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Students create signage to identify green features in new building

Green paw print on sign

When the Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building opened its doors at Penn State Berks last fall, everyone knew the college was planning to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the new facility, but it was not clear which aspects of the building demonstrated the college’s commitment to sustainability. The need for signage identifying the green aspects of the building was quickly identified.

Terry Baker, Senior Lecturer in English, incorporated the signage project into his advanced business writing courses in the fall 2011 semester. In order to simulate a real-world business environment, the students were divided into five teams, which competed to create the most effective signage. The teams responded to a request for proposals (RFP) from Kim Berry, Chief Operating Officer, and worked closely with Professional Writing major Michael Lewis, Baker’s teaching assistant for the semester.

The whole class collaborated on the verbiage for the twenty-five signs, including the catchy titles. Then each team was charged with developing the signage design, composition, and placement inside and outside the building. The teams were tasked with researching various signage companies to manufacture the signs. The goal of the project was to educate future students, leave a lasting impression on the Gaige Building, and create a clean, crisp, and uniform image for the building.

The student teams presented their results to an audience which included Berry; Wendy Body, project manager and LEED engineer with Alvin Butz Construction; college administrators; their instructor; and their fellow students. The results exceeded everyone’s expectations, with each team winning in a separate category of the competition.

Team 1 was selected for its mounting system, comprised of a metallic backing with horizontal lines covered by a two-layered “channel” made of vinyl, which allows information and data to be updated simply by replacing the vinyl insert, known as Lexan®. The student team members included Aaron Klaptosky, Phong Le, Alison Pott, and Patricia Sanford.  

For Team 2, it was their use of graphics that won them recognition. The team members included Chellby Kilheffer, Damaris Long, and Nicol Varona.  

Team 3 created an introductory graphic exhibit key that made them stand out to the judges. Team members included Lydia Conrad, Dan Engro, and Joseph Zaleski.

Team 4 was chosen for its system of exterior signs. The team members included Emilie Jones, Alise Sparks, Ross Thomas, and Bianca Villamar.

Finally, Team 5 was selected for its “reducing carbon paw print” verbiage. Team members included Takema Fuller, Jennifer High, Jonathan Rivera, and Lisa Sweigart.

Several students involved in the project commented that the process raised their awareness of environmental issues, and that now they are true advocates for the environment.

The entire class collaborated on the digital signage to appear on monitors in the building. They also worked together on the large LEED sign to be hung in the lobby. This sign explains each LEED category for which the Gaige Building earned its certification—sustainable sites, water efficiency, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, and indoor air quality. The smaller signs throughout the building use these icons to identify the category each sign addresses. In addition to educating everyone about the sustainable features of the building, the signs themselves earned a point toward Gaige’s “gold” LEED certification, the highest level of LEED certification that can be earned.

“As far ask I know, we at Penn State have not yet found a way to educate the occupants of our many LEED buildings about all their great design elements, finishes, and technologies,” commented Erik Foley, Director of Campus Sustainability Office. “The partnership at Berks between students, an academic course, and on-campus operations to create educational signage for the Gaige Building is a tremendous example of what is possible with collaboration. I hope all our LEED buildings and major renovations will soon have such signage.”   

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