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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Innovation 2013 – Aerospace Edition

A Design Viewpoint

Architecture Students Design a Future Aviation Biofuels Industry

Imagine walking through a wooded area in Montana and coming across a building with a façade of hexagons – some clear glass, others green with vegetation. Tilted panes invite wind through the building and alternating greens and browns make it blend into the surrounding environment.

Architecture student’s vision for aviation biofuel conversion sites that are stackable and transportable.
Architecture student’s vision for aviation biofuel conversion sites that are stackable and transportable.

The image is an example of how one WSU architecture student visualized Washington’s developing aviation biofuel industry.

“This was the most technical and difficult design I’ve done,” said Nick Linton, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.

Linton is one of 16 students that took Darrin Griechen’s senior design class that collaborated with the Integrated Design Experience (IDX) studio course. IDX aims to teach students how different disciplines can work together by partnering with a real-world client, and this year the client was the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) grant.

NARA is developing regional aviation biofuel solutions, since the aviation industry is in need of a viable and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. IDX’s specific role within NARA was to propose a supply chain in the Western Montana Corridor, a region reaching from eastern Washington to western Montana.

Researchers are working with community members to study that area and determine if it has adequate resources, infrastructure, space and local support to run the whole aviation biofuel process. The supply chain is divided into three parts: feedstock collection and transportation to a depot site, conversion to biofuel and co-products, and distribution to market.

Engineering, architecture, landscape architecture and bioregional planning students from WSU and the University of Idaho collaborated to create models and designs for each aspect of the supply chain, as well as an overall atlas of the area. Sustainability is a major theme for the entire project, and the architecture students applied this concept to their building designs.

“I challenged them to look at the building as a skin, to consider how it lives and breathes in its environment, and how it can self regulate,” Griechen said. A building that is more than just a shell, that can manage some of its own water run-off or produce its own power, could create more efficiency and money savings in the supply chain.

The schematic shows how the building uses and contributes to its surrounding environment.
The schematic shows how the building uses and contributes to its surrounding environment.

Linton designed moveable, stackable units about the size of double-wide trailers. The units’ facades are a series of hexagons that incorporate windows, solar panels and vegetation. It allows for animals and organisms to use the building as part of their habitat, as well as creating its own energy.

“Since this industry hasn’t been established yet, there are a ton of variables still. I tried to create a solution that allows for the unknown by creating units that can be stacked, used vertically or horizontally and loaded onto a truck,” Linton said.

The designs presented by Linton and other students are still in the napkin scribbling stages, but they give NARA some visuals to start working with as it moves into its third year.