Environmental Systems

This is a basic four-credit, one-semester undergraduate architecture course designed to address NAAB criteria. Students have the opportunity to learn about the historical evolution of environmental systems; the requirements for human visual, thermal and acoustic comfort; and skills to design both passive and low-energy systems to create an integrated environmental design. The course is modular and organized around 12 weekly exercises or activities. As presently designed, the course uses Lechner's Heating, Lighting Cooling as a textbook, incorporates Team Based Learning, and includes two lecture periods and one lab each week.

Buildings are the human-made structures that provide shelter and amenities for continuous occupation.  They mediate between people and the surrounding environment through physical systems that afford human wellbeing, comfort, and—occasionally—delight.  From the most basic shelters of early civilization to the skyscrapers of tomorrow, humans have used structural, architectural, and now mechanical means to take control of climate and transform or condition occupied space as a means of comfort and survival.  From a central hearth to the thickening of exterior walls to the mechanized conditioning of indoor air, architectural expression has transformed with the adoption of new environmental systems and technologies.

Even amid the transformation of these systems, we designers remain responsible for the integration of space and environmental mediation, and for the consequences of our design decisions.  To design for the future, we seek to understand the physics of building behavior, the physiological and psychological aspects of human comfort, and the performance of building technologies, as well as the consequences of building resource consumption. We have a critical responsibility to design better buildings that sustain and enrich human life and allow continued flourishing in the broader environment. In this course, you have the opportunity to learn the historical evolution of environmental systems, the requirements for human visual, thermal and acoustic comfort, and skills to design both passive and low-energy systems to create an integrated environmental design.

Learning objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Outline the historical evolution of environmental technologies and discuss their influence on architecture and design.
  2. Compare and contrast various building systems that provide heating, lighting, cooling, and ventilation, and describe how they integrate with each other and with architectural form.
  3. Extrapolate from first principles of building science to predict the interaction of architectural form and environmental conditions, and their effect on human occupants.
  4. Use environmental analysis tools and practical to visualize and analyze TMY climate data; and to simulate patterns of direct solar impact on a simple building.
  5. Collect, summarize, organize, and evaluate data about environmental systems in buildings.
  6. Summarize the broad ideas, objectives, and principles of sustainability in architecture.
NAAB Student Performance Criteria

This course is part of the curriculum for the National Architecture Accreditation Board (NAAB) accredited degree program, and contributes to the following NAAB Student Performance Criteria:

  • B.6:  Environmental Systems: Ability to demonstrate the principles of environmental systems’ design, how design criteria can vary by geographic region, and the tools used for performance assessment. This demonstration must include active and passive heating and cooling, solar geometry, daylighting, natural ventilation, indoor air quality, solar systems, lighting systems, and acoustics
  • B.9:  Building Service Systems Understanding of the basic principles and appropriate application and performance of building service systems, including lighting, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, communication, vertical transportation, security, and fire protection systems.

Unless otherwise noted, materials associated with this course are ©2020 David Fannon, and licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 License