Students at the University of Colorado last week unveiled a new three-dimensional campus model to be used by planning and facilities officials.

The group of CU seniors in the environmental design class "Model Building: Reimagining a New Campus Model" spent the semester painstakingly measuring, sketching, scaling, printing and cutting buildings and campus topography for the model, which is 5 feet by 5 feet and weighs roughly 120 pounds.

The project stemmed from the need for a new campus model in facilities management, the department charged with maintaining and developing the physical campus environment. They often use an outdated campus model, built in the late 1980s, for snow removal plans, security for large events and to envision the effects of a new building or renovation on campus.

When facilities officials got proposals to build a new campus model from professional firms, the price tag was upwards of $70,000.

Students created the model for $6,300, plus staff time.

That total cost includes a new 3D printer that the department can use for future projects, said class instructor Jade Polizzi.

The new model is made from acrylic, which allows campus officials to write on buildings and pathways using dry-erase markers.

Each building is attached to the base using a peg, so they're easy to replace as the campus changes, Polizzi said.

Before using the 3D printer and laser cutter to shape the buildings and campus topography, the 16 students created computer files to outline the dimensions of many buildings.


The new model will impress visitors, investors and others who use it, said Aaron Saraceno, of facilities management.

"With something new like this, I can see us using it more often," Saraceno said. "It's more presentable, more up-to-date, more with the times."

Not only did the campus get an innovative and inexpensive new model, the students learned about 3D printing, Polizzi said, which is becoming more and more popular in the world of architecture, design, engineering and more.

"I definitely think it's a win-win situation," she said. "The students were excited to get this technology, our (environmental design) program got a 3D printer out of it and facilities management saved tens of thousands of dollars."

Senior Elizabeth Proutt, who's studying architecture, said the class also gave her and other students experience with a real-life client.

Often during classes, the "client" is an imaginary person inside the student's head, she said.

In this class, though, the students worked with facilities management to collaborate and talk through their needs and wants for the campus model.

"There are some choices we would have made differently as designers, but since we are designing it for them, we had to tailor our design toward their needs," she said. "There was a real-life element to it."

Proutt said it also feels good knowing she and her classmates left a mark on the campus. She envisions a time when their model design will be on display for prospective students in the University Memorial Center or will give blind students a chance to feel the campus.

"I'm glad it can have a lot of future uses," she said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or