Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff—most notably from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies—will be featured in the two-hour Crawford Smith Family episode of the popular ABC television program “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The show is seen locally on WSET-TV Channel 13 On Sunday, Feb.12, at 7 p.m.

Last fall, Paul L. Knox, dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies, was approached by Robert Fetzer, owner of Building Specialists, Inc. (BSI) in Roanoke, Va., who volunteered to be the builder for the project. Fetzer asked Knox whether Virginia Tech students and faculty would be willing to collaborate with Amanda McCreary, his company’s architectural designer and a Virginia Tech graduate, on the design of a new home for Blacksburg resident Carol Crawford Smith. Smith, a mother of two school-age boys, is also a professional ballerina with multiple sclerosis. She is the founder of the Center of Dance, a Blacksburg ballet studio, and still teaches some classes despite her disabilities.

"We sometimes take on design and building projects to give our students real world experience,” said Knox. "This house--designed by BSI, in collaboration with the ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ design team and our faculty and students, and built with the help of our faculty, students, and scores of community volunteers--reaffirms that wonderful things really can happen to good people."

Knox asked Joe Wheeler, assistant professor of architecture, to be the lead Virginia Tech’s involvement in the project. Fresh from Virginia Tech's participation in the U. S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2005 competition in Washington, D.C., where the Virginia Tech team swept the architecture awards, Wheeler and Robert Dunay, professor and director of the Industrial Design Program, worked with some of that project's outstanding architecture students to create an attractive, accessible home for the family.

The student design team included Chip Clark, a fifth-year architecture student from Fredericksburg, Va.; Ben McCreary, a fifth-year architecture student from Franklin, Tenn.; Brandon Lingenfeltser, a third-year architecture student from Blacksburg, Va.; and Tom Shockey, a fourth-year architecture student from Lake Forrest, Ill. Still other students and faculty were involved in the construction of the home. Research from the solar house project was applied to aspects of the Smiths' new house. Innovative materials and building components provide energy conservation and a rich interior environment.

The design team worked with professors Yvan Beliveau, Mike O'Brien, and Thomas Mills of the College's Department of Building Construction; professor Brian Kleiner, director of Virginia Tech's Center for Innovation in Construction Safety and Health; and landscape architecture professor Ben Johnson.

Faculty and students in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies were also able to apply research they perfected in the Solar Decathlon to a meditation building for Smith. The meditation building is connected to the house from Smith’s master bedroom by a short walkway. Bookend French doors lead to a space with a yoga platform surrounded by a cascading waterfall, plantings, and Virginia Tech innovations—two layers of aerogel-filled polycarbonate panels that transmit diffused light while delivering great insulation.

There is no need for electric light in the meditation room from sunrise to sunset. Within the highly insulated translucent wall assembly are banks of LED lights that will allow Smith to change the walls to any color she desires. The mediation building gives Smith a room of her own, a place where she can practice the meditation that is part of her battle against Multiple Sclerosis, a place where she can find peace, a place where she can go to reflect, plan, and dream.

“The house design represents what Carol has always wanted, a cottage that is outstanding both practically and esthetically. But the meditation room goes beyond her dreams; in it we hope Carol will remember to keep dreaming big and remember that unexpected, amazing things always lie ahead,” said Wheeler.

"Carol has given a lot to the community so a sense of community is incorporated into the design of the house. While she and her sons will live together as a family in this house, they will also be like a village, with all members acting as individuals in their own right. The vertical light of the meditation space—unlike any light in the rest of the house—defines for Carol a room of her own. Thus she can have a sense of reflective privacy within the bustle of daily life. The main house offers an identity of traditional refuge while the meditation space offers the hope of innovation," said Dunay.

According to Larry Hincker, associate vice-president of university relations at Virginia Tech, it was Smith’s job as one of the first directors of the Black Cultural Center that first brought her to Virginia Tech and Blacksburg. “She was then and is now a great ambassador of black American culture. And if you have not met her, I can tell you she is one of the sweetest people on earth,” said Hincker.

The Black Cultural Center is an important component of Virginia Tech’s efforts to create a welcoming and inclusive campus community. Located in Squires Student Center, the Black Cultural Center hosts educational programs, exhibitions, meetings, and receptions and includes a small library.

About “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” is produced by Endemol USA, a division of Endemol Holding. David Goldberg is the president of Endemol USA. The series is executive-produced by Tom Forman. The show airs Sundays (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET), on the ABC Television Network.

About The College of Architecture and Urban Studies

The College of Architecture and Urban Studies is one of the largest of its type in the nation. The college is composed of two schools and the departments of Landscape Architecture, Building Construction, and Art and Art History. The School of Architecture + Design includes programs in architecture, industrial design and interior design. The School of Public and International Affairs includes programs in urban affairs and planning, public administration and policy, and government and international affairs. Programs in architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, public administration, and urban and regional planning are all ranked in the top 10 nationally. The college enrolls more than 2,000 students offering 22 degrees programs taught by 160 faculty members.

About Virginia Tech

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech's eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 170 academic degree programs.

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