UVa | A R C H 2013

Archive for December, 2011

End of the Semester Review

This is my last blog post of the semester! ūüė¶

I really enjoyed this class. ¬†I’ve always been interested in sustainability and this class allowed me to explore it more in depth and connect it to what I have been working on in studio.

From this class, I have been most interested in ways to regulate the temperature within a building without relying on an HVAC system. ¬†I am really intrigued by buildings that use systems such as double skin walls and geothermal heating and I think that this will become just some of the things that will be standard in buildings in the future. ¬†I think this class has taught my classmates and I that it isn’t difficult to think about energy efficiency and that it actually adds to the quality of our designs and the connection to the natural world like the sun and wind.

Thermally Active Surfaces

In our reading, “Thermally Active Surfaces: Physiology and Thermodynamics,”¬†Moe asks the simple question: “Why do we heat and cool buildings with air?” ¬†This question really got me thinking. ¬†Only in the last century have we installed HVAC systems into our buildings. ¬†For thousands of years, people relied on the thermal mass of materials, the orientation to the sun and the site in order to create different microclimates. ¬†I believe that we should look back at this concept and reconnect with the site and the materials we use.

“Thermally active surface systems are inherently integrated solutions because the structure, enclosure, and human comfort systems are the same system. ¬†This saves not only energy for heating and cooling loads but design, coordination, organization, and labor energy in building production.” ¬†Integrating thermally active surface systems puts the focus towards the architectural systems, rather than the technical ones. ¬†It fosters the importance of creating a system as a total entity with relationships between “body, program, technology, material, and form.” ¬†I think looking at these sustainable ideas is not only energy efficient, but it also creates a sustainable relationship between the structure and the surrounding, making it something meaningful that will remain for years to come.

UVA Sustainability Proposal: Data servers or furnaces?

Recently, researchers at the UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA (awesome!) in partnership with Microsoft have released a proposal to use computer servers as sources of heat for a building. ¬†With the rise of cloud computing, servers could be placed everywhere, even in a residential home. ¬†“If a home has a broadband Internet connection, it can serve as a micro data center. One, two or three cabinets filled with servers could be installed where the furnace sits and connected with the existing circulation fan and ductwork. Each cabinet could have slots for, say, 40 motherboards ‚ÄĒ each one counting as a server. In the coldest climate, about 110 motherboards could keep a home as toasty as a conventional furnace does.” (NY Times) ¬†This system would not only reduce the carbon footprint of conventional furnaces, but it would also cut costs for both the residence and the company hosting the server.

Even if this method is used in office buildings, there would be many benefits. ¬†Computer servers currently put a burden on the HVAC system. ¬†Even sitting in the computer banks at the architecture school, one can see how much heat a computer puts into the space. ¬†By simply changing the systems so that the computer server’s heat output works with the system instead of against it, one could significantly impact the energy use of HVAC systems.

you can read the paper here:





The Living Machine

Last week, Professor Sherman gave us our final lecture of the semester.  He showed us several buildings which utilize many of the systems which we have learned about.  One of the buildings I found interesting was the Center for Environmental Sciences building at Oberlin College and I decided to research it further.

Designed by William McDonough, along with student input, the building follows the principles of “eliminating waste, relying on natural flows, and honoring diversity.” ¬†The building utilizes natural forces such as daylighting, natural ventilation, and geothermal heating. ¬†It is also has its own waste treatment through a natural marsh. ¬†The building actually produces energy from its solar panels, which it puts back into the community’s grid.

The structure goes beyond sustainability within the energy flows.  The space creates sustainable relationships with the rest of the college and the community, serving as a meeting space for town halls.




A Broader Spectrum of Architecture

Last week, Kevin and Carrie Burke of the firm Parabola came to to speak to our class about designing within the environment, not around it. ¬†Their focus is “toward the design of a more nuanced human experience of the built environment through the precise integration of the inestimate.” Instead of seeing the systems of the environment as fragile, they see the natural world as full of amazing energetic system.

By following the Hannover principles, their designs work toward ¬†creating an environment where humanity and nature can co-exist. ¬†Their home went above and ¬†beyond these principles; they designed it so that the sun and other natural forces were used as the design tools to form space. ¬†The roof was carved by the solar equinox and solstice; the beams of light can fall along the interior and exterior walls of the attic space. ¬†The house was designed in section in order for the sun’s path to be the primary force. ¬†It surprising that there aren’t more homes like their’s. ¬†The house’s design connects the residents to the sun and the land and gives it a sense of place.


Kevin and carrie gave us a lot of good design advice.  Some of the ones that stuck with me were:

-when designing, think about the impact to the parts per million; we have the ability to work at a variety of scales

-try to design things to have a positive impact, not just a passive one

-anticipate optimization

I hope that I will be able to incorporate these ideals into my future designs.