Technology and Design
Architecture Science and Technology provides an introduction to Building Technologies and is conducted in Term 4, the first term in the Architecture and Sustainable Design Pillar. It discusses the applications of technology and physics in architecture and synthesises them with construction methods and material choices in a series of design challenges. These sequentially build up on each other and lead to the elaboration of the construction design for a small building. Each sequence is introduced in weekly lectures and then further examined and applied through the use of parametric and visual programming tools in the subsequent lab sessions. This process aims for two distinctive learning experiences: on the one hand, the composition of these tools is based on physical principles and scientific knowledge. They are demonstrated so that students can identify the underlying logics. On the other hand, these tools are parametric and hence support intuitive learning by enabling any design modifications to be visually assessable and quantifiable.
The design challenges start with the exploration of a building’s environment on a broad scale through the study of climatic conditions and how architecture can respond. This centres around the impacts of solar radiation and wind. In the subsequent phases, the topics zoom more and more into the building by shifting the focus on continuously smaller scales. Building systems are introduced next to describe and classify the various types of components that are required to assemble a building. Foundations, superstructure, infill systems, building envelope and technical infrastructure are addressed. When structural systems are discussed, basic principles of statics are presented in both conventional calculation and graphic static methods. This provides fundamental knowledge for the second core course on building technology, when structural design and assessment will be taught in more depth. In a next step in this course, building materials are investigated and respective choices are compared in their thermal performance and ecological impacts. The various aspects are eventually integrated in the formulation of construction design concepts for a small building.
The ultimate goal in Architecture Science and Technology is to use technology, navigate between measurable and intuitive modifications, identify the forces that act on a building and synthesise the complex demands of a design by developing detailed information on its construction proposal.
Buildings contribute to almost 40% of the total global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, commonly described as carbon footprint. As a consequence, architecture and in particular the aspects concerning building technologies are facing a massive challenge. In return, they offer immense opportunities and any actions in architecture can be significant in order to contribute to a reduction of our ecological impacts. A large part, a little less than 30% of the total emissions are caused by operating buildings, which includes water and energy consumption. These portion is referred to as operational energy. It is mostly affected by a building ’s technical infrastructure, and can to some extent be mitigated by passive design considerations such as shading devices to prevent overheating.
The first design tasks in this course addresses passive design as a means to environmentally conscious solutions. The area of energy design will be elaborated in depth in the third of the core building technology courses, on architectural energy systems. Whereas this field has been receiving a lot of attention and has made technological advances leading to lower ecological impacts, the study of materials and the consideration of embodied energy has made less advances. All energy consumed and the Greenhouse Gasses emitted during the sourcing and processing of materials, the production and manufacturing of components and the assembly of a building are subsumed in the Embodied Carbon (EC). Once a building is finished, there is little further change to this unless parts need to be maintained or a building undergoes renovation or adaptation. Yet this portion represents 11% of the total GHG emissions, and by looking at material choices in the context of structural and thermal behaviour, this course looks at the impact of different design decisions.
Architecture Science and Technology addresses decarbonisation as a pressing challenge in the built environment, fosters analytical skills and motivates a critical discourse on design choices and the impact of buildings on the environment.
The course is going through a series of assignments that follow up on each other sequentially. They are all based on tools that are built in the lab sessions and support both an intuitive understanding as much as quantitative assessments of the impact of physical forces on buildings.
The first part of this toolkit builds a solar diagram for climatic analysis, the second a structural frame, the third supports ta prediction of the ecological impact, and the fourth generates a diagram of a thermal transfer through a building component.
Implementation of Augmented Reality in 2020
As part of an effort to further evolve the course into a hybrid physical and virtual education model, Augmented Reality (AR) components were introduced in the course in 2020. Whereas Virtual Reality (VR) technologies depend on rather expensive equipment, e.g. to visualise 3d models with the aid of headsets, AR is an inbuilt feature of the most commonly current smart phone models. It allows users to visualise 3d models using the phones’ interface and place them into a real environment. IKEA is a prominent example for this application, where customers can choose different furniture designs and place them into their homes.
In 20.201 AST the technology was implement to visualise the final project outcome of the course. The building envelopes that were derived from climatic conditions in the first lab assignment and the structural systems from the second assignment that support these envelopes can both be downloaded on smart phones and projected into a real environment. Students and other viewers can assess the models in full scale, examine the concepts and relate to the scale in full dimensions by comparing the models to their immediate surroundings. This technology makes the course outcomes tangible and more relatable than on-screen visualisations.
The translation process from CAD model to AR model was developed in a Undergraduate Research Opportunity project (UROP) in 2020, with the help of two first year students (Freshmores) and one third year student. It is entirely based on Open-Source tools and was documented by the UROP team so that it can be implemented by course participants without prior knowledge. It was tested in 20.201 AST and examples can be found at http://asd.courses.sutd.edu.sg/ast/2020-student-projects/team-3/, general information can be found at http://asd.courses.sutd.edu.sg/ast/. After this first implementation in a course, the technology was further used in 3.007 Design Thinking and Innovation in 2021. The students were encouraged to visualise their designs using AR, a good example can be found at http://asd.courses.sutd.edu.sg/dti-teams/3-007-design-projects/cohort-2-design-projects/cohort-2-group-1/project-part-4/.