CU-Boulder Environmental Design Class Prints 3D Model of Campus

(CU-Boulder News) The CU-Boulder environmental design class “Model Building: Reimagining a New Campus Model” used the latest software and machinery to build prototype models of the campus. Their tools included a computerized router, a laser cutter and a brand new 3D printer. Learning to use the modern, mostly digital equipment was not about safety. Rather, the objective of the course and its high-tech emphasis is to prepare students for a resurging use of models in the design world, with early experience using state-of-the-art systems.

“Having innovative model-building skills is really important moving forward,” said Bryant. “People are more likely to be on board with your project when they can see an efficiently made, accurate scale model. They’re more likely to fund it.”

The students crafted a variety of model designs, from contoured topographies that serve as bases, to campus buildings like the Center for Community and the Wolf Law Building at a 1-inch-to-100-foot scale. They experimented with levels of detail, different materials and colors, and making the model easily updatable. They mulled how to represent elements like the campus’s bodies of water and historic trees.

They also had the real-life opportunity of working with a client. CU-Boulder’s Facilities Management department commissioned the project and supported it with the purchase of the 3D printer. Initiated by David Jacobs of Facilities Management, the project is intended to replace the current campus model, which was created in 1988 and lacks many of the newer campus features.

“This has been a really dedicated team,” said Tom Goodhew, a CU-Boulder facilities planner. “It’s probably been the most successful project I’ve seen from a student group.” Tasking a class instead of a commercial firm with the campus model project saved Facilities Management tens of thousands of dollars and broadened the possibilities, according to Goodhew. He says the students were limitless in their creativity and drive to become experts on the machinery and try different approaches.