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Utah Girl Scouts design sleek, sustainable cabins

Published August 2, 2014 11:14 am

The collaboration with the University of Utah introduced girls to architecture and sustainable building.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Girl Scouts at Trefoil Ranch in Provo Canyon have three new, sleek cabins to spend the summer in — and the girls helped design them.

The cabins were part of a two-year collaboration between the University of Utah College of Architecture and Planning and the Girl Scouts of Utah to introduce the field of architecture to the girls. A group of women architects and university students worked with about 18 girls on the project.

The Scouts, in grades seven through 12, shared their ideas about what the cabins should have — a private changing room, natural light, bunk beds to save space, a large table in the middle and a communal area in front of all the cabins.

Those requests were incorporated into the design, said associate professor of architecture Jörg Rügemer. "They are the best clients because they told us up front what they needed."

The project also introduced the girls to a field dominated by men, said Rügemer and assistant professor Erin Carraher. Only about 14 percent of the architectural workforce in Utah is female, Carraher said.

"One of our goals has been to teach women the potential career options and ... it's totally right there, it's attainable for them," said Lisa Hardin-Reynolds, senior vice president for the Girl Scouts of Utah.

The girls also learned about a new sustainable building practice.

The cabins were made of wood from trees killed by mountain pine beetles — a challenge for Western forests. During the past decade, the native pest has chewed through more than 40 million acres.

The dead trees can be used for fuel, but burning them releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The U., Brigham Young University and the University of Idaho have worked with Euclid Timber Frames in the Heber Valley to instead develop a way to use the timber in construction. The product, called interlocking cross laminated timber, is fabricated into wall and roof panels.

Euclid Timber was the general contractor for the U.'s project with the Girl Scouts.

"There's some serious influence from the way (the participating Scouts) think about material," Rügemer said. "It's not just wood out of a forest, it's very specific wood. They understand the issues with beetle kill suddenly — even a bigger impact than I would have thought."

After the project, 15-year-old Megan Lundberg knows she wants to be an architect. "I strongly recommend girls do whatever they want," she said. "They can go into any field."