Finally! A (legitimate) music venue in College Park.

The Birchmere announced this week it has plans to open a new 500 seat music venue as part of the East Campus development in College Park. Although its not scheduled to open until 2011, the Birchmere will provide a much needed improvement to the College Park music scene.

While it may attract larger acts, the Birchmere will also cater to the local crowd. As part of the plan, it will operate a stage for up-and-coming artists in the D.C. area, and will partner with the University of Maryland’s School of Music to develop and nurture future performers.

The Birchmere has been open in Alexandria, Va. since the 1960’s, but its new location promises to draw many residents north of the District. The theater has been visited by acts such as Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, Dave Matthews, and Emmylou Harris.

> See the University Press Release 

Greener Greenbelt Initiative Launched

This coming weekend the city of Greenbelt will open its doors to local residents, business owners, design professionals, and architecture students by hosting a three day charrette focusing on current and future challenges faced by the city on its 70th anniversary. The session is a component of the “Greener Greenbelt Initiative”, a working partnership between the Potomac Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-PV) and Greenbelt Homes Inc. (GHI), the housing cooperative that owns and operates Greenbelt’s original New Deal-era homes.

Officials hope the three day charrette, or interactive brainstorming and design session, will foster a creative dialog and result in the development of a long-range plan to help ensure old Greenbelt will continue to serve as a national model for livable communities as it has since its dedication in 1937.

Specifically, a list of prepared goals on the initiative’s website include maintaining the appeal of families, enabling older residents to remain at home in the city, making original housing more energy efficient, and protecting Greenbelt’s nature and open spaces while preserving the community’s character. The “Greener Greenbelt” charrette will occur between Friday, September 28 and Sunday, September 30 at Greenbelt Elementary school, located at 66 Ridge Road.

For more information or to get involved, visit http://www.greenergreenbelt.org.

Campus Sustainability Website Launched

The University of Maryland recently launched a new website detailing environmental stewardship efforts on campus. The website, www.sustainability.umd.edu, outlines Maryland’s approach to sustainability, offers ways to get involved with preserving the local environment, and provides a medium for students to be engaged with sustainable efforts. In addition, the website details a snapshot of eco-friendly events and sustainable initiatives that have occurred on campus. Although some of the links have yet to be completed on the website, we hope is to be a new resource on sustainability for students, faculty, alumni, and others in the university family.

Although this is a positive step, colleges and have long been leading examples of sustainable communities. Schools such as Harvard University, Cornell University, Michigan State University, and the University of British Columbia are all leading successful sustainable initiatives. With any hope, the University of Maryland’s Campus Sustainability website can follow in the footsteps of these precedents and help to foster a local sustainable environment.

At a time when the campus is growing rapidly, talks of sustainability should be at the forefront of new construction and design. According to websites dealing with sustainable architecture, such as www.architecture2030.org, almost 50% of greenhouse gas emissions are emitted from built construction. Although Maryland’s website is a positive step in “talk” of sustainability, the University now has to take action in continuing to make eco-friendly decisions. One of our contributors, Sam Snelling, evaluated some of the claims made by President Mote and offered his own opinion of past University efforts as well as suggestions for the future in a Diamondback column published yesterday.

> Campus Sustainability at UMD
> Diamondback – Sam Snelling Op-Ed: “Focus on the Future”
> Read more about “Student Action on Clean Energy

Solar House Groundraising Tomorrow

LEAFHouse SiteConstruction fencing for a new building has appeared on campus. However, the solar-powered structure that will appear on the site isn’t permanent: it’s the University of Maryland entry to the 2007 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, to be held on the national mall this October.

This Wednesday, April 4th, the University of Maryland LEAFHouse team will be hold a groundraising event at the School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning. The event, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., will feature site tours and presentations and a chance to meet the participants and sponsors of the LEAFHouse team. The event is free, and will be a great opportunity to get involved in and raise awareness of sustainable building practices. If you plan on attending, please email umdsolarteam@gmail.com.

LEAFHouse CribbingThe LEAFHouse is the University of Maryland’s 2007 entry into the Solar Decathlon, a national event organized by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. A total of 20 schools have been selected to compete in this year’s event. Entries are judged on criteria ranging from the architecture, engineering, comfort, and even the hot water and lighting systems.

The University of Maryland’s project engages the Chesapeake Bay watershed context for a smart, adaptable, resource-efficient home powered by renewable energy. The house demonstrates both tradition and modern design practices that serve to make solar power an integral part of a sustainable lifestyle. The design of the LEAFHouse plans to balance energy resourceful technologies, green building practices, and modular and prefabricated construction techniques into an aesthetically pleasing design. The project team aims to produce an environmentally sensitive house that meets and surpasses the contest goals for sustainable energy independence. For more information visit www.solarteam.org.