Landscape Architecture Students Clean Up in EPA Design Competition

peru city scape and two men standing Pamplona, Peru (left); MLA students Nick Sund and Adam DeHeer with prototypes in Pamplona

In late November, the office of Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley notified the University of Oregon that a student team led by Landscape Architecture Assistant Professor Kory Russel and Anthropology Assistant Professor Maria Fernanda Escallón had won the Environmental Protection Agency’s 16th Annual People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) student design competition with a $14,971 grant attached. 

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) students Adam DeHeer and Nick Sund and Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) students Summer Young and Emma Hershey submitted a project called “Sanitary Green Space: Closed-looped waste systems.” 

“If we’re going to mitigate the effects of climate chaos, we have to get creative about recycling, reducing and reusing our resources—and that’s why I’ve worked to make sure EPA grants support those efforts,” said Sen. Merkley, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “University of Oregon’s project is the type of innovation and creativity that will make help make our communities green and sustainable into the future.”


To address water contamination by human waste, the students designed modular planting beds to provide off-the-grid sanitation infrastructure.

“The closed-loop system mimics larger hydrological and nutrient cycles and provides not only basic sanitation, but needed wastewater infrastructure, non-potable water use, as well as the salvage of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus for healthy plant growth,” the team proposal states. “With the support of the P3 program, this modular system will not only provide a number of environmental benefits, but will also improve hygiene, safety, and health in public and semi-public spaces that can be adopted, used and maintained by users of this service.”

The students worked on this project for the Sustainable Design Principles and Practices course (LA 410/510), which investigates designing sustainable systems from economic, environmental, and social perspectives.

Learn more about the EPA’s P3 design competition.