy. Their winning proposal, “People, Power, Progress,” includes ways to better manage the urban forest in Austin; technical tools for underground and overhead utility lines, with innovative designs for six overhead and two underground technologies; and the means to construct a community interface that will allow neighborhoods to determine the best solution for their community.

The final report includes a geographic information system-based tool that will help neighborhoods, environmental groups, and other utilities make reliable, cost-effective, and aesthetically and ecologically sound choices. “Our team struggled to understand the social context of the problem from multiple perspectives before crafting a tool that would help Austin Energy and Austin’s citizens make difficult decisions,” says Moore. “The issue at hand is not only efficient operation of a public utility, but also citizen engagement in creating a city that is also a functional ecosystem.”

Coming up short against UT in the quest for the grand prize were teams from universities including Cornell, Michigan, and Texas A&M. Another UT team, led by faculty members Dean Almy in architecture and Ross Baldick in electrical and computer engineering, won third-place honors. As for the award cash, the School of Architecture intends to create a permanent endowment to support graduate student research in sustainable design and development.

Related sites:

School of Architecture

Professor Steven Moore

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