Environmental Control Systems 1

This course focuses on design strategies will give foundational information and tools to apply at the schematic design level. Passive (architectural) solutions will also be emphasized, yet active (mechanical/electrical) solutions will also be covered.


Scope: Major topics surrounding the environmental design of buildings and communities with regard to energy use, conservation, thermal comfort, cognizant codes and standards, renewable energy, measurement and verification, and the tools needed to understand an ecological approach to design. The instructors of this course are enthusiastic, committed, and critical about the pedagogy of this course and have carefully choreographed your participation and learning that will prepare you to be the future stewards of the built environment. Our philosophy is: We believe that it is the professional, ethical, and moral responsibility of the architect to ensure the comfort, safety, and health of occupants of buildings she/he designs AND to design in a way that dramatically reduces or eliminates the use of fossil fuels on building design, construction, operation, and decommissioning.

Objectives:  The systems discussed in this course play an important role in all types of buildings. They substantially affect building costs (both first and life-cycle costs), building performance, and occupant health, safety, comfort, and productivity. Ultimately, climate control performance may be a primary determinant of owner and occupant perceptions of building success. It is ethically imperative that every architect has a sufficient understanding of climate control systems to permit their proper implementation and integration into the building design process. Providing such a fundamental understanding is the main objective of this course.

Outcomes: This course intends to develop a basic understanding of building climate control systems that will permit you to actively participate in decision making regarding such systems during the design process and that will facilitate further study leading to the ability to design such systems.

With respect to climate control and mechanized circulation systems, students can expect to:

  • be able to communicate with the client and other members of the design team through an understanding of basic terminology and measurement units,
  • be able to make early design decisions regarding the appropriateness of various systems and design concepts through an understanding of system functions (what the systems can and cannot do),
  • be able to participate in project coordination and collaboration through an understanding of the role and character of these systems in typical building applications and contexts,
  • understand the basics of system selection, placement, components, sizing, and integration,
  • spend approximately 30 hours of effort for each credit earned,
  • understand how to design for carbon neutrality, passive design, and renewable energy,
  • prepare a building performance case study as a collaborative team investigation of a nearby building/space that reflects design intention and actual outcome.

Graduate/Undergraduate Student DifferentialGraduate students are expected to perform work of higher quantity and more in-depth than undergraduate students, typically with forty hours of student engagement for each student credit hour (compared to thirty hours of undergraduate student engagement for each student credit hour). Therefore, for this 4-credit course, a graduate student should expect to commit approximately 160 while it is expected that an undergraduate student should expect to commit approximately 120 hours to this course over the duration of the term. Specific requirements that reflect this higher level of engagement for Graduate students will be provided on projects. Graduate students will also complete an analysis and summary of a scholarly article from an architectural research journal on building performance and comment on its relevance to the principles and concepts of this course. This is intended to give students a unique and important experience for practice but challenges students to dig more deeply into how architectural information is conveyed to the public.

Format: ARCH 4/591 is a lecture/lab course involving hands-on experience. Though much of the information will be exchanged in lecture, the lab sections will be used to develop and discuss issues and concepts beyond what is possible in lecture. Hands-on application of selected concepts will be explored through projects and section activities by the GTFs who will conduct lab sections work under the direct supervision of the professors. The required readings will provide a background to facilitate such exchanges. These sections will be conducted according to the protocols that have been approved by the professor and that are common to all sections of the course.

Expenses: In addition to typical University tuition, fees, and book expenses, additional expenses will likely be incurred for materials and supplies required for the completion of course projects and potential travel related to the case study. 

Instructors: All students are encouraged to attend office hours of the instructors and GTFs should there be any questions regarding the course curriculum, assignments, or activities.


Multiple measures will be used to assess your performance. A grasp of information will be tested via quizzes. The ability to apply information in design situations will be assessed via projects. Active participation in the learning process will be assessed via weekly questions and section attendance and participation. A case study assignment will span several weeks of the term. Regular class attendance and participation (including sections) and timely assignment submission are minimum expectations for successful course completion.

GTF Role:  The Department of Architecture maintains a long and successful tradition of peer teaching that benefits both students and GTFs. Graduate Teaching Fellows will conduct both graduate and undergraduate labs under the direct supervision of the instructor. These sessions will be conducted according to protocols that have been approved by the instructors and that are common to all sections of the course. GTFs will lead labs and may occasionally provide supplementary lessons on certain topics. However, the instructor will meet with the GTFs on a weekly basis at least, to coordinate material and ensure that sections are being run consistently and according to the instructors’ specifications. GTFs will work under the direct supervision of the instructor(s), who will have ultimate responsibility for determining and entering grades. All grading will be done according to clear criteria that are used by the course instructors and all GTFs assisting in the course. The course instructors will regularly monitor the grading activities of GTFs with respect to accuracy and fairness. All graduate students have the option of having their work evaluated solely by the instructors.

Lectures are designed to offer an expansion of the systems and concepts covered in the required readings. The instructors provide their expertise and connections (through invited experts) to the broad arena of architecture and require that you reflect upon potential applications for such systems in the buildings that you design. You are strongly encouraged to engage and make contextual sense of the concepts presented in class—as opposed to simply listening to the lectures and mechanically completing the projects. Design is a complex endeavor. We expect you to be fully engaged in lecture. Use of laptops and cell phones are not permitted in class; sketching and note-taking the best way to synthesize and remember information. If you have a Kindle version or library e-book of MEEB, you may use your Kindle reader or laptop in the front row of the lecture hall with instructor approval. 

Project assignments will be described in writing and will have a specific due date. Projects will be discussed in class at the time they are assigned. Work must be submitted in a professional format reflective of your status as a student in a professional program. We expect typed work, checked for grammar and spelling. Specific data sources and/or other documentation used to complete assignments must be clearly noted (this is a valuable habit for practice). Presentation quality will affect grading—as will content accuracy and completeness. “Taking it Further” of each project is optional and will act as a “bonus points.” There will be 4 of these options. 

Quizzes will be given each Thursday in class (timing at the instructor’s discretion). Textbooks (MEEB, GSH or other) and notes may be used in class for the quizzes, unless otherwise noted. iClickers are used for quizzes only (no pieces of paper substitutes. A missed quiz may be made up ONLY in the case of a verified emergency situation or a pre-excused absence approved prior to the time of the quiz. We do not drop the lowest quiz grade.

Question/Response: Each week we will give you a “question of the week” to respond to. This will be due on Tuesday at the beginning of lecture. You can also submit a question or observation about materials recently covered in class. The question or observation must be submitted to Canvas in your own handwriting (take a photo, upload jpg). The instructor will use these Q/R sheets to look at learning trends in the class, though they may be responded to on occasion in class or by email.

Section meeting attendance is required. Assessment will be based upon attendance and active and constructive participation in discussion and successful completion of in-section activities. For certain approved circumstances, students attend another section, with pre-approval from both GTFs for those sections.

A final case study project represents the final, 5-week project of the course. The case study is a group assignment, will involve interim reviews, requires the development a paper and poster, and presentation of the case study by the group during the scheduled final exam period for the course. 

iClickers will be used for activities and evaluation throughout the class. You will register your iClicker through Blackboard or roll call week of class. iClickers may only be used by you. Submitting responses for another person, or allowing others use your iClicker, is grounds for a failing grade and the basis for referral to the Office of the Dean of Students. Clickers must be brought to each lecture. Extra clickers will not be available.


The course may be taken on either a graded or P/N basis. A “pass” requires a minimum equivalent grade of C- (undergraduates); B- (graduates). Students should check the deadlines for change of grade options by the end of the first week. The overall course grade will be based upon a cumulative tabulation of the various elements described above, weighted as follows:

30% Projects

15% Section Attendance/Participation

15% Quizzes

35% Case Study

05% Questions/Observations  

Your course grade will be based on the following weights (and not curved which tends to unfairly penalize those who do well). Grading will be as follows:

A+ =  97.5-100%, A = 92.5-97.4%, A- = 89.5-92.4%

B+ =  87.5-89.4%, B = 82.5-87.4%, B- = 79.5-82.4%

C+ =  77.5-79.4%, C = 72.5-77.4%, C- = 69.5-72.4%

D+ =  67.5-69.4%, D = 62.5-67.4%, D- = 59.5-62.4%