Location38613 Vilaflor, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
Architect in ChargeJosé Manuel Rodríguez Peña
EngineerNelson Hernández Dorta
PhotographyCourtesy of TECHNE
While many people are familiar with UCLA as a university, because it is so large, it’s difficult to track all the different important studies conducted there. Yet many of these can directly improve the lives of people right now. Take for example the HEED, or Home Energy Efficient Design program, developed at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design. Begun back in 2002, it was created to help literally everyone improve the energy efficiency of their homes. For free.
What is it? Basically, HEED provides a set of tools that help anyone and everyone re-design housing to be more energy efficient. Even better, it can be applied to both new and existing structures. And while it was initially developed for California homeowners—they were identified by their utility providers—the software has since been reconfigured so that professionals in the building industry can also use them. The software now can be used by architects, contractors, engineers, and of course, individual homeowners. This free, downloadable software incorporates several advanced features that allow both individual DIY-ers and professionals to restructure and redesign the efficiency of new and existing structures.
Carnegie Mellon University has a building in its School of Architecture that is a lab. No, the building does not house experiments, it is the experiment. It is called the Intelligent Workplace Energy Supply System and it provides the Energy Supply System (EES) for Carnegie Mellon’s Intelligent Workplace, which is part of the School of Architecture’s Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics. It is a physical construction from 1997 that consists of offices, meeting rooms, and work spaces for faculty and students, all located atop the Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall.
What’s the goal? To study the viability of providing power, cooling, heating and ventilation to a building using thermal energy and renewable, bioDiesel fuel. The specific investigations range from design and installation to evaluation of both individual components as well as their ability to work efficiently in concert with one another. Ideally, once all this information is compiled, more comprehensive design strategies can then be identified and used by architects everywhere.
The MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter group is perhaps not the first choice of exploration for architects and architecture students. What does “mediated matter” have to do with the design of urban and suburban space and structures? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Because the goal of this group is to develop “novel processes that enable and support the design of physical matter,” using computer design combined with “biologically inspired fabrication.”
Below, I look at three projects developed and directed by Neri Oxman, an assistant professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab. Professor Oxman also received her PhD in design computation from MIT.
We begin with a project that combines local and global-based knowledge as they relate to construction. The Rapid Craft project basically mines local construction designs and techniques and combines them with the latest design technologies.
The at the University of Washington is a cross-disciplinary group from the College of Built Environments and the Department of Architecture. It’s directive is to explore and develop ideas “that will shape the future of design and information technology.”
Their research projects range from fabrication tools to new ways of rendering large-scale models. Amongst the most exciting is the SPOT tool. First of all, this tool is free, so anyone, anywhere in the world can use it. And because it was developed for architects, its features have the needs of architects in mind.
Architecture professionals often agree that CAD applications, whether in the PC or Mac platforms, could use some help. Revit of course offers some dramatic improvements but not everyone uses it. So some Engineering faculty at Washington State University have come up with an alternative solution. The Virtual Reality and Computer Integrated Manufacturing Laboratory or VRCIM offers a unique solution for increasing the effectiveness of CAD-based design and visualization.
The approach is very simple: embed VR capabilities into CAD to improve the tools and effectiveness of CAD. Basically, we are discussing the ability to perform such simple tasks as visualization and tracking to complete haptics drawing within the CAD platform. This first step in improving CAD involves the construction end of projects using VR and CAD. Thus, one can envision the assembly and disassembly of projects using VR versions of mechanical tools such as wrenches and the like. And the functionality is easily adapted to haptic devices. And of course, the team has designed templates that can be easily implemented.
I am, admittedly, a big fan of UCLA. At least in the U.S., college loyalty begins and ends as an undergraduate and if you happen to receive your graduate degrees at the same school, well, the deal is sealed, as it were. But we’re not discussing the basketball team, here. We’re actually talking about academic programs and research.
And it just so happens that because UCLA is a research university, there is a lot of interesting research going on there. For example, at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, there is a program that was begun back in 2002. It’s goal? To help everyone improve the energy efficiency of their homes. For free. It’s called HEED, or Home Energy Efficient Design.
What is it? Basically, it’s a set of tools that help people re-design housing to be more energy efficient. That goes for both new and existing structures. And even better, while it was initially developed for California homeowners who were identified by their utility providers—the project began in 2005—the software was restructured to serve professionals in the building industry. That means it was re-made to serve architects, contractors, engineers, and of course, the homeowner to restructure efficiency for both new and existing structures.