Just received notice that my paper for the International Conference on Sustainable Design, Engineering and Construction, “Expression and evidence, advances in architecture studio pedagogy,” was accepted for presentation and eventual publication through Elsevier/Science Direct. The paper is another partial chapter toward my book project developing a design studio pedagogy to address resource conservation and enhance quality of life of building users.
I had the privilege of lecturing on my design and building experience at a University in Madrid this past fall semester. The subject of the lecture, presented to an eager audience of about 40 masters students and 10 faculty at UCJC, was the use of passive design strategies in the construction of academic buildings. Strategies I continue to explore in k-12 and higher ed applications include passive solar, daylighting, and natural ventilation. These are almost always hybridized with mechanical systems, especially in Midwest USA applications where both heating and cooling are expected of owners. The approaches almost always require “training” of building users, and the nature of the training usually is in response to a cultural expectation and attitude of building automation (automated comfort controls, lighting controls, etc.). What I have found is that the passive building approach, one that has any hope whatsoever of really reducing energy usage and utility costs, requires an intentional effort on the part of the building owner and users. Often, it is the building user, more than the systems, that require the most care. In this way, future architectural practice will most certainly include the education of the owner and user groups to optimize the effectiveness of any comfort control system, passive or active. I dismiss the notion that we can somehow design low energy or high performance buildings without changing our cultural expectations. This flies in the face of conventional approaches that seek to solve technological problems with more technology, but nevertheless it is true. Low energy is directly related to “low tech/smart design” in my observation. The link to the newsclip, in Spanish, is here.
There is an exciting project developing in the Sandhills of Nebraska. I’m calling it “Sand Ranch,” an obvious homage to the wonderful work at Sea Ranch, CA and in particular architect Obie Bowman’s work there, and it is an off-grid residence for a ranching family. Contacted by a college friend through Facebook, we’ve started a client-driven collaboration toward a carbon neutral residence featuring earth berm, super insulated envelop, solar responsive south envelop features, stack induced cross ventilation, geothermal heat exchange, radiant floor and panels, solar hot water and solar well operations, and other juicy combinations of closed-loop strategies. Programmatically, it includes sleeping for the family of 8, a large family gathering space/kitchen/hearth, a contemporary canning kitchen and cellar, and aquaponics/hydroponics greenhouse.
Judson University hosted a symposium of Chicago architects and educators on the topic of the AIA 2030 Commitment. The two day symposium included keynote speaker Bill Browning of Terrapin, and several presentations and discussion. A summary of the symposium and some thoughts of my own about progress and lack thereof in the building industry can be viewed on the Architecture Department vimeo site:
The project that has consumed most of my creative energy in the past two years has finally come to a close. Working closely with a great team of Marty Serena, Dave Dankert, and Mike Karkowski at Serena Sturm Architects in Chicago, we have accomplished a remarkable school addition that is projected to operate on a 60% reduction of energy, and is complemented by a 20% on-site renewable energy portfolio. Daylighting alone, and especially top lighting in the labs, coached by Jim Benya’s very good work for the California school system, will reduce energy consumption by about 15-20%. Passive solar design will create boost energy in the winter months with south facing glazing. Whole building flush out potential with a manually operated natural ventilation system overriding the mechanical system will ensure maximum possible fresh air supply, on demand by the user. We expect this facility will become a case study for passive design of schools in the region.
For those located in the area, please join us for final reviews of graduate design studio work that balances design studio, ecology, and urbanism. From design-making to systems-thinking to ecologic-responsiveness, students work focuses on a critical, if not derelict, site on the Fox River in Elgin, IL that can serve as a case study for future riverfront development in post-industrial cities. This is no Bilbao approach.