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New Eco-Friendly Center Planned for Student Veterans

Stevens Institute of Technology and CSUSM are demonstrating their shared commitment to U.S. military veterans and sustainability with the establishment of a zero-net energy veterans center on the CSUSM campus, which will support and serve the nearly 900 students who identify as a veteran, service member or military dependent.The center is a gift from a group of 60 interdisciplinary Stevens students who are building a “smart house” for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2013 Solar Decathlon, a biannual competition in which 20 university teams from around the globe compete to design energy-efficient solar homes.The competition culminates with the XPO – a world’s fair of clean, renewable and efficient energy from Oct. 3-13, 2013 in Irvine, Calif. which will put the student-designed houses on display to the public . After the competition, Stevens has chosen to give its home, Ecohabit, a second life by donating it to CSUSM to use as its new, state-of-the-art Veterans Center. Stevens – which also participated in and won awards in the 2011 Solar Decathlon – turned that year’s entry into the permanent home of a low-income family in Washington, D.C. in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity.“The opportunity to turn ‘Ecohabit’ into a functioning facility for deserving veterans has made the Solar Decathlon competition a truly meaningful experience for our students,” said Dr. Michael Bruno, dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science at Stevens. “We always knew we wanted to donate Ecohabit to a deserving owner and put the house to a good use after the completion,” added Mark Pollock, industry assistant professor at Stevens, faculty project manager for Ecohabit, and a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. “We felt strongly about its potential as a place for returning veterans or military personnel, given Stevens’ history and longstanding relationships within the defense industry. When we found out CSUSM was in need of a new space for its veteran students, we felt it was a perfect fit.”CSUSM, located close to Camp Pendleton and several other military installations, has the highest percentage of student veterans per capita of any California State University campus. One of every ten Cal State San Marcos students is a veteran, service member, reservist or dependent, and the University is ranked in the top 15 percent nationally for veterans education by Military Times Edge.The new Veterans Center, which will be situated on a currently-empty lot to the west of Markstein Hall and behind Science Hall 1, will replace a much smaller facility that opened in Craven Hall in 2008.“We are honored to be selected as the recipient of the Stevens Institute of Technology Solar Decathlon home,” said CSUSM President Karen Haynes. “Our student veterans, active duty personnel, reservists and their family members have contributed so much to our campus community and to the defense and security of our country. This new facility will further enhance our ability to serve those who have served us.  A point of pride, the new Veterans Center won’t be just an office but a place where military-affiliated students can find and build community while receiving services and assistance to meet their complex and unique needs.”The Veterans Center – which will include an office, a conference room, a kitchen, and a lounge and event space – will have many unique technological features and innovations including solar shingles, a rainwater harvesting system with green wall and green roof, and energy-saving and water-saving heating, cooling and plumbing systems. Most distinguishing is that intelligence will be embedded into every component of the facility. With a central control system which collects and analyzes sensor data from each system to maximize efficiency, the center will automatically adapt to the use patterns of its occupants and teach them how to maintain a greener, more sustainable lifestyle.Ecohabit’s “smart house” design is in line with CSUSM’s commitment to sustainability, conservation of resources and green building design. The University has striven to make LEED Gold its standard for all new buildings and has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for its nearly 83 percent recycle rate during the annual RecycleMania competition.The Veterans Center will be an excellent vehicle for advancing knowledge of energy use patterns and weather and temperature influences to maximize energy-efficiency. In addition to directly serving veteran students, CSUSM plans to engage its science and technology students in data monitoring, collection and analysis, working with their Stevens counterparts to study how technology, design and engineering can drive sustainability.“Almost all of the emerging green technologies and design innovations built into Ecohabit will fully function when it is transitioned into the Veterans Center at CSUSM,” said Pollock. “This represents a tremendous opportunity for Stevens and CSUSM to further test these systems and continually learn from the data collected.”CSUSM will transport Ecohabit from the site of the Solar Decathlon competition in fall 2013 and rebuild it on campus with a ground breaking ceremony slated for Veterans Day. It is expected to be in use as the Veteran’s Center in fall 2014.