Integrated Design Project

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The Integrated Design Project is part of the new program Master in Integrated Building Systems (MBS), aimed at students of Architecture and different Engineering disciplines. The goal of this project is to train students to apply their theoretical knowledge in a lifelike scenario and to collaborate efficiently in an interdisciplinary team of planners.

The MBS program, introduced in 2014, links the methods and insights from the fields of Architecture, Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, with the goal of training future interdisciplinary planners that are able to deal with the challenges of reducing CO2 emissions and promote cleaner energy sources in the built environment. The focus of the course lies on the integration of sustainable energy concepts and technologies, together with architectural concepts on building and urban scales.

Each fall semester, the Chair of Architecture and Building Systems (A/S) offers an Integrated Design Project, which allows MBS students to work collaboratively on urban and architectural concepts integrating aspects of energy, sustainability and building technologies. Students get the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in previous semesters in a lifelike setting, collaborating in interdisciplinary teams.

Climate conditions, context analysis, energy efficiency and renewable energy generation on site are crucial impact factors in the early design stages. The investigation across disciplines and scales forms the basis of the teaching concept. Students employ advanced analysis techniques and software tools to develop and compare scenarios.

In the fall semester of 2017, a virtual quarter case study – called the A/S Areal was selected. The site consisted of more than 35 mixed-function buildings distributed on an area of 200,000 m2. The main goal of the project was to develop synergies and strategies that focus on enhancing the energy performance, reducing CO2 emissions, and fostering sustainability in the A/S Areal.

The development of the virtual quarter A/S Areal came after the experience of working the previous two years on a real case study – the Hochschulquartier in Zürich. Although large amounts of information about that area had been made available by the city of Zurich, other bottlenecks left room for improvement. First, the Hochschulquartier comprised roughly 10 times as many buildings as the A/S Areal, turning the site analysis into a time-consuming effort. Moreover, obtaining the necessary information for the simulation was difficult to impossible for some buildings, and the information available did not always have the required resolution.

One of the digital tools applied in the design project is the urban energy simulation platform City Energy Analyst (CEA), developed by A/S. Based on a GIS environment, the CEA toolbox allows to study effects, interactions and synergies of different design scenarios and energy infrastructure by linking urban planning and energy systems data. Based on the experience of previous years, however, it became clear that learning a new, complex toolset created an additional limitation to the amount of time students spent developing their urban concepts. A combination of simplified calculations and commercially available tools was used instead, which students had already been exposed to in previous MBS coursework.

By creating a virtual quarter that simulates a real scenario, all the necessary information to run successful simulations could be provided. The time previously spent on gathering data and learning software was saved and instead, students focused on analyzing the area, evaluating the simulation results, and understanding the impact of changes in input parameters on the results. The advantage of providing additional time to developing concepts, strategies and enhanced scenarios became evident. Even though 75% of students had an engineering background, the resulting projects showed a good understanding of architectural considerations and how these are integrated to innovative renewable energy systems.