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Net Zero Energy Through Adaptive Reuse

Student: Ashley Brenner
Advisor: Deirdre Hennebury

From academic papers to the popular press, it is clear that the increasing world population is resulting in an unsustainable acceleration of energy consumption and material extraction. In architecture, one impact of this growth has been the need for more housing with its
associated environmental burdens including the energy required to extract and transport raw building materials, and to construct and maintain these homes. In an attempt to reduce these costs, the green building movement emerged in the 1990s to promote resource-efficiency throughout a building’s life-cycle.

Today, two of the most important design strategies for achieving sustainable goals are adaptive reuse and net zero energy. Although adaptive reuse projects are not a new phenomenon and have historically embraced design economy, utility, and durability, those including net zero energy objectives account for fewer than 25% of these projects. Clearly the potential of net zero reuse is not being realized. Through the analysis of case studies in adaptive reuse and net zero building, this thesis seeks to evaluate best practices in sustainable architecture that will inform a set of design development guidelines. The goal of this research is that these principles will assist in
removing existing barriers to the successful implementation of net zero reuse.


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Customization of Standardized Housing in High-Risk Areas

Student: Shannon Iafrate
Advisor: Scott Shall

Human populations are largely centered along coastal lines leaving them vulnerable to disaster [1]. In 2013 alone, 22 million people were displaced from their homes as a result of natural disasters [3]. Of these people, low-income families are at a disproportionate risk for catastrophic loss and have a weakened ability to recover from such losses [2]. Architecture can, and is intended to, provide humans with the universal right to live. But, as universal as this right is, only 2% of the world’s population can afford sustainable housing [4].
This is not an architectural crisis. It is a global crisis which architecture can improve. This thesis is not framed around theoretical research in architecture, but instead examines what architecture, in its purest form, is meant to do: provide shelter. It is a response to the global crises of poverty and natural disasters. The primary goal of the research is to seek a proactive rather than reactive solution.

Through case studies and research, manufactured housing is identified as an area of limited resources and high vulnerability during hurricanes. Studies have found that the main cause of damage to manufactured homes (therefore, the main risk for economic and disaster damage) is add-on construction [5]. However, the primary purpose of add-on construction is to allow for individuality and personalization within a standardized environment. By investigating a flexible framework that can be customized while still withstanding severe storms, manufactured home residents can make an investment into their daily life, rather than a single moment of defense.

This work an architectural investigation into economic solutions for impoverished areas that steps back from radical advancements and reconnects architecture with the sheltering and sustaining of human life. It takes a proactive approach to disaster and personalization. The purpose is to provide a theory that user groups can take and apply, ultimately developing new theory, safer homes and a stronger identity.

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