UB Solar Strand makes best architecture of 2014 list


When Walter Hood was creating a design for a potential UB Solar Strand in 2010, he wanted the project to have an impact on people.

“I designed a linear walkway open to the changing surrounding landscape for people to interact with the space. I hope it has some effect on them,” Hood said.

Hood’s design seems to have had an effect, as it was ranked among the best architecture of 2014 by the The Wall Street Journal.

The publication officially recognized the UB Solar Strand, located on North Campus, in its list of “The Best Architecture of 2014: Sense and Sensitivity.” The array of 3,200 photovoltaic panels stretches along the main entrance to UB North Campus for about a quarter mile. The creation of the panels was a coordination of effort by the UB Sustainability Office, New York Power Authority (NYPA) and almost 40 New York State-based companies, according to NYPA.

Hood, a landscape architect and professor at the University of California, Berkley, won a design competition of 23 contestants for the project that was hosted by UB in 2010. Hood’s design is a 15-acre site that includes meadows, a creek and vernal pools. Walkways go through the panels and connect with nearby roads, the Center for Tomorrow and the surrounding meadows.

The Solar Strand has special meaning for Hood beyond the 750 kilowatts it generates and 400 tons of avoided greenhouse. He said he designed as an outdoor learning experience for visitors and students to engage with green efforts and the natural environment. The Solar Strand has generated more than 240,000-kilowatt hours, offsetting the emission of more than 1,700 tons of carbon dioxide and the consumption of 194,000 gallons of gasoline since being powered on in 2012, according to the UB Reporter.

The Strand falls on a list of other UB sustainability initiatives like its Zipcar, bicycling and composting programs.

“We partnered with the community to make something that reflects who we are and our mission,” said Ryan McPherson, UB’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “We are a research university.”

McPherson said he is proud of the project’s completion and its impact on the university’s environment. McPherson notes that the strand was made possible in large part not only because of Hood’s design, but also because of the School of Architecture and Planning, Dean Robert Shibley’s vision and leadership.

The project evolved significantly since its start in 2009 when NYPA provided over $7 million to UB to build a standard grounded array of solar panels. Hood and Shibley worked to create a much more functional and artistic site after Hood won the competition.

Kamillah Ramos, a junior architecture major, said she appreciates the Strand.

“I think it reflects well on UB’s effort to go green,” Ramos said.

Hood is open to the idea of creating more sites on UB’s campus.

“I would love to come back to UB in the future to create more sustainable spaces on campus,” Hood said. “I think it [the Solar Strand] will encourage people to think about the environment.”

Tyler Szczesniak is a contributing news writer and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com