“The Brain in the Basement”: Harvard magazine spotlights CGBC and HouseZero

HouseZero during construction. Photograph by Stu Rosner, courtesy of Harvard Magazine.

Throughout the summer, the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) has continued work on its HouseZero project, an ambitious retrofit of its Cambridge headquarters into an ultra-efficient, healthy structure. More broadly, the CGBC aims to transform the building industry through a commitment to design-centric strategy, directly linking research outcomes to the development of new processes, systems, and products. By strongly emphasizing innovation and multidisciplinary collaboration, the CGBC also hopes to promote holistic change within the built environment, namely the creation and continued improvement of sustainable, high-performance buildings and cities.

“The idea is to move away from a mechanical-engineering-dominated world in buildings to this ecological approach,” Ali Malkawi, founding director of the Center for Green Buildings and Cities, tells Harvard magazine in a recent feature on the Center’s capstone project, HouseZero. The article, which appears in the Magazine’s July/August issue, looks at how the pre-1940s, stick-built house was retrofitted into a model of ultra-efficiency, as well as how research derived from the building is informing sustainable building practices.

The result of three years of research and design led by Malkawi, who also serves as professor of architectural technology at the GSD, HouseZero was commissioned in April. The structure now serves as headquarters to the CGBC’s 25 staff members, as well as a living laboratory.

Harvard magazine previously wrote about the CGBC in a 2014 feature.

Read the full Harvard magazine feature, “The Brain in the Basement.”