CHAMPAIGN – A team of students from the University of Illinois has won a $50,000 grant to help prospective tenants in the Champaign-Urbana area learn the energy efficiency of apartments they might rent.
With the Ford College Community Challenge grant, the students hope to build an online database that would show the energy efficiency of rental properties in the community.
"We see this resource driving a market for more energy-efficient housing," said team member Lisa Mazzocco, a UI senior from Champaign.
The team plans to train UI students to perform free energy audits of rental properties so landlords will know how to make them more efficient, she said. The students would also distribute efficient power strips and light bulbs.
The proposal was put together by the Office for Technical Consulting Resources, a student-run consulting firm at the UI.
Mazzocco, who is majoring in materials science, said her team would like to launch the concept on campus first, possibly next spring, and then on a communitywide basis the following spring.
"We want to make sure landlords realize we're not trying to harm them with this project," she said. "It's very important to understand we want to help the housing market (to go forward with) weatherization projects."
Mazzocco said she doesn't expect landlords to be contacted until late this fall or early next spring. But she said landlords interested in the project and students interested in energy-audit training can contact her at 621-4030.
The group is calling the project Green Light Sustainability Solutions. The $50,000 is expected to be used for marketing materials, energy audit equipment and training of energy auditors, among other things.
Mazzocco said her group has been in touch with the Illinois Green Business Association, a nonprofit group that aims to help businesses get certified as environmentally sustainable.
"We've been talking with them extensively since we found out we won, and they've been a great resource for us," she said.
Joining Mazzocco on the team were UI students Casey White, Shai Bahrainwala, Andrew Chapello, Mark Moschel, Alexandra Wright, Matt Anderson, Artem Rogachev and Chris Kunzweiler.
The UI team was one of five university teams selected as winners of the Ford College Community Challenge, an initiative of the Ford Motor Company Fund. The competition was designed to encourage sustainable change in communities.
Each of the five winning teams received $50,000. The winning projects were selected from 20 proposals submitted by teams at 17 universities, Mazzocco said.
Other winning projects include:
– A bike-share program at Georgia Tech University. Georgia Tech and Emory University are working jointly to develop the program. People would gain access to bikes by entering numbers into keypads on bikes and re-engaging "smart locks" to secure the bikes when returned.
– A bakery business growth project at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Faculty and students from the university's College of Business plan to help the Capuchin Soup Kitchen of Detroit with business operations, growth strategy and employee education. The project would help the soup kitchen develop its "On The Rise Bakery," involving a rehabilitation program for formerly homeless or incarcerated men.
– A winterization project at Michigan Tech University. Through a partnership, the project would help the elderly make their homes more energy-efficient. Not only would college students participate, but so would a community program that reaches out to at-risk high school students.
– An export growth program at Michigan State University. International business students there plan to help small and medium-sized companies in the Lansing, Mich., area develop exporting plans for their products and services.