Wheeler native helps design home to aid disaster victims

2013-05-15T18:30:00Z 2013-05-16T22:59:05Z Wheeler native helps design home to aid disaster victimsHeather Augustyn Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 15, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

MUNCIE | Wheeler native Jamie Owens, a Ball State University graduate, is the architectural manager for a project that seeks to help disaster victims get back to a normal life.

Owens, who graduated from Wheeler High School in 2001, said he always had been interested in construction.

\After pursuing his bachelor’s degree in architecture and working in the field for a number of years, he returned to Ball State for graduate work. That led him to the 2013 Solar Decathlon competition, where he became in charge of a team of 111 students from his school as well as the universities of Louisville and Kentucky.

Their entry in the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory competition is called The Phoenix House, which is a prefabricated home that can be deployed quickly after major disasters like tornadoes.

“The home could be deployed after enough cleanup has occurred in a disaster area to allow some construction to start up and it could reduce the time that someone has to spend in a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailer, if their house is destroyed,” Owens said.

The home is designed to produce enough electricity to meet all its own energy needs, even if the surrounding community's power grid is knocked out.

“The house is a small house, just 960 square feet, but it’s the education that this project has brought that’s important," Owens said. "The walls are made of structurally inflated panels, as is the roof, so the materials themselves are sustainable. There are energy panels on the roof to supply 100 percent of the energy needs of the house. There is a digester in it, a water filtration system, collecting water from the bathroom sink, shower and laundry for irrigation use in the garden, so it doesn’t just dump into a sewer or septic system.”

Owens graduated May 4 and now lives in Pendleton, Ind., with his wife and kids. He said he is currently on the job hunt but thrilled to have had the opportunity to work on such a prestigious project.

“It has been a very exciting experience to work on such a large project, not just a design theory project, which in architecture school is what we typically work on," he said. "But this will actually be built and be seen by close to 30,000 people from around the world. It’s an experience, as a student, that is truly exciting.”

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