Students Provide Design Input for Penn State Behrend’s Trippe Hall

Penn State architecture and architectural engineering students recently had the opportunity to participate in a unique real-world experience: designing a residence hall.

Trippe Hall, a planned new residence hall for Penn State Behrend, will be built adjacent to the existing Ohio and Almy residence halls at the west edge of campus. The new residence hall, slated for completion by fall semester 2018, will provide housing for about 250 students.

As part of the planning process, students in Arch 412 (Integrative Energy and Environmental Design) and Arch 441 (Architectural Design Analysis) collaborated to research and present design plans, focusing on energy efficiency and sustainability. Students in Arch 412 researched sustainable development strategies appropriate for Trippe Hall and served as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) consultants to the Arch 441 students, who developed design proposals around those strategies.

The collaborative effort came about through Penn State's Sustainable Housing Initiative, established by Tom Richard, director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. "Tom knew there were a lot of people on campus interested in research on sustainable housing and exploring what we can do to keep Penn State in the forefront and maintain opportunities for student engagement," says Lisa Iulo, associate professor of architecture and the faculty member teaching Arch 412. "He was looking for an applied research project that would allow for game-changing practices for looking at energy as it relates to building."

"At the same time, this project would need to fit in with the economics and structure of a real design problem," adds Professor of Architecture Nathaniel Quincy Belcher, who teaches Arch 441. "It had to be a project that could actually be executed."

Iulo and Belcher saw an opportunity to involve students in researching how the design for Trippe Hall could incorporate sustainable building development and energy savings. The faculty members had also been looking to encourage cross-disciplinary discussions among students, and this project presented an opportunity for students in the Stuckeman School of Architecture to collaborate with architectural engineering students.

Iulo's class focuses on sustainable design concepts in general as well as specific aspects of sustainable design: sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, the indoor environment, materials and resources, and water efficiency. Students worked in teams that focused on each of those categories.

Belcher's class covers the specialties within architectural engineering: lighting, electrical, mechanical, and structural. During the research project, Belcher taught Arch 441 along with Ross Weinreb, instructor of Arts & Architecture, and Charles Cox, instructor of architectural engineering. "We wanted to expose the architectural engineering students to the design process," Belcher explains. "We asked them to look at ways we might be challenged to reduce energy and to apply best practices as well as advanced energy solutions. The students put together proposals for configuration of the building and they provided their design drawings to Lisa's students with ideas for making the building more sustainable."

Throughout the semester, the students also worked with John Bechtel from Penn State's Office of Physical Plant (OPP). "John brought the students up to date with what Penn State is already doing in terms of sustainable buildings, and based on that, as well as on their own research, the students set a vision and goals for sustainable residential housing," Belcher says. "After students presented their vision, OPP gave them feedback on how you take big ideas and ground them to make sure they are durable, affordable, and applicable to an actual project."

Students presented their final designs to a panel of faculty as well as representatives from Housing and Food Services. One team's presentation followed a typical day in the life of a student living in Trippe Hall, allowing the audience to experience the building from the user's point of view. Student presenters highlighted features such as energy-saving light sensors and rooms designed to make the best use of sunlight. Another team showed their design for an airy upper-floor common area with a view of Lake Erie, as well as a rainwater collection system that incorporates architectural tree designs on the facade of the building.

A few student presenters approached the project from a personal perspective, having lived in the residence halls at Penn State Behrend. "This was an opportunity for them to reflect and to apply the knowledge they gained as residential students," Iulo says.

"It was an overarching exercise," Belcher says. "We asked a lot of the students and we pushed them, and they did a great job. Penn State builds to a higher standard than most clients, and it takes the responsibility for bringing in new technologies and ideas."

Iulo and Belcher have compiled the results of the two classes' work into a report intended to support the Trippe Hall effort as well as inform best practices for future Penn State residence halls projects.

Barbara Korner, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, sees the Trippe Hall effort as an ideal way to engage students in on-campus projects. "This is an extraordinary way to enhance the classroom experience," she says. "Working collaboratively on projects that are close to their own neighborhoods, with faculty, designers, engineers, and others from different disciplines, exposes students to a range of perspectives and helps them develop communication and design skills that must come into play for complex design projects."

Chris Hurley, senior director for Housing and Food Services and Commonwealth Campuses Operations, appreciates the students' input. "They brought us some fantastic ideas," he says, "and we plan to share those ideas with the architecture teams bidding on this project."