EcoCentro promotes urban sustainability

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EcoCentro, new eco-friendly building designed to benefit student and community, is under construction Sept. 6 at the northeast corner of Locust and Main. Celeste Christy

EcoCentro, new eco-friendly building designed to benefit student and community, is under construction Sept. 6 at the northeast corner of Locust and Main. Celeste Christy

Center offers courses and workshops in sustainability.

By Patricia McGlamory

pmcglamory@student.alamo.edu 

EcoCentro is a sustainable lifestyle student training center and community outreach center temporarily located in the service, trade and industry center.

The center’s primary focus is preparing people to get job skills, Steven Lewis, director of the service, trade and industry center, said Sept. 6.

A permanent EcoCentro location is under construction across the street at 1802 N. Main Ave. and is expected to open in December.

The department office will continue to be in the temporary location.

Free Saturday workshops have been temporarily postponed until the new building is completed.

Sustainability is energy conservation, water conservation, recycling and composting, Lewis said.

Training aids and equipment will include a Lab-Volt solar thermal trainer, a solar water heater; and a photovoltaic trainer, solar and wind electricity used for lights and electricity “that you can plug into,” Lewis said.

There will be a spray foam insulation unit used as training equipment, he said.

Other training equipment will include a blower door and duct blaster used to measure the energy efficiency of a house or building.

The blower door and duct blaster check for leaks around windows and doors and in ducts, Lewis said.

The new building will have two main areas serving multiple functions.

The classroom area will provide space for related courses and workshops.

The display and demonstration area can be used as a venue for events, such as energy and conservation, water conservation, and green building.

“On a modest scale, we can serve as a small, exhibit-type facility,” Lewis said.

An outdoor area behind the building will be used for outdoor exhibits and demonstrations.

EcoCentro will have 135 solar panels to supply most of the building’s electricity.

There will be two electric vehicle charging stations, estimated to be installed the second week of December.

A water catchment demonstration system will consist of three tanks.

The center will also have a complete garden facility with a gate between the EcoCentro lot on North Main Avenue and the garden lot at 811 Ogden St.

The garden facility will be a combination of a demonstration garden and community garden.

For the demonstration part of the garden project, the idea is to have students involved, primarily in the science, technology, engineering and math areas, Lewis said.

“But it could be any students that want to get involved in projects related to plants or gardening or urban agriculture,” he said.

Composting demonstrations are estimated to begin in January.

Plant care demonstrations in a limited area of the garden can begin in March, with serious gardening demonstrations starting next fall, Lewis wrote in an email Sept. 11.

Details for reserving community garden plots have not been finalized, Lewis wrote in the email.

Community residents can have raised garden plots at no cost to the residents, Lewis said.

“A community garden concept is really where the community takes responsibility, and they don’t pay anything for it,” Lewis said.

“But they have certain responsibilities for keeping it up, too,” Lewis said.

There also will be a B-cycle station of the public bike system.

B-cycle stations are racks where people can swipe a credit or debit card and ride to the next B-cycle station, Lewis said.

B-cycle memberships can be purchased online at www.sanantonio.bcycle.com.

The infrastructure for the B-cycle stations should be in by mid-December, with the actual rack and bicycles estimated to be in place in the first quarter of 2014.

There will be a mural on the exterior wall facing North Main Avenue.

The suggestion came for putting a mural across the whole west wall of the building.

“I think the initial idea kind of originated by Tobin Hill residents,” Lewis said.

He said the mural was not on the original plans, but when it was proposed, everybody really seemed to like it.

The whole idea of the mural is that it starts from the earliest days of San Pedro Springs which was an indigenous gathering point, and takes it all the way up to the present, “with certain historical points of significance,” in this immediate part of San Antonio over the last several hundred years, Lewis said.

The last image on the mural is an ecological symbol, which shows EcoCentro as kind of the final image.

It will show where the facility has come from, linking the earliest days up to the current building, he said.

EcoCentro is “emerging as San Antonio’s primary hub of community outreach for what we call sustainability,” Lewis said.

For more information, visit Facebook at EcoCentro1, email Steven Lewis at slewis71@alamo.edu, or call 210-486-0417.

For registration information, visit alamo.edu/sac and click on Continuing Education, or call 210-486-0422.

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