Duke goes for world's cardboard fort record

jalexander@newsobserver.comSeptember 20, 2013 

— Nearly 400 Duke students, faculty and community members set out to build the world’s largest cardboard fort Friday.

Then they tore it down.

“The purpose was to educate students on reducing consumption and sustainability,” said Tavey Capps, the campus sustainability director.

According to Decatur Recycles, recycling one ton of corrugated cardboard saves 700 gallons of water and also can save about 46 gallons of oil.

The idea started in a classroom a year ago while students were learning about waste. Arwen Buchholz, recycling and waste reduction coordinator, said she saw that other schools were setting world records building cardboard box forts, and jumped on the idea to teach students more about the importance of recycling.

The record is measured by the number of boxes used. Naperville, Ill., held the previous record at 3,204 boxes, but Duke used 3,500 boxes Friday, all of which were recycled. The boxes were collected from student move-in boxes and academic buildings across campus.

“We counted every single box,” Buchholz said. “It’s been a lot of work.”

Todd Berreth, an architect and instructor in the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies, led the design of the fort.

The fort was designed like a maze leading to the statue of James B. Duke on the West Campus quad. Students stapled and taped boxes together to construct the fort.

Students such as freshman Jade Lu came out between classes to help. She said the learning process of building the fort was what was most important.

“I think that people don’t believe in global warming because they can’t actually see it,” Lu said. “This is a way to visually show why it is important. It is easier to conceptualize when you see it in front of your eyes.”

Freshman David Rosen, who wants to be an environmental engineer, agreed.

“I’ve always been interested in sustainability,” Rosen said. “It sounded like a cool cause and cool project.”

About a third of the way through, some students stopped and watched the progress. Others also joined.

They worked through rain at 9 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. building the 70-by-70-foot cardboard fort they named Fort Duke. They worked for more than nine hours.

At 6 p.m., they said they had set the world record for the largest cardboard fort, to be verified by video they planned to send to recordsetter.com. The fort stood 16 feet high, fully surrounding the statue.

At 7 p.m., they tore down the boxes and put them in trucks for recycling.

Alexander: 919-932-2008 Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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