Architecture students rule the roost with design-build project

chicken coops

Architecture students move their chicken coops to the southeast lawn at the College of Design, where they'll be on exhibit for the campus community through next week. Photo by Bob Elbert.

It's their first architectural design studio. And all 87 new majors in the professional architecture degree program have been hard at work, designing and building houses -- for chickens. With names like "Rustic Ranch," "The Griddle" and "Raise the Roost," the ingenious structures don't look like alien spaceships exactly, but they aren't your standard, run-of-the-mill chicken coops, either.

All 20 coops are on display through Oct. 25 on the southeast lawn of the College of Design. Then they'll be sold at auction during the Ames Farmers Market on Saturday, Oct. 26 (10:30 a.m., Wheatsfield Cooperative Grocery parking lot, 413 Northwestern Ave.). Proceeds will reimburse student costs, with any profits going to the Iowa State student chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The ground rules

The teams of architectural students built chicken coops to house three to five chickens. They researched chicken care basics and environmental concerns, conceptualized their designs, salvaged or purchased materials, managed a budget and constructed the coop. They had two-and-a-half weeks to complete the project.

The structures had to meet the specific needs of chickens -- which correspond somewhat to those of humans. The chickens need to have a space to live and a space to range. A place to rest and a place to lay eggs. When it's 100 degrees and 80 percent humidity outdoors, the chickens need to be cool and comfy. And when it's minus 20 degrees with blowing snow, the birds need to be cozy and warm. They need shade from the sun and shelter from predators.

And the finished coops had to fit through the doors of their King Pavilion studio, requiring no more than two people to carry. The students also were asked to name their coops and come up with a one-page marketing poster -- a sort of elevator pitch exercise -- for the auction.

"One of the great things about this project is you had to figure things out on your own," said sophomore Cole Davis.

One coop is constructed almost completely of found and donated materials, with a drawer for the nesting box and an old carpenter's tool box for the roost. Another is a six-foot-high structure with an organic, undulating shape and a uniformly textured surface. "The Chick Inn" has vinyl siding, an operable double-hung window and solar lights. There's a circular ramp/stairway, a loft bed, a sliding door, removable walls, awning windows and even some plumbing.

The idea

Chicken coops as the selection for students' first design-build assignment was the brainchild of backyard chicken raiser and associate professor Cameron Campbell. He coordinates Architectural Design 201 with architecture faculty colleagues Mikesch Muecke, Patience Lueth, James Spiller and Maria Miller. The project is part of an entire semester that focuses on inhabitation, material construction and environmental and sustainability concerns.

"These are full scale and metaphors for human spaces," Campbell said. "We do this project because it's not a model. The students are working at full scale and experimenting with different living requirements -- nesting versus roosting, for example."

Not only are the students learning about appropriate scale of space, but also how materials go together and how to work in teams.

"All architecture is done in teams, so they have to negotiate many ideas, many creative inputs and all come together with a decision in order to build at full scale," Campbell said.

It all translates into "learning a lot," said sophomore Sam Usle.

"We have to build it with our own hands, make it work and get into those details we sometimes forget when we're drawing or theorizing. In this project, we get the nice conceptual phase and the construction phase," Usle said.



Martino Harmon joined Iowa State Sept. 9 as the university's associate vice president for student affairs. He will oversee enrollment services, admissions, student financial aid and learning communities. Harmon also will manage the division of student affairs' budget and human resources, as well as the Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound programs.

Harmon comes to Iowa State from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Ohio, where he served as executive director of student success and retention.

Harmon's office is in 2350 Beardshear. He can be reached at 4-4420 or

Public records requests go public

Yesterday, officials began posting online the public records requests Iowa State receives. Tomorrow, the university will host a hearing for those who want to comment on the agenda for the Oct. 23-24 state Board of Regents meeting.

Both measures follow through on recent recommendations (PDF) of a regents-appointed task force on transparency.  The task force studied transparency and openness at Iowa's regents schools and offered recommendations, which were subsequently adopted by the regents at their Aug. 8 meeting.

Iowa State officials have since reviewed and complied with those recommendations, said associate vice president and chief of staff Miles Lackey.

"Iowa State has a good reputation for openness and readiness to provide information to both press and public," Lackey said. "Across this campus, people go out of their way to find answers for students, parents, media, Iowans and many others who seek information."

Following are ISU's responses to transparency "best practices" endorsed by the regents.

Log and post online all public records requests

On Oct. 16, officials began posting public records requests to Iowa State's public records log. The log currently contains 11 requests that were filed on campus from Sept. 1-30. Records requests will be posted to the site on the 16th and last day of each month, unless those dates are weekends or holidays. In such cases, posts will occur the first workday after the scheduled dates.

The phrase "public records" usually references the Iowa Public Records Law, Chapter 22 of the Iowa Code. The law states that most documents held by government agencies, like Iowa State, are public. An online Q&A explains the law and how to make a public records request to an Iowa State department.

Iowa State departments receive an estimated 200 public records requests annually.

Prior to each regents meeting, hold public hearings at each regents school and the board office

Iowa State's first public hearing is Friday, Oct. 18 (noon-1 p.m., Memorial Union Oak Room).  At the hearing, individuals can comment on any items scheduled for discussion at the Oct. 23-24 regents meeting in Iowa City.  An Iowa State official staffing the hearing will video record comments, which subsequently will be posted to the regents' hearings website.

A schedule for all regents schools and board office public hearings through 2014 is available on the regents website.

Name a transparency officer

Assistant to the president Shirley Knipfel has been appointed Iowa State's transparency officer. In that post, Knipfel will maintain and track public records requests and oversee public hearings held prior to regents meetings.

Establish a transparency page on each of the regents' schools and board office site.

Iowa State's transparency page includes links to public records information, regents' public hearing dates and Iowa State news and information sources.

Nonsupervisory merit open change begins Oct. 18*

*Update: The nonsupervisory merit open change period will now open on Monday, Oct. 21, at 8 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. Nov. 19.

Nonsupervisory merit employees will have an opportunity to review and change their benefits during the annual open change period, Oct. 18 to Nov. 18. The cost of benefits to employees for 2014 is essentially the same as 2013, with only two increases.

Important dates

  • Oct. 18: Open change period begins at 8 a.m.; participation statements available on AccessPlus
  • Nov. 11: Webcast, 9-10 a.m.
  • Nov. 18: Open change period ends at 5 p.m.
  • Nov. 25: Benefits confirmation statements available on AccessPlus
  • Dec. 13: Final statements of 2014 benefits available on AccessPlus

What's new?

Health and dental coverage for nonsupervisory merit employees will remain the same for 2014. The cost of those benefits also will be similar to 2013, with a slight increase (less than $24) for both the Iowa Select and Program 3 Plus family coverage. The Iowa Select family coverage will increase to $270.64 monthly; the Program 3 Plus family coverage will increase to $276.42 a month. Premiums for Blue Access and Blue Advantage family plans will not change (there still is no cost to employees). Employees also continue to pay no premiums for employee-only coverage.

Vision coverage costs a little more

Rates for Avesis vision coverage also are increasing slightly. The 2014 monthly costs are:

  • Employee - $7.26 (an increase of $0.28)
  • Employee and spouse - $13.76 (an increase of $0.53)
  • Employee and child - $14.98 (an increase of $0.56)
  • Employee and family - $19.28 (an increase of $0.73)

Voluntary life coverage costs a little less

Monthly premiums for voluntary life insurance are decreasing slightly in 2014, by about $0.04 per $1,000 in coverage. The decrease applies to all age groups.

Dental enrollment is open

Nonsupervisory merit employees have the option to enroll themselves or add spouses and dependent children (including those up to age 26) to their dental plans this year, which is not an annual occurrence.

How to make changes to your benefits

Nonsupervisory merit employees may alter their medical, dental, flexible spending and Avesis coverage online through AccessPlus. Enrolling in or increasing employer-sponsored basic or voluntary life insurance will require paper forms. If you prefer to make all your changes on paper, contact university human resources (UHR) at 4-4800.

If you wish to make no changes to your benefits, you do not need to complete any forms. However, the UHR staff asks that you look through your benefits statements to confirm your dependents' information.

The ISU Plan open change period for faculty, professional and scientific, and supervisory merit employees is Nov. 1-22. Look for more details about the ISU Plan open change period in next week's Inside Iowa State.


Employees may continue to insure children up to age 26 on their medical, dental and Avesis vision plans for 2014. To qualify, children must be under age 26 on Jan. 1, 2014. Children may be covered even if they are married or have a job with health care benefits. If children already have benefits, the ISU coverage would supplement their primary health plans.

If children turn 26 in 2013, coverage must end Dec. 31, 2013. However, if children are unmarried and enroll as full-time students during the year, they can remain on their parents' ISU health or dental plans until they either get married or stop being full-time students. There may be tax implications for employees who insure students over age 26.

More information

UHR is hosting an interactive webcast for nonsupervisory merit employees Nov. 11 from 9 to 10 a.m. To participate, log on to At the login page, enter your name under the "Enter as a Guest" heading, then click "Enter Room." A recording of the broadcast also will be available on the UHR website

Greener pastures

Haber Road pasture

The former horse pasture area east of Haber Road is sprouting a mixture of oats and rye planted last month as a cover crop to help stabilize the newly graded soil. The project is part of a long-term storm water control solution folded into the parking lot expansion for the Fredericksen Court residences. A native prairie seed mixture will be planted after the first frost for spring germination. That mix includes wet prairie grasses for the bioswales and water retention areas that help recharge aquifers. Native grasses appropriate for the higher areas and berms also will be planted. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Second tuition freeze proposal goes to regents

Tuition for in-state undergraduates next year again would remain at 2012-13 levels under the proposal the state Board of Regents will review next week in Iowa City. With the aim of keeping a college education affordable, resident undergraduate tuition didn't change this fall from a year ago.

The board will meet Oct. 23-24 at the University of Iowa; proposed 2014-15 tuition rates will be introduced on Oct. 24. The board's vote on 2014-15 tuition rates is expected at its Dec. 4 meeting.

A live audio stream of the meeting's public portions will be online at the board website.

Nonresident undergraduates would pay $334 (1.74 percent) more in tuition next year, as proposed. Resident graduate students would pay $142 (1.81 percent) more, and nonresident graduate students would pay an additional $646 (3.2 percent). College of Veterinary Medicine students, resident or nonresident, would pay 4.5 percent more next year – $862 and $1,928, respectively.

Mandatory student fees would go up $5.80 for all Iowa State students in 2014-15, as proposed. That includes a $3 increase for student services and a $2.80 increase for student activities. Student fees haven't changed for Iowa State students in three years.

This year, Iowa State resident undergraduates are enjoying the lowest tuition and fees ($7,726) among Iowa State's Peer 11 schools. At one end of the range is the University of Illinois ($15,258); at the other, just ahead of Iowa State, is North Carolina State ($8,206). Nonresident undergraduates are paying the second lowest tuition and fees ($20,278) in the peer group, just ahead of the University of Minnesota ($19,805), and well behind the University of California, Davis ($36,774), at the top of the list.

Grounds improvements at the Knoll

Iowa State also will seek permission to move ahead with sidewalk and landscaping projects at the Knoll, the president's residence. The first would repair sidewalks and patios and improve outdoor lighting (estimated $110,000 budget). The second is a multiyear project to remove or replace plantings and trees in the five acres surrounding the Knoll (estimated $95,000 budget). Private gifts would pay for both projects.

Utilities bond sale

The board is expected to approve a bond sale for about $27.5 million in utility system revenue bonds to help pay for replacing three of Iowa State's five coal-fired boilers with natural gas boilers. Campus utilities income would repay the bonds over 20 years. The board approved the three-year boiler replacement plan last December.

Other business

In other business, Iowa State will ask to:

  • Award an honorary Doctor of Science degree to NASA astronaut and Mount Ayr native Peggy Whitson for her contributions to the U.S. and international space programs, and service involving young people, particularly as a role model for young women who pursue careers in the STEM fields. The degree would be awarded in December at the fall commencement ceremony.
  • Revise its 2013-14 general catalog (an online publication), including 126 course additions (primarily due to new programs) and 103 course eliminations (courses that haven't been taught in some time)

Friendly spirits


Reiman Gardens' merry (not scary) annual Halloween celebration, "Spirits in the Gardens," is slated for Oct. 19 and 20 from 4 to 7 p.m. Dress in your finest ghoulish garb and enjoy the family-friendly festivities.

Activities include storytelling, a close-up look at the raptors and owls from Iowa State's Wildlife Care Clinic, a scavenger hunt, broomball, crafts and trick-or-treating. In case of bad weather, all events will be moved inside.

Admission is free for youth under 18. Regular admission applies for all others ($8 for adults; $7 for seniors). Submitted photo.