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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture SDC Newsletter – Spring 2013

IDL: Bringing a Holistic Approach for Sustainability

Computer model for a design for Melrose Square in Seattle that integrates structure and energy retrofits.
A design for Melrose Square in Seattle that integrates structure and energy retrofits


How does one make a contaminated industrial site in Spokane productive? How does one clean up the site, manage storm water, produce energy, make the land productive, and grow food on it?

Or, how will a smarter electric power grid work at your house?

Preparing the next generation of engineers and architects to respond to global scale concerns such as ecology, water, energy, and food requires new models of integrated design education and research, says Todd Beyreuther, assistant professor in the Institute for Sustainable Design and director of WSU’s Integrated Design Lab.

“It is not yet a prevalent part of design culture to think about the integration of bigger systems and how they are realized at a building or site scale,” says Beyreuther.

The WSU Institute for Sustainable Design has developed an integrated design teaching and research model that provides a continuum from the classroom to the lab and ultimately the built environment. The Integrated Design Lab (IDL) manages built environment research projects developed by WSU student and faculty researchers to advance and optimize the design of specific buildings, landscapes, and systems (energy, water, and food). The lab works in collaboration with the Integrated Design Experience (IDX) , a teaching studio that serves as a student and faculty innovation think tank to address large scale, complex problems.

Researchers in the IDL, for instance, have recently received support from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance to develop better ways to integrate energy design into the building renewal process.

The researchers, led by Beyreuther, target pre-1945 masonry and heavy timber buildings, typical in the Spokane and Seattle areas, that need both energy and seismic retrofits.

“We propose a holistic and long-term systems view to reuse these buildings,” he says.

The IDL researchers don’t act as consultants and are not competing on building projects. Rather, he says, the lab serves to fill a gap in professional practice by connecting large scale systems research at WSU with building and site scale visions for more sustainable design.

“We hope that professional design teams take it from there,” he says.

Researchers in the lab are also working on a separate project with electrical engineers and computer scientists in WSU’s Energy Systems Innovation Center to connect human comfort and behavior to the smart electric power grid.

“Our work is at the intersection of energy, water, and food systems,” he says. “Our role is to deal with that complexity of all those systems and show how we can approach solutions in an integrated way.”