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From Problem to Net Positive: The Transformation of Existing, Inefficient Building Stock

The Net Positive studio is a 7-week studio in the penultimate year of a professional M. Arch. program at the University of Minnesota.

Published onOct 24, 2019
From Problem to Net Positive: The Transformation of Existing, Inefficient Building Stock
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Abstract

The Net Positive studio is a 7-week studio in the penultimate year of a professional M. Arch. program at the University of Minnesota. This studio focuses on developing, assessing, documenting, and representing interaction between architectural form and environmental factors, using energy modeling tools and incorporating frequent quantitative feedback.

In the context of existing-building inefficiency as a major contributor to carbon emissions and climate change, students were assigned an existing building, and were required to demonstrate that passive and active modifications of the building and its envelope could lead to an 80% reduction of its baseline energy use. Within this context, students were asked to (a) selectively modify or replace existing envelope conditions to create a responsive deep-boundary; (b) establish a dialogue between energy-modeling tools and conceptual development; (c) incorporate a Net-Positive contribution beyond energy production; and (d) understand variables that develop concinnity between form, occupancy and function, and environmental factors.

These goals were established within a cooperative pedagogy, Shifting Allegiances, organized to promote cooperative collaboration and shared authorship of projects in graduate-level studios. This is achieved by collectivizing the ownership of topical subject areas, to which students variously direct their effort over the course of the studio.

The paper discusses the studio’s cooperative structures, the process of establishing an ongoing dialogic between quantitative data and conceptual development, the role of energy modeling within the design process, and the emerging definition of passive and active envelope systems. The paper concludes with a discussion of the studio’s discussion-based, student-led final review.

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