SBSE Retreat 2020

Mon, Aug 03 - Wed, Aug 05
Manresa Jesuit Retreat Center


The urgent call to address climate change through the design of the built environment is at the core of contemporary building science education—using fewer and more ethical resources, designing for more extreme climate conditions, bringing more equitable solutions to spaces in the developing world and impoverished portions of the developed world. As architects and engineers, the boundaries of the site often constrain this thinking. The theme for the SBSE 2020 Retreat, NETWORKS, will invite discussion that transcends such barriers, considering neighborhoods, districts, villages, cities, and regions beyond the limits of the parcel line. 

Detroit, MI, has a long history of technical and cultural innovation—from beginning as a French farming and trade settlement to becoming an industrial powerhouse, the “arsenal of democracy.” Detroit has been the cradle of jazz, Motown, and techno music. Present-day Detroit is one of the largest African American cities in the United States, with the largest Middle Eastern population of any city in the United States. Detroit is in a process of reimagining itself, examining policies to deal with its circumstance as a “shrinking city,” pioneering new ways to live in a city that mixes the best of dense urban fabric with open zones of green and blue infrastructure that can provide opportunities for local productivity and recreation. SBSE and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture invite you to visit this unique, energizing city. Hosted at the peaceful, wooded Manresa Jesuit Retreat Center north of Detroit, the retreat will include visits to the Williams Natatorium (Williams/Tsien) at Cranbrook, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Affleck House, and the Kresge Foundation Headquarters (a LEED Platinum project). 


Theory, practice, and pedagogy will be explored through hands-on workshops, short presentations, and high-speed research sharing sessions. Presentations will be topically grouped to provide opportunity for lively discussion, one of the primary aims of the retreat.


Manresa Jesuit Retreat House is located immediately north of the city of Detroit in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  The venue is approximately 30 miles by auto north of Detroit Wayne International Airport or 20 miles north of the Detroit Amtrak Station at Baltimore Avenue. Vehicles can be rented at the airport or near the train station. We will also set up a rideshare group. If you need a ride or are driving your own car and are able to provide a ride for others, please sign up. 


Manresa Jesuit Retreat Center is located just 16 miles from Downtown Detroit on 39 wooded acres, crossed by the famous Rouge River. The peaceful natural setting is owned by the Jesuits, primarily used for religious retreats, and occasionally used for educational retreats. As both a Jesuit and Mercy University, the University of Detroit Mercy has arranged to use the center for our educational retreat. Originally a country manor designed for a wealthy Detroiter, the setting and buildings are historic, including the original water wheel house which has been converted to a chapel. Designed for retreat from the modern world, the individual accommodations are simple and practical. Participants will be housed in single occupancy rooms with an attached half bath. A few rooms also have a shower in the room. Standard rooms have a showering facilities located down the hall from the rooms. 

Check-in date: August 3, from 3:00 to 5:30pm, dinner at 5:30pm
Check-out date: August 5 by 9:00am

Optional Additional Tour:

Check-in date: August 5 (suggested: El Moore Lodge or The Inn on Ferry Street)

Check-out date: August 6


All meals will be delicious, served in the dining room of the Retreat House. Vegetarian, vegan, nut-free and gluten-free dietary needs can be accommodated with advanced notice (please answer the dietary question when you register). Breakfast is served 8:00–9:00 am; Lunch from noon until 1:00pm; and Dinner 6:00–7:00pm. If you're still hungry, snacks, ice, and other food and beverages may be purchased in nearby downtown Bloomfield Hills, within easy walking distance.


An optional tour of buildings and visits to groups working on larger-scale design initiatives in the city of Detroit will follow on August 6. Tours will include visits to the Keep Growing Detroit Farms, Eastern Market Corporation, Dequindre Cut Bicycling Greenway, Detroit Future City Implementation Offices, and a Ford Rouge Factory Tour.   


Retreat fee $350

It's early on but we estimate that $350 per person would cover:

  • Retreat bags with maps and programs pencils and small treats
  • Lodging and meals for three nights at Manresa
  • Tours associated with the base retreat (FLW Affleck House + Kresge Foundation)
  • Speaker fees for Bees in the D and Detroit Future City 
  • Optional swimming (morning or evening at the Williams Natatorium at Cranbrook)

Optional post-retreat tours fee $50

The fee of $50 per attendee would cover:

  • Two 15-passenger UDM vans for the day with gasoline.
  • Tours of the Ford Rouge Factory and Archive, Keep Growing Detroit Urban Farm + Eastern Market Corporation (the largest public market in the US) 
  • Visit to the Dequindre Cut Greenway
  • Visit to the Detroit Future City Offices
  • Luncheon featuring salad, Buddy's Pizza (the original Detroit Style Pizza), Faygo and Vernors Soda (and water for non-soda drinkers) and some treats from Germack Nut and Coffee Roasters in the Eastern Market.  

Not included in the post-retreat fee:

  • Lodging in the city following the tour (suggested El Moore Lodge ($85-$225 depending on room choice) or Inn on Ferry Street (~$200-$250 depending on room choice)
  • Dinner following the tour.  We could do "dine arounds" with a variety of price points for people to choose from.  Detroit Shipping Company has many vendors and a lower price point.  Selden Standard is exceptional but pricier.  And there are other options - we could eat at the DIA Museum and view the Diego Rivera Murals....really whatever sounds fun to you guys!  
  • The details of these two items can be worked out in the months to come, but I wanted to make sure that it was clear that they were not in the Post-Retreat Tour Fee.  


  • October 2019 Announcement
  • December 2019 Call for Proposals
  • January 1, 2020 Registration Opens
  • March 1, 2020 Proposal Deadline
  • March 1, 2020 Jeff Cook Scholarship applications due
  • March 15, 2020 Proposal Notifications
  • April 1, 2020 SBSE Student Scholarship applications due
  • April 15, 2020 Presenters Registration deadline
  • June 1, 2020, 5pm PDT Extended Registration deadline
  • August 3-6, 2020 SBSE Retreat

Event Coordination

James Leach, University of Detroit Mercy, 

Kristin Nelson, University of Detroit Mercy,