|The Vital Signs Project: Resource Packages
As part of the Vital Signs Project, twelve faculty members from architecture schools in the United States and Canada have developed a series of flexible, modular "Resource Packages" that address physical building performance issues such as energy use, the experiential qualities of buildings, and occupant well being. Each package provides protocols for the field evaluation of existing buildings, activities that may in turn lead to written "Building Case Studies" describing student findings. Students are encouraged to develop hypotheses, or "hunches", about how and why an actual building performs in a given way. These "hunches" can grow out of a building visit, library research on the building, or information covered in the Resource Packages. The existing building then serves as a site where students can test design hypotheses through direct experience. For example, how comfortable is life under the fritted glass of Helmut Jahn's United Airlines terminal in Chicago? Have the widely acclaimed energy-conserving features of the National Audubon Society's headquarters performed as intended by the designers? Are the occupants satisfied with the interior environmental qualities? The knowledge and experience gained in studying questions such as these will influence student attitudes toward design and the physical environment at a formative time in their development.
The project's Resource Packages address a host of physical performance
topics such as whole building energy use, the dynamics of solar shading devices, natural
ventilation, and occupant thermal comfort and are organized in a graphically cohesive
format. Each individual package contains a variety of material including: wing.
The HOBOTemp single-channel data acquisition system from ONSET Computer. The HOBOTemp's small size allows it to be easily placed in a building for data collection. When collection is complete the information is downloaded to a microcomputer and exported to a spreadsheet program.
|.The Resource Packages are not intended to make up a "model course", but
to be adaptable to the preferences and needs of instructors and the different traditions
of particular architecture programs. They can be used by faculty members in a variety of
ways - to produce handouts, course readers, assignments and studio briefs. They can also
serve as a starting point for students interested in independently pursuing further
The protocols included in each Resource Package enable students to learn through observation, survey, interviews and direct measurement. As with the rest of the Resource Package, these protocols are intended to be adaptable to a number of student and faculty needs. For this reason, exercises and measurement techniques are typically organized at three different levels. The first level presumes a single building visit and involves observations, interviews, and survey techniques. Limited instrumentation, or none at all, is employed. This might be appropriate as a studio programming exercise or as part of a survey course. The second level usually involves more than one visit and may require simple instrumentation. The data gathered can be compared to relatively simple simulation techniques assisting students in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of abstract building performance prediction methods. This would be appropriate to a seminar setting or as a lab assignment in a lecture class. The third level involves study over longer periods of time and may employ more complex data acquisition systems. Level three exercises typically add time series data collection to the procedures in the previous levels. This would be appropriate as an independent project or graduate level work.
The protocols included in the Resource Packages are not intended to be all inclusive. Architectural educators and interested students are encouraged to develop their own exercises on the topics covered in the Vital Signs Resource Packages or on others of their own choosing.
All contents copyright (C) 1998. Vital Signs Project. All rights reserved.