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What's Up With PVAF?

What is the Potomac Valley Architecture Foundation? What does it do? How much do you know about the chapter’s education and public outreach foundation?

You may know that PVAF owns and operates LEAFhouse, the University of Maryland’s 2007 prize-winning entry in the international Solar Decathlon. You might also know that we provide scholarships each year to several architecture students at the University of Maryland and Montgomery College, largely due to our highly successful golf outing fundraiser each year. 

But did you know that PVAF has been working to increase the pipeline into the profession through high school outreach programs over the past five years? We’ve hosted two career exploration events at Montgomery College for high school juniors, organized visits to architecture firms and to LEAFhouse, and are working on a project to establish high school architecture clubs in 2017-2018. 

We also continue to position LEAFhouse as a learning tool. Half a dozen groups of Maryland and Montgomery College students will visit LEAFhouse this semester alone, ranging from architecture, engineering and sustainability classes to an environmental scholars group. The annual Student-Mentor Dinners with architecture school seniors are coming up (you can register to be a mentor – see the listing below!). Several Maryland students and faculty have used LEAFhouse as a facility for testing and research, including the 2017 Solar Decathlon team, which ran its energy planning models for this year’s entry, reACT, on the systems in LEAFhouse.

Several new collaborations are in the works with student projects, the University’s Office of Sustainability and commercial ventures to expand our role as a demonstration facility where the public, designers, and policy makers will be able to come to LEAFhouse and learn in real time about the design and implementation of systems such as rain barrels, native plantings, vegetative solar shades, and storm water management. We hope to grow all these individual activities into a broader concept that would create a vibrant, full-time combination of scholarship, research, testing, discussion and demonstration at the 3 ½-acre site LEAFhouse occupies, with a singular focus on answering the question, “What is ‘sustainability’ and how can we achieve it?” This concept, which we refer to as SPARC - Sustainability Park and Academic Research Center, could be the first facility of its kind. Right now, we are awaiting the return of reACT from the Denver Solar Decathlon and hope that, paired with LEAFhouse, this will be the nucleus of a mini “Solar Village” to catalyze the possibilities of SPARC.

One of the least well-known but most important things about PVAF is that we are a non-profit organization, with a separate governing board and tax status from the AIA Potomac Valley chapter, and that we rely almost exclusively on donations of time and money. We are here to help the chapter spread the word about the value of architecture, support the development of future architects and build excitement for a more sustainable built environment. There is always need for more donations and plenty of room for new ideas and energy! Please support us financially and think about what ideas, contacts or expertise you could bring to the table. Stop by our table at the October 19th Celebrate Design event, or contact me directly to talk about ways you can invest in YOUR Foundation. 

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