Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Work Update

This post is for those of you wondering: ‘what is she actually doing over there?’

As I mentioned in a previous post, this past spring, I received a grant from the MISTI-Israel Program and the Sloan Business School to come to Israel to do research on the use of renewable energy technologies in architecture in extreme environments. I’m currently in residence at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research in Sde Boker, a hotspot for interdisciplinary environmental research pertaining specifically to the desert.

As all of you who have done any sort of research know, “the use of renewable energy technologies in architecture in extreme environments” is not a particularly focused research topic. Needless to say, once I got here, there was some…refining to be done.

I purposefully wanted to leave things open until I got here, and had a chance to look around, meet with a bunch of people, and get a sense of what type of work was going on here. My personal objective in coming to Sde Boker was really just to try to learn something about what kind of environmentally-oriented design strategies were being used in the Negev, and to see how the idea of sustainability was being dealt with amongst the architects here. I was, in other words, quite flexible about what the specifics of my ‘research’ should be.

After spending some time here, meeting with a lot of people, and noticing a few opportunities that seemed too good to pass up, I put together an [unsolicited] project proposal. The basic idea is to work with PhD student Nora Huberman-Meraiot [who is currently developing a digital energy modeling framework that combines simulations of operational energy use with an embodied energy analysis] to design a new library in Lotan, a kibbutz located in the Arava Valley [about 2 hours south of Sde Boker]. The aim of the project is to try to investigate how energy simulation data can be incorporated into a design process. We are also collaborating with Alex Cicelsky, from the Center for Creative Ecology in Lotan.

The objectives, as stated in the project proposal:

1. To design new library for Lotan’s Bustan [neighborhood].

The design approach and final product should account for Kibbutz Lotan’s extremely arid climate, community needs, and available resources. Additionally, the project will aim to learn from and contribute to an understanding of local building systems.

2. To outline a design process that takes, as its starting point, the goal of minimizing energy used in the construction and operation of the building.

Nora Huberman-Meraiot’s doctoral research will be used as a guiding framework. Huberman-Meraiot offers a “complex energy-based optimization framework…[that uses] computer aided tools for design, analysis and predictions.” Her stated research objective is to “minimize the use of high embodied-energy building materials and their effect on the whole life energy consumption, while satisfying mandatory national building code performance requirements - in terms of permitted building materials, technologies, structural reliability, and serviceability.” This design project may be seen as a test case for her optimization framework.

3. To contribute to the contemporary discourse on “sustainable” design.

The project will attempt to demonstrate how an embodied energy analysis [in addition to a prediction of energy performance] can be the starting point for, and the generator of, innovative design ideas.

I figured, any new project needs a logo. I'm still working on a title...

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