Principal receives architecture award for Eco Schoolhouse

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 | 4:34 p.m. CST; updated 8:55 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 13, 2009

COLUMBIA — Educator Beverly Borduin was named Citizen of the Year by the mid-Missouri wing of the American Institute of Architects, and she wishes there were more awards to go around.

“I was very surprised and honored. But the people who did the work, they’re the citizens of the year," said Borduin, who is principal of Grant Elementary School.

Borduin was chosen for her efforts in raising the Eco Schoolhouse at Grant from the ashes of a trailer fire, and she will formally receive her award at a banquet on Saturday. But for Borduin, the honor is representative of work done by a cast of volunteers, and she thinks similar projects might work at other schools.

In December of 2007, flames destroyed a mobile classroom at the school. Rather than using insurance settlement money to purchase another trailer, Borduin accepted an offer from Nick Peckham, of the architectural firm Peckham & Wright, to help build an ecologically sustainable learning environment.

“She was a steady hand on the tiller from start to finish,” Peckham said.

Quite a few Columbians stepped forward to assist in the building process and provided design services, materials, equipment and labor for free or at a reduced price. Borduin estimated that more than 100 community members assisted with construction.

Peckham tallied contributions by community members, which included labor and materials, at more than $200,000.

“It’s a tribute to the community and a gift to us,” Borduin said. “It's a beautiful environment for both children and teachers." People passing Grant at East Broadway and South Garth Avenue can see the Eco Schoolhouse along Broadway.

Institute of Architects member Heiddi Davis said in a news release dated Jan. 8 that Borduin is being awarded for saying “'no' to the status quo” and helping build a resource that teaches students about their environment.

“This is what architecture can do, change lives,” Davis said in the release.

The American Institute of Architects, a nationwide professional organization, has set goals for environmentally sustainable design that include a 50-percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2010 and carbon-neutral buildings by 2030. Scientific research has linked carbon emissions to climate change.

Solar panels will be installed in the coming days, and the hope is that the Eco Schoolhouse will become a net-zero building. This means the school will generate more electricity than it uses, Peckham said.  Any additional electricity would go back into the power grid.

Borduin thinks the Eco Schoolhouse could be an environmentally friendly model for other schools searching for a permanent solution to overcrowded classrooms.

“I think that it’s something we should take a look at, but it depends on the individual needs of each school,” Borduin said. “Personally, I’d like to have another one built (at Grant) that has four classrooms.”

A documentary film that chronicles the building process called "Eco Schoolhouse" will show at the True/False Film Festival this year.

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