Solar Shade Tree / UH GDBS

2011 McReynolds Middle School Solar Shade Tree © Erin Ferguson

Since 1990, the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture has been guiding students through their Graduate Design-Build Studio program, which carries out one built project through all phases of design and construction to completion within one Summer.  This year, the GDBS has designed their latest “Solar Shade Tree” on the grounds of McReynolds Middle School in ’s historic 5th Ward neighborhood.

2010 T. H. Rogers Ampitheater © Patrick Peters

Originally beginning with smaller scale, timber construction programs, the GDBS has grown into a yearly full-fledged outdoor architectural project through the leadership of Professor Patrick Peters, LEEP AP, who took over heading the program in 1996.  Over the past several years, these projects have taught hundreds of graduate architecture students the ins and outs of taking real architectural designs and following them into and through the construction phase; not only as architectural designers red-lining drawings and building models, but also as the essential part of the building crew that creates and assembles the various pieces of the structure itself.

2009 Neff Elementary School Solar Shade Tree © Patrick Peters

Based around a central thesis of sustainability, this latest project utilizes four 150-watt photo voltaic panels on its roof to self-sufficiently power lights and fans underneath. All materials  are sourced locally and/or recycled, and a rain garden is also being added to simultaneously collect storm water and reduce flooding to the area.  All of this on top of the passive systems implemented in the project make it a learning experience for all who come in contact with it or its development.

2011 McReynolds Middle School Solar Shade Tree © Erin Ferguson

This hands-on approach to Architecture is mostly lost in today’s world of specialization.  But the value of having to work out real-life problems and details such as joinery or materiality all under a real budget supersedes any lecture or studio project a student is otherwise given in school.  The benefit of being a part of an actual project that leaves the trace paper or computer screen most students are bound to in their academic career and becomes a built work is as invaluable as the feeling of of completing such a project is fulfilling.  All of the projects are built at schools or other well-deserving establishments to expose the students and faculty in those places to alternative and inspiring design and construction techniques, and the GDBS program continues today as a model for any architecture school lacking such an opportunity for its students.

2007 MECA Outdoor Performing Arts Stage © Patrick Peters

Location: Houston, Texas,
Project Team: Cindy Bang, Cord Bowen, Mark Dillon, Erin Ferguson, Jazel Fontanilla, Bradly Hirdes, Joseph Hyslop, Micah Jacobson, Fritz Kraft, Adam Nguyen, Patrick Peters, LEED AP, Director, Michael Rhodes, Ryan Slattery, Allison van Heugten, Bricio Vasquez, Michael Viviano, Amy Vo
Consultants: Christof Spieler, PE, LEED AP, George Kingsley, III, Kevin Conlin, Keiji Asakura, Margaret Robinson, LEED AP, Joe Colaco, PhD, PE
Project Area: 152 sqm
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Erin Ferguson, Patrick Peters

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Solar Shade Tree / UH GDBS" 02 Sep 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>