Advanced Applications in Sustainable Architecture

This elective seminar will provide a deeper dive into issues of evidence-based, high-performance, ecological building design.

The course is intended for MArch students, MDes students, and anyone with an interest in the environmental performance of buildings.  Diverse problem-solvers, with any one of a variety of backgrounds, such as design, engineering, materials, landscape architecture, and financial analysis are encouraged to enroll.

This is a project-based course in which students will work alone or in groups on a semester-long project.  The topic is flexible, so students may choose one of the following options for their project.

  1. 1. Students may join a team to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon design competition. (Since the competition offers multiple divisions, the class may form more than one team.)  
  2. 2. Students may develop a strategy within the built environment to help Harvard University meet its Climate Action Plan (Fossil Fuel Free by 2050).
  3. 3. Students may propose an alternate research or design project (perhaps in preparation for a thesis or dissertation).  

The class format consists of lectures, in-class exercises, group discussions, student presentations, and project-based strategy sessions (i.e. desk crits). The course will include multiple guest lectures from practitioners working on high-performance sustainable buildings.

The course will delve into topics of energy, including the importance of the timing of energy use and building design’s role in this increasingly important consideration.  It will also explore ecological issues beyond energy, such as durability/resilience, health, and water management.

Students will have the opportunity to learn hands-on skills through tutorials but may choose the area(s) in which to focus their attention.  Examples include learning or honing skills in whole-building energy simulation and/or daylight simulation.  (Students may either learn these skills for the first time, or dive deeper than in past courses, using the same or different software tools.)  Other skills could include hygrothermal (thermal and moisture) simulations, as well as mold-growth simulation, storm-water analysis, Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of materials and construction methods, life-cycle cost analysis (construction costs and utility savings), or assessing societal cost of carbon emissions and related health savings.

It is recommended that students have had (or are concurrently enrolled in) some introduction to sustainable design/building science, such as 6121/6122 Environmental Systems; 5370 Environment, Economics, and Enterprise; or a similar course at another institution.