Author Interviews Part II: Integrated Design, MEEB and The Green Studio Handbook.
Integrated Design, MEEB and The Green Studio Handbook: Environmental Strategies for Schematic Design
This is the second of two interviews with the authors of the Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings (MEEB) Alison Kwok, Professor of Architecture, University of Oregon, and Walter Grondzik, Professor of Architecture, Ball State University. In this part the discussion includes another text book, The Green Studio Handbook. Part 1 can be found at here.
As MEEB has evolved from one edition to the next, many passive design and high performance strategies have been incorporated. But it has been a challenge to effectively present how an integrated design approach can lever individual strategies to greatly increase building performance. For example, Alison Kwok pointed out that “Chapter 8 in MEEB 11, Designing for Heating and Cooling is a really important chapter. Passive cooling and solar heating and nighttime ventilation of thermal mass and daylighting, are all in that chapter. It’s a big, complicated chapter with interrelated issues like: with more daylighting, there’s more heat gain from the larger apertures during the cooling season.” It’s very difficult to convey a process that effectively weighs trade-offs and that helps prioritize strategies.
The authors have carefully considered their approach to complex integrated systems.
According to Walter, “An analogy might be made to learning anatomy. Is it best to learn anatomy by never talking about constituent parts? We’re not going to talk about blood, we’re not going to talk about bones, we’re just going to look at the whole human being because that’s what we want to end up with anyway? Or is it more rational to start building on various subsystems and then at some point you go, ‘Voila! Now I understand the whole package?’
“I guess our philosophy as we begin thinking about MEEB 12, especially from a student point of view, is that it might be better to talk about direct gain passive solar heating as an increment and then talk about daylighting as an increment and then once someone understands those say, ‘Now, they do have to work together; they can’t be independent. And you understand A and you understand B so now you can definitely do some integration.'”
Rather than waiting for MEEB 12 for further elucidation, those looking for more immediate green design support can turn to another book that directly addresses the integration process. Grondzik and Kwok are also the co-authors of The Green Studio Handbook: Environmental Strategies for Schematic Design, a manual that focuses upon application of green strategies early in the design process.
“While we were working on MEEB, I had a summer school class here in Eugene and Walter came and was part of it”, Allison adds. “I had taught a green studio the spring before, in 2005. There were many questions in the studio. I couldn’t answer them all. ‘How do we size a green roof? How do we know how thick this green roof should be? What kind of plants are needed and how much water should be retained, what about heat island effects?’ The students wanted to do a green roof on a railroad site in West Eugene and because they wanted to refurbish the eco-habitat. They also wanted to utilize stack and cross ventilation, and other green strategies.
“We polled some students from that class and conducted a focus group and asked, ‘What would be really useful for you?’ The responses were quite informative. ‘Well, some of our ideas are really just a blank sheet of paper, we don’t even know where to start. We need some guidance on what’s going to help us validate our decisions. How do we know how large an opening should be in order for cross-ventilation to be viable? We’ve all had basic courses such as ECS (Environmental Control Systems), but how can we actually use this information in our design studio?’
“Walter and I came up with the idea to try document 50 design strategies (although when it comes to what number to select, the sky’s the limit). We drafted some strategies that summer, but it was very rough. We also decided to include case studies to show how all these strategies come together, how design is integrated, how you can’t just do one strategy without considering others, and how to begin thinking holistically about a site and its resources. We have a lot of case study work, so it was a natural to include them. We had just finished MEEB 10 in December of 2005 and wrote The Green Studio Handbook from January through April 2006.”
The resulting book presents 40 strategies and nine case studies. The strategies are grouped into a number of categories: envelope, lighting, heating, cooling, energy production, water, and waste. Each strategy is supported with a brief description of principles and concepts, step-by-step approaches, annotated tables, references to international standards, rating systems and guidelines, and internet sources. The case studies have been selected to showcase strategies in context. The book has been designed to serve as a handy companion for students and practitioners during schematic design. Strategies that are carried forward into design development may be supported in more depth by reference to MEEB.
Students participating in green studios taught by Kwok have also had the opportunity to collaborate with the authors. Alison again, “We encourage students to bring forward images and ideas. In the formulation and production of the book itself, we hire students to assist with drawings and researching background information. One of our intentions of the book is for students to understand the synthetic nature of a drawing, that speaks visually without having to read extensive text to understand the concept.”
As high performance buildings and green design become mainstream, practitioners are being challenged to broaden their understanding, to encompass many elements of both architecture and engineering. Hard lines between these disciplines are being softened and even eliminated. Both Mechanical and Electrical Equipment in Buildings and The Green Studio Handbook are valuable tools that provide students and practitioners with rapid access to strategies, case studies, and technical resources to support high performance and sustainable building designs.
Additional information about MEEB can be found HERE.
Find more about The Green Studio Handbook HERE.