UD professors to showcase rainwater harvesting at Philadelphia Flower Show
Jules Bruck (left) and Jonathan Cox, as UD's Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit takes shape.

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Editor's note: The University of Delaware display has earned a special achievement award for creativity and design.

3:01 p.m., March 4, 2011----Jules Bruck, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, and Jonathan Cox, instructor in art, along with students and faculty from the University of Delaware, have put together a display to be showcased at the Philadelphia International Flower Show, March 6-13, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

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The theme of the show is “Springtime in Paris,” and Bruck explained that their project is a model two-story structure resembling a Paris street scene, with the purpose of the exhibit to be both aesthetically pleasing and educational, informing spectators of the values of residential rain harvesting.

Said Bruck of the structure, “The two facades represent a flower shop on one side and a winery on the other. The front represents a vibrant cafe -- and shows rain coming out of gutters into decorative rain storage systems that can be used to water the street trees and containers. The backyard shows the 'Paris underground' and the 'basements' of the two shoppes.”

To watch a student-made video showing the construction of the exhibit, click here.

Once she and Cox heard the theme, Bruck said that they got invested in the idea of decorating the display like a catacomb.

“The rooms have a catacomb theme so they are dark and we have skulls as shelving and various decorations. The flower color theme is red -- as in red wine. So, we are forcing a lot of red flowering and foliage plants.”

Bruck said that the goal in designing a model house was “You own a house, you're at the Philadelphia Flower Show and you go 'Oh, I never thought about harvesting rain to use to wash my car or to use to water my plants.' So the idea of building a house is that visitors can translate the information really easily to their own scale.”

When homes are not set up for rainwater harvesting, Bruck said, “the typical path for that rainwater is out to the storm sewers and ultimately into a watershed.

“So anything you've applied to your lawn in terms of chemical fertilizers, any detergents you've used to wash your car, any oil that's on your driveway, all gets swept away with that rainwater into the storm system, which typically end up in streams and rivers.”

Bruck said that they are advocating for people to try and collect rainwater through a variety of means, such as rain barrels that sit under down spouts, or an underground cistern, or designing a rain garden, which Bruck said makes sure “all the rainwater on your property is graded toward a garden full of plants that can handle wet conditions.”

The rain garden also allows rainwater to naturally percolate back into the ground, which filters and cleans the water naturally.

With so many people from departments across campus pitching in, Bruck couldn't stress enough that the exhibit wouldn't have been possible without a partner like Cox and all the support from everyone involved.

Students involved in the project include Chris Rocco and April Starkey, both seniors in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who worked to grow plants in the Fischer Greenhouse. Starkey's husband, Steve, works as a cabinet maker, and Bruck said that he was a huge help as the group built the structure.

Taylor Fehmal, a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Rebecca Zerby, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, both members of the Design Interest Group (DIG) helped design the innovative rain storage system on the display as part of a design club challenge.

Bruck also said that her construction students worked on the build this fall as part of their coursework.

Anthony Middlebrooks, an associate professor in the School of Urban Affairs, helped out with the project by having his leadership students work on a design challenge that focused on the educational aspects of the show.

The group also has received generous financial support and donations to help with the building of the model. Alumni Jordan ('96) and Erinne Hammell, Doug ('81) and Mai Blonski, and Jane Pepper ('76) all contributed funds to the project, as did Lele and Brad Galer.

Zach Starke is creating custom metal work for the project, while Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery supplied wine barrels and other accessories.

Erik Castle also helped out by contributing irrigation supplies.

Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Danielle Quigley, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Delaware

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