Programmatic Design Methods in Architecture (GA+TRIZ Solution Search Method)
by Anahita Khodadadi
When an architectural design problem is stated, it may take several iterations to evaluate the design alternatives, modify the problem statement and the corresponding solutions and make the final decision. The recursive essence of an architectural design procedure and the designer’s tendency to explore further possibilities increases the use of iterative programming search methods to find suitable solutions. Although there have been successful accomplishments in parametric modeling and evolutionary form exploration methods, the prior step of problem structuring has been developed less. We can still solve the wrong problem correctly. Thus, the step of problem structuring has a significant effect on the final design outcome.
A common challenge in the application of computational design methodology is to discern the parameters that influence the project outcome. Sometimes the solution may be found around a design parameter that is not included in the parametric model and form exploration procedure. This challenge is more likely when contradictory design objectives exist in a project. Then, the designer may favor one design criterion over the others, or compromise (trade-off) and choose a solution among a group of suitable ones. In such cases, the corresponding Pareto front may be studied to find the best trade-off solutions between two or more performative design objectives. A third approach can be the attempt to eliminate the contradiction innovatively. Accordingly, the designer may apply data mining techniques or clustering and classification algorithms to achieve higher-level information or implicit search goals to make a final decision. In this dissertation, I intend to introduce a design search method that a designer unspecialized in the field of data mining can understand and employ in both the formulation of a design problem and in the exploration of generated solutions.
The main goal of this dissertation is to introduce a method which provides better problem structuring and decision making. This computational search method is expected to provide the benefits of the application of a genetic algorithm (GA) and the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) at the same time. The TRIZ Inventive Principles and the associated Matrix of Contradiction are combined with a Non-Destructive Dynamic Population Genetic Algorithm (NDDP GA) used in the ParaGen method, initially developed by Peter von Buelow, to develop the GA+TRIZ method. The GA+TRIZ method helps the designer build a better parametric model where pertinent variables, not all possible ones but those which will more probably be dominant, are included. Furthermore, following the map of the GA+TRIZ design method can provide higher-level information which is useful in making better decisions when conflicting design objectives exist.
To examine the suitability and benefits of the application of the GA+TRIZ search method, four design case studies are carried out using the GA+TRIZ map of work. The cases are chosen from design explorations previously solved using only the ParaGen method. In each design case, the design process and the outcome of the explorations are compared with the corresponding results from in the previous trials with the ParaGen-only procedure. The following four metrics are used to evaluate the application of the GA+TRIZ method:
- Diversity and particularity of solutions
- Performative cost
- Time efficiency
- The amount of data provided for decision making
The outcome of this research is the description of the GA+TRIZ search method along with examples of its application and all the required codes, scripts, and components.
Parameter and Performance: Integrated Computational Performance Assessment of Structural and Daylighting Efficiency in Perforated Concrete Shell Structures
by Niloufar Emami
With the advancement of computational design tools paired with performance assessment technologies, taking an interdisciplinary design approach at the early stages of design is largely facilitated. The Master Builder whose role has been fragmented between multiple professionals of many disciplines is being recreated, this time by facilitating seamless collaboration among a plethora of minds and perspectives. In this mode of collaboration, studying disciplinary tradeoffs also becomes part of the design process. This calls for a new design approach with an understanding of other disciplines.
A building needs to stand up and needs to be illuminated, thus the structural and daylighting disciplines are associated with the purpose of architectural design. Despite the interaction between the two, there is little research showing the overlaps. Understanding this integration helps designers better understand how making a decision affects other stakeholders. This dissertation is at the intersection of computational design, structural performance, and daylighting performance assessment. Shells are the ideal typology for investigating this interrelation as their form is related with force flow, while adding holes to the shell’s surface not only introduces daylight but also affects force flow thus structural performance. By employing a computational interdisciplinary design approach, and by choosing perforated concrete shell structures as the main structural typology, I ask:
How can the designer identify the design parameters that are shared between the discipline of architecture and an engineering discipline?
What are the design parameters that co-exist in the structural and daylighting design disciplines? How may these parameters be used by designers? How do the design parameters affect performance in structural and daylighting discipline? What is the tradeoff between performance in structural and daylighting design?
How can the results of a specific design case be useful for application to other design cases that do not necessarily have the same boundary conditions?
This research demonstrates how daylighting performance can be affected in the design of shell structures, a typology that is mainly driven by its structural design criteria in the literature. Also important is its demonstration of how a continuous shell can be perforated to the point at which becomes a grid shell; therefore, continuous and grid shells are two ends of a spectrum rather than two distinct structural typologies. A high-level significance of this dissertation is its marriage of the structural and daylighting disciplines and demonstration of how the two are closely related in shells by the perforation ratio. I find that perforation ratio is the most significant parameter that affects both disciplines and a number between 10% to 20% is the recommended limit for shell structures when translucent glazing is installed without any external or internal shading.
One of the most significant contributions of this research is its methodological approach, which uses a formalized framework for categorizing design parameters in the structural and daylighting disciplines and then identifying overlapping design parameters. This design method presented as a roadmap is the fundamental new component arising from this research.
The final contribution of this dissertation explores how a generated solution space may become useful for other design projects which do not necessarily have the exact same boundary conditions. By abstracting the boundary conditions of new projects to match those in the solution space, the designer can examine possibilities and compare how making a decision in one field may affect performance in other fields.
Secret Spaces and Human Traces: Border-Crosser Architecture in the Sonoran Borderlands
by Samantha E. A. Grabowska
This dissertation contributes to the discourse of informal and temporary architecture through its investigation of the small structures constructed by unauthorized border-crossers (UBCs) in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Scholarship tends to frame self-built environments as a cultural phenomenon (as traditional vernacular architecture), a by-product or response to capitalism (as marginal spaces of resistance such as ‘slums’), or an artistic endeavor (such as pop-up architecture or guerilla urbanism). I argue that UBC structures, in their response to extreme situations, constitute illustrative microcosms through which we can view the larger relationship among the realms of architecture, politics, experience, and environment.
During the early 2010s, the Tucson sector of the U.S.-Mexico border was the most highly trafficked area with UBC annual apprehension rates of around 120,000. This condition was a result of late 1990’s policy initiatives legislated by the United States government that fortified urban points of entry and strategically funneled UBCs into brutal desert terrain. Now, to cross the border, UBCs have to walk an average of three to five days through the Sonoran Desert, facing violence, harmful plants and animals, relentless terrain and climate, as well as Border Patrol surveillance. During their journey, some UBCs build small structures out of available materials such as mesquite branches, grasses, and rocks.
This research project analyzes these seemingly simple structures and identifies three ways in which they negotiate the complexity of the border-crossing context. In order to elucidate the relationship between this architecture and the everyday experiences of border-crossers within this hostile natural and political landscape, the research is framed theoretically by three schools of thought: structuralism, phenomenology, and critical theory.
First, through structuralism, I identify the ways in which often-shifting social roles and rules impact the siting and form of the architecture border-crossers build. The nature these structures underscores the ambiguity within this landscape, including how border-crossers must adapt their identities, bend rules, and reorder priorities. Second, I employ phenomenological theory to highlight the extent to which the structures provide physical and existential shelter from the traumatic context of border-crossing, revealing that while architecture can provide some respite, complete refuge is impossible to achieve. Thus notions of place and dwelling are enmeshed with struggle and survival. Finally, I deploy critical theory to identify the modes through which UBC architecture resists the militarized landscape, engaging direct strategies such as counter-surveillance and cloaking as well as indirect tactics of persisting and haunting what is intended to be a no man’s land.
To investigate these dynamics, I completed two seasons of fieldwork in 2012 and 2013 on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Incorporating inter-disciplinary methods from architecture, archaeology, and anthropology, I gathered and analyzed over 30 exemplars of border-crosser architecture, several hundred of their associated artifacts (such as discarded clothing and food containers), and over 40 in-depth interviews with UBCs. The aim of this work is to bring UBC structures out of the realm of anonymous cultural artifact or thoughtless construction and instead to reveal the intricacy, intimacy, and individuality of each structure as it responds to and shapes the border-crossing process.
Positive Sustainable Built Environments: The Cognitive and Behavioral Affordances of Environmentally Responsible Behavior in Green Residence Halls
by Erin Hamiltion
A changing climate and global resource degradation have prompted technological innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are responsive to local ecological conditions. Green buildings that minimize the environmental impacts of the construction process and ongoing maintenance of the built environment, have been praised for their resource efficiency, design innovation, and benefits to building occupants. Increasingly, a growing body of literature has begun to examine the mutually beneficial relationships between sustainable architecture and building occupants. In addition to the well-documented benefits of inhabiting green buildings, the environmentally responsible behaviors (ERBs) of building occupants are worthy of examination. As a counterbalance to the dominant narrative in the green building industry that frames the building occupant as a potential energy liability, this research adopts a hopeful perspective on human behavior. Human behavior, though a significant contributor to global climate change, can also be part of the solution. This dissertation asserts that the situational context of green buildings may be designed to support the ERBs of building occupants.
Much of the current research examining occupant ERBs in green buildings has focused exclusively on educational buildings, or buildings designed with a pedagogical intent (e.g., schools, museums, libraries). Less is known about how occupants learn about issues of sustainability and adopt environmental behaviors in buildings that are not designed to teach. This dissertation focuses on the environmental behaviors emerging from the informal relationship between undergraduate students and their on-campus residence halls, asking how the built environment supports or undermines the ERBs of occupants in green and non-green buildings over time.
This dissertation develops and tests a theoretical model for understanding how buildings may support occupant ERBs. The Positive Sustainable Built Environments (PSBE) model is composed of three principle domains: Prime, Permit, and Invite. Collectively, the three components of the PSBE model suggest that a building 1) may prepare occupants to participate in ERBs through the restoration of their mental resources and/or by communicating a sustainable ethos, 2) may allow building occupants to control aspects of the interior environment related to their own energy and resource consumption, and 3) may encourage occupants to engage in ERBs through building features that implement a variety of behavioral intervention strategies.
Occupant ERBs were measured over the course of one academic year through an online survey conducted with the first-time residents of six undergraduate residence halls. While many studies have explored the effectiveness of environmental behavior change intervention strategies with undergraduate students, very little research has examined the pre-existing psychological dimensions and the situational context of green buildings that may influence students’ environmental behaviors. The results of a linear mixed-effects regression analysis revealed no significant relationship between occupying a green residence hall and students’ ERBs. However, a further analysis of specific building characteristics, analyzed according to the PSBE model, suggest strong support for two of the three domains. The Prime and Invite domains were found to positively support occupant ERBs, regardless of the greenness of the residence hall. Additionally, several personal characteristics (i.e., Biospheric values, Environmental Concern, Technology motive, and Egoistic values) were found to significantly impact students’ ERBs. Results are discussed in light of implications for designers seeking to harness the existing environmental inclinations of college students and to adapt the physical and informational environments of residence halls to better support environmentally responsible behavior.
Itinerant Architecture: Global Politics and World Building in the Work of Minoru Yamasaki and Associates, 1951-86
by Joss Kiely
The office of Minoru Yamasaki and Associates (MYA) was an important actor in twentieth century American architectural production, yet Yamasaki himself appears as an ambiguous figure in postwar architecture. Until recently, practicing architects and historians alike have largely overlooked MYA’s many contributions, dismissing them as overly corporate or without significant formal innovation. At the same time, Yamasaki’s status as a Japanese-American growing up during WWII has been largely overlooked. Reconsidering MYA’s projects through the thematic lens of itinerancy and displacement, the dissertation explores connections between architecture and Cold War diplomacy, international travel, and global economic development. Over the course of four chapters, I examine the firm’s designs for airports, hotels, apartment, and governmental buildings as emblematic of global capitalism—but also as constitutive of new forms of global political and economic relations. Each building-centered case study discloses important partnerships constituted among architects, city planners, developers, private corporations, and foreign governments that influenced the production of American-designed buildings on a range of global sites. Looking beyond the World Trade Center and the Pruitt-Igoe public housing project, the dissertation reveals how MYA constructed postwar America in a global setting—at home and abroad—even as the figure of Yamasaki himself ambiguously reflects the costs of U.S. hegemony.
Influence of the Uncertainty in User Behaviors on the Simulation-Based Optimization Process and Robust Decision-Making
by Nuri Bae
Computer-based simulations have been widely used to predict building performances. Building energy simulation tools are generally used to perform parametric studies. However, the building is a complex system with a great number of variables. This leads to a very high computational cost. Therefore, using a building optimization algorithm coupled with an energy simulation tool is a more promising solution. In this study, EnergyPlus is connected to a genetic algorithm that uses a probabilistic search technique based on evolutionary principles.
Various sources of uncertainty exist in simulation-based building optimization problems. This study aims to investigate the influence of occupant behavior-related input variables on the optimization process. To integrate the uncertainty into the optimization process, a stochastic approach using the Latin hypercube sampling (LHS) method is employed. The varying input variables are defined by the LHS method, and each sampling run generates 14 samples. Five optimization parameters are used, and the recommendations for parameter settings of each parameter are generated as the optimization result.
It is important to provide a decision maker with a decision-making framework to support robust decision-making from the generated recommendations. A clear or relatively clear tendency of recommendations toward a particular parameter setting is observed for three parameters. For these three parameters, the frequency of recommendation is identified to be a good indicator for the robustness of the most recommended setting. The test of proportion is performed to investigate the statistical significance between parameter settings. For the other two parameters, recommendations are comparatively evenly distributed among parameter settings, and the statistical significance is not shown. In this case, the Hurwicz decision rule is utilized to select an optimal solution.
This dissertation contributes to the field of building optimization as it proposes a method to integrate uncertainty in input variables and shows the method generates reliable results. Computational time is reduced by using the LHS method compared to the case of using a random sampling method. While this study does not include all potential input variables with uncertainties, it provides significant insight into the role of input variables with uncertainty in the building optimization process.
Architecture of Choice: Exploring the Impact of Built Environments on Consumer Behavior
by Sina Esteky
Every day, we are continually exposed to various architectural features in our living and working settings—by the spatial configuration, furniture, lighting, acoustics and views in our homes and offices. Although we may pay little attention to ordinary and seemingly innocuous shifts in our exposure to our surroundings, these subtle shifts can have tremendous impact on our thoughts and behavior. Despite the crucial interaction between people and their physical environment, there is little research showing how architectural elements affect behavior and choice in the consumer domain. Identifying such factors would be extremely important to understand consumers’ context-relevant behavior and decision processes.
I combine theory and research methods from social and environmental psychology, design studies, and marketing to shed light on these important, yet rarely explored effects. In two essays, I investigate the interactions between consumers and their surroundings and how factors in the physical and social environment interplay to affect behavioral outcomes and decisions. The first essay examines the influence of physical elevation in built environments on risk-taking behavior. In a series of three field studies, this work demonstrates that people are more likely to display risky behavior when they are on higher levels of a building. Results from this study indicate that elevation influences risk-taking behavior by means of affecting sense of power, especially when others are present. In the second essay, I investigate the role of illumination on socially conscious behavior. The literature on lighting's effects on social behavior is inconclusive. Using postulates of embodied cognition, construal-level theory of psychological distance, and incorporating an identity-signaling perspective, results from this work suggest that illumination promotes socially desirable behaviors such as conformity, fairness, perspective-taking, charity donations, and healthy eating behavior. This occurs by means of an increase in public self-consciousness in brightly lit environments. This essay also addresses and reconciles discrepancies in the literature regarding the psychological consequences of illumination.
Taken together, these essays introduce novel empirical findings on how architectural attributes (i.e., physical elevation and illumination) in combination with social attributes (i.e., mere social presence and social reference groups) influence social constructs (i.e., power and public self-consciousness) with downstream effects on consumer behavior and decision making (i.e., risk-taking, and socially conscious behavior). The main intention of this dissertation is to demonstrate that consumer behavior is more tightly connected to our physical surrounding than current literature may suggest. In a broader sense, the goal of this work is to bridge between architecture and marketing, two fields that have so far been disparate. I would call the outcome of this link the “architecture of choice” – which entails an understanding of the psychological impact of architectural design on consumers. This may, for instance, lead to the design of spaces that facilitate pro-social behavior, nudge consumers toward healthy choices, inhibit risky behavior and improve consumer welfare guidelines.
The Architecture of Design: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (1896-1976)
by Elizabeth M. Keslacy
Challenging the dominant views of architecture as either a fine art, an 18th century affiliation with assumptions of disciplinary autonomy and the primacy of aesthetic experience, or design, a late 20th century notion emphasizing performance and problem solving, this dissertation examines a third transitional architectural orientation—architecture’s 19th century affiliation with the decorative arts and its relationship to the evolving notion of design throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This orientation was one that emphasized architecture’s accessibility, openness to non-specialist participation, and situatedness in larger spheres of culture and experience. I explore this trajectory through the specific case of the Cooper Union Museum of the Arts of Decoration, (f. 1897), and its successor, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (f. 1967), concluding with its Hans Hollein-designed inaugural exhibition, ManTRANSforms: Aspects of Design (1976). Examining three distinct periods in which the institution collected architecture within its evolving orientation to the decorative arts and design through its exhibitions, collections, and pedagogical engagement with the Cooper Union, this dissertation explores three primary questions: How did the institution and its activities contribute to the development of the concepts of ‘the decorative arts’ and ‘design’ in the 20th century? Secondly, how was architecture implicated materially and conceptually in these larger categories, and how did they shape the discipline as a result? Finally, how were its changing utilization and interpretation of historical objects in the collections reflective and even constitutive of these intellectual orientations? Combining methods from institutional history and the history of ideas, I identify three distinct conceptions of design that bridged architecture with other forms of creative endeavor: first, a 19th century notion of design that distinguished form and surface to emphasize the autonomy of two-dimensional composition; secondly, a mid-century approach that eschewed historical classifications to focus on individual characteristics through ahistorical visual and formal categories; and thirdly, a concept developed in the 1970s that expanded the definition of design to new scales and forms, broadening the scope to include the quotidian and anonymous efforts of the layperson.
Unchurched Church Architecture
by Mathew Niermann
In recent decades, the exterior design of Protestant churches, primarily those affiliated with evangelical Protestantism in America, has undergone radical re-formulation. Since the late 1970’s many congregations have built churches that intentionally avoid traditional churchly design and instead are designed with an exterior architecture similar to secular building typologies such as schools, offices, stadiums, and commercial buildings.
This design trend, known as architectural evangelism, is a product of the combination of the evangelistic desire to engage the unchurched such that they may become churched, and the application of a missiological logic which proposes that churchly architecture is a barrier for unchurched attendance. The influence and adoption of architectural evangelism is pervasive, having produced decades of engagement and practice. Yet, despite this widespread engagement, there has been no systematic study of the accuracy of architectural evangelism’s ideas. Thus, this dissertation examines the aptness of architectural evangelism and the efficacy of its design prescriptions by asking: What is the relationship between the design of Protestant church exteriors and 1) place constructs and 2) place judgements held by churched and unchurched individuals?
Utilizing a comparative case study research design, the research employs an image-based sorting task interview. Four case studies were conducted with 25 churched and 25 unchurched respondents interviewed in each case study, for a total of 200 respondents. Two case studies were located in Southeast Michigan and two in Southern California. In each location, one case study was drawn from a case study church that does not embrace architectural evangelism and one case study church that does.
The results of the study demonstrate the accuracy of architectural evangelism’s presuppositions that churched and unchurched individuals hold different constructs, yet the details of those constructs are not as predicted. In fact, the unchurched respondents judged churches designed with a more traditional ecclesiological profile to be more comfortable, beautiful, and overall more preferred over churches that use secular typologies. Furthermore, the unchurched preference is most highly correlated with aesthetic beauty and also positively correlated with perceived emphasis of worship. The results suggest that architectural evangelism’s design prescriptions may be in error.
Realizing Henri Lefebvre: Ideas of Social Space in Lucien Kroll’s La Mémé, Brussels 1969-1972 and Bernard Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette, Paris 1982-1987
by Kush Patel
This dissertation contributes to discourse on architecture as a social product by drawing upon French critical philosopher Henri Lefebvre’s theory of the production of space to examine the nature and degree of social and political engagement in two seminal architectural practices of the “post-68” period. Specifically, the dissertation focuses on the participatory architecture of La Mémé medical student housing (1969-1972) outside Brussels by Belgian architect Lucien Kroll and the program-oriented masterplan of Parc de la Villette (1982-1987) in Paris by Swiss-French architect Bernard Tschumi. Despite extensive documentation of Kroll’s and Tschumi’s commissions in the scholarly and popular press, the limitations and potentials of their strategies in the context of lived reality have rarely been discussed.
This dissertation approaches the question of how each theorist defines space and discusses its relationship to social and political meaning, and furthermore, how the selected works of Kroll and Tschumi translate this understanding into built form. A crucial part of my investigation involves opening up the rhetorical terrain that surrounds the two case studies and analyzing their architecture with an eye to politics and processes of execution. Through the integration of logical argumentation and case study strategies, my research examines the heterogeneous expectations or the outcomes of the two projects; and the remarkably dichotomous reception to each work, as either socially engaged and transformative or simulated and rigid. The dissertation concludes by highlighting the extent to which the mutually cooperative and conflictual moments of conception, realization, and subsequent inhabitation in each case study are illuminated by Lefebvre’s social space of dialogue, difference, and contradiction. Lefebvre’s writings bring together two previously unrelated radical works as they focus on issues of space and the creative possibilities of everyday human activity.
With and Without Walls: The Southern California Institute of Architecture and a New School of Los Angeles Architects in the 1970s and 1980s
by Benjamin J. Smith, PhD
The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) was created with the premise that in providing freedom through self-study, it would be possible to produce both architects and architecture. Founded in 1972, after separating from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly) amidst feelings of bureaucratic and ideological oppression, SCI-Arc was self-described as a school “without walls.” From an academic context with roots in the profession, the interests of the faculty straddled social pragmatism as well as formal invention that balanced design techniques and aesthetic sensibilities. Ray Kappe, a Los Angeles-based architect and professor, proposed the formation of SCI-Arc and was the school’s first director. The style that emerged under Kappe’s directorship evoked fusion, which positioned the school with methods to develop ideas for developmental progress. Without offering tenure, SCI-Arc’s faculty, which varied consistently, created a flexible curriculum that became a tactic to promote personal directions for discourse, providing students, and the architects who taught there, a platform to respond to a postmodern architectural climate. SCI-Arc’s institutional culture adjusted over time, and it increasingly relied on the versatility of the institutional framework to forge its pedagogy. The trajectory of SCI-Arc from the early 1970s to the late 1980s revealed not only how an alternative approach to education impacted architectural production with an emerging Los Angeles architectural culture but also occurring more generally in the period, in a shift from the idealism of the 1960s to the neoliberalism of the 1990s.
Climate Responsive Facade Optimization Strategy
by Rudai Shan
The building facade plays a key role in the entire building's energy performance. In commercial buildings, energy demand is dominated by space heating, cooling, and articial lighting. Facade design variables for these three factors have always been interacting and sometimes even in conflict with each other. For different climates, adaptive facade design solutions should be implemented to achieve optimal design objectives, such as energy performance, human comfort, and life cycle cost. While the optimal solution is traditionally identied through \trial-and-error", for complex optimization problems that contain a great number of design variables, it might require extensive hours of computation at early design stage, a condition that is increasingly infeasible in practice due to cost or time constraints.
Since 2008, there has been a signicant trend in building performance optimization techniques (that used to emphasize solely on simulation) being implemented, instead of building simulation techniques, to obtain design solutions for building performance optimization problems. Among widely implemented optimization algorithms, the genetic algorithm (GAs) have proven effective with its robustness in dealing with discontinuous variables. However, for complex optimization problems with a great number of variables, such as facade performance optimization (FPO) problems, GAs are still too time-consuming to be implemented at the early design stage, thus efficiency becomes the main area for its augmentation.
The main objective of this study is to develop a new evolutionary algorithm method, adaptive radiation (AR), based on simple GAs to solve complex optimization problems relative to the design approach of the climate-responsive facades. AR is derived from the biological process of adaptation where specic species are evolutionarily adapted to their immediate ecological niches. This process can obtain optimal solutions of facade design variables (inltration, window-to-wall ratio, shading geometry, glazing types, wall insulation, etc.) in signicantly less computation time than GA. In this study, AR is implemented in three different climates in the United States to demonstrate its robustness and efficiency.
Building the Working City - Designs on Home and Life in Boomtown Detroit, 1914-1932
by Michael McCulloch
The modern worker’s home made Detroit’s Fordist industrialization possible. Between the 1914 announcement of Ford’s “Five Dollar Day” and the Great Depression, Detroit industrialists, real estate developers and workers produced a building boom in housing, reshaping the urban society and negotiating the terms of what Antonio Gramsci called “a new type of worker and of man.” Expanding the architectural history of Fordism beyond the factory, this dissertation argues that it was through the modernization of the larger city—a Fordist Urbanism dominated by worker’s housing developments between the city’s peripheral industrial plants—that Detroit’s Fordist culture was constructed. Industrialists promoted modern worker’s housing, pursuing social control of the city’s largely-immigrant workforce, but shifted the risk of housing construction costs to individual workers by pushing them to seek houses on the open market. Real estate developers responded, and with government support built tens of thousands of bungalows and duplexes for sale to workers on credit. Realtors presented homeownership as a source of financial security for workers yet a realty culture of speculative investment and racial segregation undermined that security from the beginning. At the same time workers had significant agency in this city-building process. They produced more than industrial products in Fordist Detroit, making domestic lives and identities in the pluralistic ways that they chose, outfitted, lived in and cared for their homes, giving meaning and purpose to their routinized labor. Detroit’s industrial modernization—in and through its modern worker’s houses—elaborated crises of racial violence and home foreclosure in the mid 1920s and early 1930s, in which workers fought against one another, and ultimately in solidarity, demanding that the Fordist promise of hard work in exchange for domestic security be honored. Detroit’s houses of the early twentieth century, the extant and the demolished, still contain a great deal: a history of power negotiated through the modernization of the built environment. This past suggests that the city’s future housing can influence the management of risk within society, the social construction of difference, and workers’ continued struggle for security.
Making Exceptions: Politics of Nonconforming Spaces in the Planned Modern City of Islamabad
by Faiza Moatasim
This dissertation explores spatial nonconformity as a central feature of contemporary city-making. Nonconforming urban phenomena in planned modern cities of the twentieth century have mostly been conceptualized as contradictions to the ideal “plan” (Epstein, 1973; Sarin, 1982; Holston, 1989). An examination of the functioning and everyday life of these planned places, however, reveals that rather than being marginal dysfunctional phenomena, spaces that do not conform to formal architectural and planning protocols play a central role in the way abstract plans are operationalized, and planned cities are experienced. In the planned modernist city of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan designed in 1959 by Greek architect-planner Constantinos A. Doxiadis, a range of actors, including both marginalized and affluent residents and business people along with government functionaries, routinely engage in creating and furthering nonconforming spaces in order to increase access to certain functions, privileges, and necessities that cannot be otherwise delivered through formal planning and architectural practices. My research on Islamabad advances a conceptualization of nonconforming spaces not simply as contradictions to an ideal plan but in terms of rights and entitlements that flow in situations normatively characterized as existing outside the purview of law.
Examples of nonconforming spatial practices in Islamabad include: a) illicit residential constructions that range from overcrowded dwellings built along open drains to sprawling mansions set on expensive lakefront properties, (b) unauthorized uses of authorized buildings, and c) encroachments on greenbelts and sidewalks by poor café owners, street hawkers, formal businesses, foreign diplomatic missions, and government organizations, to name a few. By investigating nonconforming urban development in the planned city of Islamabad, my research asks the following questions: What is the relationship between spaces that are planned formally and informally in the case of a comprehensively planned city? What are the similarities and differences found in the spatial practices and political motivations of both state and non-state actors engaged in creating nonconforming spaces? Why are certain nonconforming spaces tolerated for long periods of time while others are strongly resisted by the city’s municipal and developing authority?
Recent scholarship on urban informality has demonstrated the relevance of nonconformity in urban development processes around the world, and highlighted the profusion of informal practices in governmental planning procedures (Roy, et. al., 2004). My research on Islamabad extends this discussion by showing how the “informalization of the State” is accompanied by a “formalization of the Everyday” as ordinary citizens (both the rich and the poor) strategically mimic official planning procedures in order to create the effect of legitimacy to justify urban spaces that do not conform to official planning frameworks (Roy, 2004, p. 159; Hull, 2012). Together these two constructions reject the informal - formal divide in favor of complementary and co-constitutive alliances, and help improve our understanding of contemporary trends in the development and administration of urban areas. My dissertation thus attempts to trace a contemporary history of Islamabad by focusing on the politics of creating nonconforming spatial exceptions as they emerge in spatial practices and political tactics of government functionaries, privileged and underprivileged residents, and business people of the planned city. In this investigation spatial nonconformity emerges as an important feature of contemporary planning paradigms, which are not unique to Islamabad but are relevant to urban conditions found in modern cities everywhere.
Essays on Analytic Methods Applicable to the Micro-Geography of the Workplace
by Yongha Hwang
In spite of growing interest in the physical environment’s role in better communication and collaboration in knowledge-intensive organizations, far too little attention has been paid to quantitative methods for describing and analyzing micro-geography of the workplace. Three essays in this dissertation explores novel methods for describing a spatial layout and analyzing its effect on organizational communications.
The first essay’s main question is how concentration of movement fosters diverse communication in the space. We articulate the concept of confluence and propose a new metric, sociospatial betweenness to measure the confluence of a space. Sociospatial betweenness of a space was found to be positively associated with the diversity of communication partners among a group of professionals in a manufacturing company; in contrast, traditional spatial betweenness did not show such an association.
The second essay addresses how exposure between members of a dyad increases the chance of research collaboration. The essay proposes and develops a novel metric, zone overlap, measuring exposure, the likelihood of mutual encounter between two people, based on the location of one’s workstation and commonly used facilities. We collected administrative data on a sample of research scientists working at two biomedical research buildings with different layouts. We found that increasing path overlap is associated with increases in collaborations in both buildings. In contrast, traditional metrics such as walking distance and straight-line distance influence outcome measures in only one of the research buildings.
The third essay introduces a novel approach for subspace decomposition that can be used for the two new metrics, zone overlap and sociospatial betweenness, proposed in the two previous essays. Although spatial decomposition is one of the essential processes for the analysis of building layout, no new rigorous decomposition has been proposed for more than a decade until this study. We demonstrated that the new method successfully addresses the problems of traditional methods. The essay introduced the modularity function as a quality function to evaluate the goodness of spatial decomposition. Previous decomposition methods so far have rarely paid attention to the evaluation of decomposition.
Optimal Control Methods for PV-integrated Shading Devices
by Sung Kwon Jung
The main reason for the under-utilization of natural light is glare caused by excessive admission of daylight into interior spaces. Absence of a dynamic and effective shading control system entails leaving shading devices at a closed position for glare prevention. For increasing building energy efficiency, it is imperative to develop shading control methods that provide both visual comfort and electric lighting energy savings.
A tracking PV system has higher light-to-electricity conversion efficiency than its fixed counterpart. Previous studies on louver controls indicate that louver slat surfaces blocking sunlight receive higher solar radiation than a vertical or tilted-up position. As such, a louver coated with photovoltaics cells, when appropriately controlled, has potentials to achieve high energy production efficiency and visual comfort simultaneously. This is the motivation of the development of a novel hybrid of PV system and shading device: a PV-integrated shading device (PVIS).
The performance of a PVIS, whose louvers are coated with photovoltaic cells, was evaluated in terms of electricity production, daylight admission, and occupant visual comfort. Three different shading control methods were developed and tested: 1) maximizing the louver PV output only, 2) maximizing the PV output while meeting an indoor daylight level requirement and 3) maximizing the PV output while satisfying an indoor daylight level and daylight glare criteria. An artificial neural network was developed to predict the effect of solar radiation and slat tilt angle on PV output and visual comfort.
Through experimental testings, it was found that artificial neural network can effectively incorporated in the optimization of shading control. It was also found that the control method with the visual comfort criteria resulted in 9% reduction of PV output compared to that without them. The total building energy benefits of the control method with visual comfort criteria was at least 36% higher than that without due to the reduction of electric lighting energy consumption. Due to the PV-output criterion, the daylight glare remained within the comfortable range. For this reason, the glare criterion made no difference in louver tilt angle control.
Active Centers - Interactive Edges
by Conrad Kickert
This dissertation explores the deteriorating relationship between architecture and public space plaguing many Western urban cores as a result of economic, cultural, political and social forces. It investigates the question of how and why ground floor frontages have been transformed, by comparing the urban cores of The Hague (Netherlands) and Detroit (United States) over the past century. Frontage interactivity is defined as the combination of physical transparency, functional permeability and perceptual hospitality, and is mapped in both urban cores over the span of a century in 10 to 25 year intervals. Interactivity is categorized into four tiers, based on fourteen functional frontage types, ranging from highly interactive retail businesses to dwellings and less interactive offices, parking structures and warehouses. Patterns of physical and functional fringe belt formation and urban erosion are found in the maps and statistical analyses. These analyses demonstrate a pattern of fringe interactivity decline, amplified by an acceleration of decline at the level of the street segment – pointing to the contagion of vacancy and inactive land uses. This interactivity erosion is usually followed and amplified by a rapid morphological change, often fueled by large-scale urban renewal interventions – a pattern that is surprisingly similar in both cities. The forces behind frontage transformation are illustrated by separate histories of The Hague and Detroit. The demonstrated forces and patterns of change are integrated into a set of conclusions, finding significant similarities between both case studies. From an economic, social and cultural perspective both cities have faced and still face similar challenges, albeit amplified in Detroit. The relationship between buildings and public space has deteriorated significantly in downtown Detroit as a result of socio-economic decline, amplified by a culture favoring progress over sustaining a collective memory. The Hague’s inner city has benefited from a somewhat finer balance between progress and permanence, often due to fierce public and political debates. The conclusions are followed by a set of recommendations for how to counter frontage deactivation, focusing on the role of economics, diversity, curbing fear and auto-mobility, and critical mass in reshaping the architecture of public life.
The Origins of Vancouverism: A Historical Inquiry into the Architecture and Urban form of Vancouver, British Columbia
by Robert Walsh
This study focuses on understanding the development of Vancouverism, a new variety of high density residential urbanism responsible in recent years for the visible transformation of Vancouver, British Columbia. The emergence of Vancouverism has coincided with recognition of Vancouver as a livable city, stimulating widespread interest in this urban phenomenon. However, significant fundamental questions warrant reexamination. How did Vancouverism originate? Does Vancouverism represent a new generalizable urban solution that should work well in other cities, or is it a skillful response to a unique cultural, economic and physical context? Understanding what Vancouverism is, why it is successful in Vancouver, and the relevance that it might have to other urban settings are questions directly linked to better understanding the origins of Vancouverism.
The research begins by proposing a framework of five essential elements that together provide a workable description of Vancouverism: Spaced Point Towers, Row House Enclaves, Active Urban Landscape, Outdoor Urban Rooms and Protected Public Views. In the historical analysis that follows, the development of Vancouverism is traced though the successive introduction of these elements. Drawing from a wide range of source material, including: built projects, un-built proposals, planning documents, archival photographs, discussions with many key participants and original photographs by the author, this dissertation argues that Vancouverism emerged over the course of an entire century as the city itself struggled to adapt to changing local conditions.
Although several general factors proved relevant, including changing building technologies and the global flow of capital from Asia, the physical form of development in Vancouver was ultimately defined by local architects who initiated a protracted search for new, precedent-defying solutions better able to respond to local conditions. The new perspective offered by this research dismantles entrenched misconceptions that suggest Vancouverism was imported from elsewhere or recently invented. Instead, new lessons become available focused on improving processes for developing innovative, locally relevant urbanism and better understanding the contribution that local design knowledge can play in facilitating successful urban revitalization.
The Teaching Green School Building: Exploring the Contributions of School Design to Informal Environmental Education
by Laura B. Cole
The Teaching Green Building (TGB) is emerging as a way to engage building occupants in environmental themes through the architectural design of buildings. These buildings aspire to high levels of environmental performance and invite occupants to participate in the environmental story of the building and its day-to-day operations. While examples of TGB’s exist in the U.S. and beyond, they remain largely unexplored by empirical researchers. This research investigates the TGB from the occupant perspective to explore the ways in which architecture contributes to informal environmental education. The three primary goals of this work are to: (1) offer an interdisciplinary theoretical framework that links architecture with environmental education, (2) propose the concept of green building literacy as a goal for TGB’s, and (3) report the results of mixed-method empirical research that examines green building literacy in the context of five U.S. middle schools. The empirical work engaged 399 middle school students in both TGB’s and non-green school buildings. The methodologies included survey research, which targeted green building literacy categories, and a photography project, which offered a view of the school campus through the eyes of middle school students. Results suggest that the built environment of schools makes a significant difference for the enhancement of green building knowledge and environmental stewardship behavior. The effect of a TGB was greater for students not already exposed to environmentalism at home or in their broader communities. However, a new or renovated building may not be a requirement for advancing green building literacy. The findings suggest the effectiveness of small, organic interventions, such as modest modification to the schoolyard. These smaller interventions seem especially effective where the school philosophy promotes a child-centered, experiential approach to learning. Student home environments are also an important factor for knowledge and behavior. Green building literacy is thus influenced by a complex array of personal, sociocultural, and physical environment factors. Based on the findings both theoretical and empirical, this work concludes with insights for the practice of creating and operating buildings designed to teach.
A Structural Basis for Surface Discretization of Free Form Structures: Integration of Geometry, Materials and Fabrication
by Aysu Berk
This study focuses on free form surfaces and the challenges of construction due to the complex geometry. A unique approach is proposed that incorporates attributes of form, material selection and fabrication methods of free form surfaces into the early stage of design in aid of optimum mesh generation towards redesigning a practically constructible structure. Free form surfaces need to be discretized into panels with manageable sizes so that the surface can be fabricated in smaller pieces that are all assembled on site. Planarity has been a significant constraint for free form discretization because brittle materials, such as glass, can fail suddenly, without any warning. Triangulation has been a common pattern for free form surface discretization, where the panels are always planar. Due to node complexities of triangulated meshing, quadrilaterals are considered as an alternative pattern for free form surfaces. However, the biggest problem with quadrilaterals is that quadrilaterals do not always form planar faces. A method to generate and apply quadrilateral meshing on free form surfaces is introduced in this study where pre-deformed (non-planar) quadrilateral panels are proposed to be used at high curvature areas of the complex surface where planar meshing is not possible. In this study, structural tests and simulations are conducted on quadrilateral panels to find out the limits of surface curvature allowed for specific materials. The analyses demonstrate the behavior of quadrilateral panels under uniform wind load, pre-deformation load and finally a combined load case, which considers wind load on pre-deformed panels. The behavior of quadrilateral panels under pre-deformation is observed, and the relationship between this pre-deformation amount and the related structural and geometric design parameters, such as panel size, thickness, and material properties is investigated. The limiting curvature value for any design then can be determined using these relationships. The results of the study also demonstrate that this pre-deformation acts as pre-tensioning that increases the capacity of the panels to carry more with less deflection.
Life of the Lab: Creating Collaborative Workspaces for Scientists
by Tara Dell
A new generation of research laboratories have entered the academic community. These laboratories have physically co-located several scientific disciplines with the goal of encouraging interdisciplinary interaction, fostering new ideas and laying the groundwork for potential innovation. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between use patterns/social behaviors (for the purpose of this study, social behaviors are defined to survey participants as those that involve physical presence, not interactions via email, text, IM, etc.) and the architectural design of these academic laboratories. The primary question examined is how the design and layout of space influence interaction and collaboration of the occupants. Other related questions arise in this investigation such as how the design and layout influences workspace satisfaction as well as how other workplace design aspects influence the interaction and collaboration of its occupants. The Life Sciences Institute (LSI) at the University of Michigan and the Natural Sciences Building (NSB) at the University of California, San Diego were used as case studies to explore this issue. The LSI and NSB, both completed in 2003, were designed to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration. The buildings house several different science disciplines and also include such design features as open lab spaces, shared equipment, as well as shared group spaces (i.e. conference rooms, break areas). The study focuses on the design characteristics of these two academic science buildings and the interaction and collaboration behaviors of the employees. Multiple methods of data collection are applied to understand these interrelationships. Space Syntax Analysis was used to explore the spatial layout and provide quantitative data explaining the interrelationship among spaces. Several methods were used to gather data regarding interaction within the environment: observations, surveys, and interviews. Social Network Analysis is used to understand the social connections between people working in the building. Collaborative information was obtained from the interviews and Social Network Analysis. Employees' perceptions and satisfaction with their jobs and the workspace were explored through survey questionnaires. The research provides an understanding of the spatial layout properties of each building as well as the interaction and movement patterns of employees. The data shows an association between both the connectivity and integration of spaces with interaction levels. The more integrated spaces show an increased level of movement and the occupants' job role plays a significant part in their interaction and collaboration. The research contributes to an understanding of the interrelationships between workplace design, employee perceptions, interaction patterns and collaboration. Conclusions are drawn from the results to offer suggestions for the design of future collaborative academic laboratories.
Characterizing the Audibility of Sound Field with Diffusion in Architectural Spaces
by Sentagi Sesotya Utami
The significance of diffusion control in room acoustics is that it attempts to avoid echoes by dispersing reflections while removing less valuable sound energy. Some applications place emphasis on the enhancement of late reflections to promote a sense of envelopment, and on methods required to measure the performance of diffusers. What still remains unclear is the impact of diffusion on the audibility quality due to the geometric arrangement of architectural elements. The objective of this research is to characterize the audibility of the sound field with diffusion in architectural space. In order to address this objective, an approach utilizing various methods and new techniques relevant to room acoustics standards was applied. An array of microphones based on beam forming (i.e., an acoustic camera) was utilized for field measurements in a recording studio, classrooms, auditoriums, concert halls and sport arenas. Given the ability to combine a visual image with acoustical data, the impulse responses measured were analyzed to identify the impact of diffusive surfaces on the early, late, and reverberant sound fields. The effects of the room geometry and the proportions of the diffusive and absorptive surfaces were observed by utilizing geometrical room acoustics simulations. The degree of diffuseness in each space was measured by coherences from different measurement positions along with the acoustical conditions predicted by well-known objective parameters such as T30, EDT, C80, and C50. Noticeable differences of the auditory experience were investigated by utilizing computer-based survey techniques, including the use of an immersive virtual environment system, given the current software auralization capabilities. The results based on statistical analysis demonstrate the users' ability to localize the sound and to distinguish the intensity, clarity, and reverberation created within the virtual environment. Impact of architectural elements in diffusion control is evaluated by the design variable interaction, objectively and subjectively. Effectiveness of the diffusive surfaces is determined by the echo reduction and the sense of complete immersion in a given room acoustics volume. Application of such methodology at various stages of design provides the ability to create a better auditory experience by the users. The results based on the cases studied have contributed to the development of new acoustical treatment based on the diffusion characteristics.
Energy Efficiency Design Strategies for Buildings with Grid-Connected Photovoltaic Systems.
by Chanikarn Yimprayoon
The building sector in the United States represents more than 40% of the nation's energy consumption. Energy efficiency design strategies and renewable energy are keys to reduce building energy demand. Grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on buildings have been the fastest growing market in the PV industry. This growth poses challenges for buildings qualified to serve in this market sector. Electricity produced from solar energy is intermittent. Matching building electricity demand with PV output can increase PV system efficiency. Through experimental methods and case studies, computer simulations were used to investigate the priorities of energy efficiency design strategies that decreased electricity demand while producing load profiles matching with unique output profiles from PV. Three building types (residential, commercial, and industrial) of varying sizes and use patterns located in 16 climate zones were modeled according to ASHRAE 90.1 requirements. Buildings were analyzed individually and as a group. Complying with ASHRAE energy standards can reduce annual electricity consumption at least 13%. With energy efficiency design strategies, the reduction could reach up to 65%, making it possible for PV systems to meet reduced demands in residential and industrial buildings. The peak electricity demand reduction could be up to 71% with integration of strategies and PV. Reducing lighting power density was the best single strategy with high overall performances. Combined strategies such as zero energy building are also recommended. Electricity consumption reductions are the sum of the reductions from strategies and PV output. However, peak electricity reductions were less than their sum because they reduced peak at different times. The potential of grid stress reduction is significant. Investment incentives from government and utilities are necessary. The PV system sizes on net metering interconnection should not be limited by legislation existing in some states. Data from this study provides insight of impacts from applying energy efficiency design strategies in buildings with grid-connected PV systems. With the current transition from traditional electric grids to future smart grids, this information plus large database of various building conditions allow possible investigations needed by governments or utilities in large scale communities for implementing various measures and policies.
Urban Housing Redevelopment: An Analysis of the Perception of Vitality in Apartment Neighborhood Redevelopment in Korea.
by Youngchul Kim
This study aims to explore residential preferences, satisfaction, and use patterns in a set of case-studies of apartment neighborhoods in Korea. For this, the case-study method is applied with combined research strategies to examine four cases of apartment neighborhood redevelopment in Korea, namely Weolgok R, Gongdeok R, Jangan H, and Yeoksam E apartment estates. This research employs Canter’s place model for organizing a data collection framework to understand the perception of vitality in Korean apartment neighborhoods. The research approach focuses on three elements of Canter’s place model: physical attributes, activities, and meanings. Exploring residents’ perceptions of place vitality, this study reveals that the four examples of Korean apartment redevelopment projects demonstrate increase of physical accessibility and exposure. However, although those four have possibility to be spatially integrated around these neighborhoods, the redevelopment results demonstrate enhancement of segregation from other neighborhoods nearby. In addition, places with vitality are perceived when places inside and outside the redeveloped estates are integrated and exposed, and when people frequent places. However, these perceptions show conflicts of enclosure and exposure and hierarchy of places inside and outside the estates. Accordingly, creating places with vitality is associated with (a) considering integration and exposure of physical place conditions, (b) considering the link between people’s daily experiences and these physical places, (c) balancing boundary conditions around redeveloped neighborhoods. Differentiated, privatized, and semi-gated apartment-dominant context is the model of Korean apartment redevelopment. Findings in the four examples of Korean apartment redevelopment projects indicate that they have integrated spatial configuration inside, yet generate segregation of these apartment neighborhoods from other neighborhoods. Since everyday life is important in and to place vitality, the current method of apartment-dominant neighborhoods needs reconsideration of, indeed promotion of, daily experiences and balance of boundary conflicts in urban housing redevelopment.
Building Siwilai : Transformation of Architecture and Architectural Practice in Siam during the Reign of Rama V, 1868 - 1910
by Pirasri Povatong
This dissertation examines the process through which siwilai–Siamese aristocrats’ conception of civilization–gradually evolved from the mid-nineteenth century to the turn of the twentieth century, as evidenced in parallel transformations in architecture and architectural practice in Siam. During the reign of Rama V, Siamese aristocrats took Europe and their colonies in South and Southeast Asia as the new paradigm of “civilization,” even though the kingdom of Siam was not formally colonized. The construction of siwilai was transcultural since ideas, architectural forms, architectural practice, and even architects, had been transferred and localized in the Siamese setting. Through architecture and urban design, Siamese aristocrats fabricated the public image of not only themselves, but also the kingdom–an independent Oriental nation that was steeped in history yet engaged with enlightened modern internationalism. Late-nineteenth century Siamese architecture was unambiguously syncretic; indigenous and foreign architectural forms and spatial practices were juxtaposed, pastiched, and fused into new cultural forms that defied easy binaries like traditional/modern, Siamese/European, civilized/uncivilized. Furthermore, the dissertation examines how all of this was made possible by the transformation of the architectural practice. During the first half of Rama V’s reign, the Siamese royal master builders gradually gave way to the European builder-contractors, who, in turn, paved the way for the 1889 establishment of the Public Works Department as the institutional means to centralize construction activities. Through the entire period, collaboration between Siamese and Europeans were crucial to the production of hybridized architecture, at the service of the Siamese aristocrat.
A METHOD TOWARDS DEVELOPING AN ENVIRONMENTAL PROFILING FOR OFFICE BUILDINGS USING LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT (LCA)
by Ashraf Ragheb
In the last two decades, architects and designers have tried to minimize the impacts their buildings have on the environment. Although many architects claim their buildings to be sustainable, unless an objective Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is conducted, it is difficult to evaluate the total impact that a particular building has on its surrounding environment. The theoretical foundation of the proposed framework consists of two major parts. These are the concepts of environmental sustainability and building environmental assessment. The purpose of this study is to quantify and compare the potential environmental impacts caused by three office buildings throughout their entire life cycle, from extraction of raw materials to disposal of waste. The study also demonstrates how LCA could be applied from a single material to complex systems such as buildings. It highlights the difficulties in modeling a building over a long service life (60 years) and its implications on the design process. To achieve the study objectives, a multiple case study method has been used with the LCA to determine which life cycle phase (manufacturing of materials, construction, use, maintenance, demolition) contribute the most to the total impacts. The study also identifies how building’s key assembly systems (foundations, columns/beams, walls, floors, roofs) influence its environmental impacts during its service life. Three recently-built typical office buildings are used as cases in southeast Michigan along with a streamlined LCA approach based on an inventory of energy use, material inputs and outputs, and environmental impact assessment. Furthermore, the study performed a sensitivity analysis to evaluate the effects of possible materials changes of some of building assembly components (mainly foundations, walls and roofs assemblies) and examine the change on the total impacts during 60 years of life. The study finds that the operation (use) phase of the building has the highest impacts (90+% of total impacts) during its 60 years life cycle in the following impact categories: fossil fuel consumption, global warming potential, acidification potential, and human health respiratory effects potential. Manufacturing phase has the highest impact in the following impact categories: ozone depletion with 87% of total impact, and in eutrophication with 65% of total impact respectively. Furthermore, the study finds that walls system in all building cases has the highest contribution in the following impacts: global warming (26%), acidification (40%), smog potential (35%), and respiratory effect potential (57%). Structure (beams and columns) system has the highest contribution to fossil fuel consumption (31%) and to eutrophication (56%) categories. Roofs system has also significant impacts contribution (second to structure) to fossil fuel consumption (27%), global warming (17%), and comes second to walls contributing in smog potential (29%). Foundations system contributes the most to ozone depletion potential at 58%. Through conducting a sensitivity analysis to the results, the study also find that replacing some building materials with more environmental-friendly alternatives (mainly to foundations, walls and roofs) yields reduction in total impacts by 7%-13% in different impact categories.