SBSE Retreat 2021 - "NETWORKS"

Mon, Aug 02 - Thu, Aug 05
Manresa Jesuit Retreat Center

While several global travel restrictions continue to exist in the ongoing pandemic, the SBSE board was pleased to welcome attendees for the 2021 Retreat, which will was hosted at the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House located north of the city of Detroit. We held a hybrid event mode with members participating in person as well as a session that allowed for virtual attendance.

2021 Local Participants at the Detroit Riverwalk

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 2021 Retreat, NETWORKS, invited 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 invited us to visit this unique, energizing city. Hosted at the peaceful, wooded Manresa Jesuit Retreat Center north of Detroit, the retreat included 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 were explored through hands-on workshops, short presentations, and high-speed research sharing sessions. Presentations were topically grouped to provide opportunity for lively discussion, one of the primary aims of the retreat.

    Event Coordination

    James Leach, University of Detroit Mercy, 

    Kristin Nelson, University of Detroit Mercy,



    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 2, 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.

    Call for Submissions

    We invite faculty, practitioners, content experts, and students to share tools, case studies, and innovative studio exercises with attendees through active experiences at the 2021 SBSE Annual Retreat in Detroit, Michigan. 

    "NETWORKS: Sustainability at the Urban Scale" focuses on the strategies, tools, ideas, and ways that we teach, practice, and inspire our students to consider the challenges of creating more resilient, livable and delightful built environments.

    We invite proposals for sessions addressing one of the conference themes.

    • 30-minute presentation + discussion
    • 60-minute workshop
    • 5-minute, 20 second Pecha Kucha research share

    Proposals must include innovative pedagogical content that relates to teaching and learning for design studios, lecture, or seminar courses. Sessions will take place in parallel and the venue will hold approximately 25 in each room. We are looking for 15 – 20 workshops and presentations for the retreat, selected through a review process balancing content and schedule.  The Pecha Kucha session will have spaces for at least 10 presenters.  Please note if more than one session style would be acceptable.

    .Topics for Sessions & Workshops

    1. Sustainable Systems at Scale —Activities, programs, and research engaging sustainable approaches to neighborhoods, districts, villages, cities and regions – Air, Water, Temperature, Human Comfort, Acoustics, Light, Other.
    2. Material Impacts —Activities, assignments, and exercises that address the impact of material selection on resources, materials, and manufacturing energy.
    3. Climate + Resilience —Projects and activities involving weather and climate analysis and strategies that address building and community impacts.
    4. Strategies and Tools—Exemplar tools, methods, and strategies that help students and practitioners engage sustainability, especially at a larger scale.
    5. Roundtable Discussions & Working Groups—“Hot topics,” which could include case studies, book and grant proposals, promotion/tenure/mentorship issues, contributions to the 2050 Imperative, and so on.

    Pecha-Kucha Session: Request a slot in the fast paced Pecha Kucha session to quickly share emerging ideas using the popular 20 slides/20 seconds format.

    Your proposals must include (See Proposal Template below):

    •  Name(s) of session organizer(s)/presenter(s)
    •  Contact information (institution, email, telephone)
    •  Session type selected from the following:
    •  30-minute Workshop
    •  60-minute Workshop
    •  Round Table Discussion
    •  Pecha-Kucha Presentation
    •  Title of Session or Presentation
    •  Conference theme addressed by your proposal (choose from those above)
    •  Description (250 words maximum)
    •  Learning objectives (3–5 goals to be achieved by participants)
    •  Intended outcomes and deliverables to be achieved by participants (3–5)
    •  Take away (if any) for attendees

    E-mail your proposal to James Leach by 20 June 2021, 5:00pm Pacific Time with "SBSE Retreat Proposal" in the subject line. Proposals will be reviewed by the Conference Program Team and accepted proposal leaders will be notified by email.

    Critical Dates:

    • March 2021 Announcement
    • May, 2021 Call for (additional) Proposals
    • June 20, 2021 Proposal Deadline
    • No later than June 30, 2021 Proposal Notifications


    To register for this event, please visit the membership portal:

    Critical Dates:

    • June 15, 2021 Registration Opens
    • June 30, 2021 Jeff Cook Scholarship applications due
    • June 30, 2021 SBSE Student Scholarship applications due
    • July 1, 2021 Presenters Registration deadline
    • July 15, 2021, 5pm PDT Extended Registration deadline



    Retreat fee $350 - $425

    The registration fee 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 we wanted to make sure that it was clear that they were not in the Post-Retreat Tour Fee.  



    • August 2-5, 2021 SBSE Retreat
    • August 5, Tour (optional)

    Detailed schedule of sessions will be posted as soon as available.


    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.  


    • Jonathan Bean, University of Arizona, Architecture
    • Tom Collins, Ball State University, Dept of Architecture*
    • Ruina Du, University of Idaho, Art and Architecture
    • David Fannon, Northeastern University, Architecture
    • Bruce, Haglund, University of Idaho*
    • Alison Kwok, University of Oregon, Department of Architecture
    • James Leach, University of Detroit Mercy, School of Architecture
    • Kristin, Nelson, University of Detroit Mercy, School of Architecture
    • Ulrike Passe, Iowa State University, Architecture
    • Troy Peters, Wentworth Institute of Technology*
    • Nicholas Rajkovich, University at Buffalo, Department of Architecture
    • Kayla Reed, University of Minnesota, College of Design
    • Georg Reichard, Virginia Tech, Building Construction
    • Mary Rogero, Miami University, Architecture and Interior Design*
    • NJ Unaka, ReThink Factory*
    • James Wasley, University of Wisconsin-Milwakee, Architecture

    *) remote participation