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Generalizing the Particular: Rethinking the Role of the Case Study in Building Technology Courses

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Architechtural Engineering Eduction: Emergent Topics

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Page Count


Page Numbers

22.742.1 - 22.742.10



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Paper Authors


Robert A. Svetz Syracuse University

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Robert Svetz is an Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture at Syracuse University. He lectures on building envelope and interior environment and service systems technology, as well as instructing design studio and a regular fall seminar on representation and design theories related to Serialism and Surrealism in contemporary design. He has worked professionally in New York City offices and taught previously at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

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Generalizing the Particular: High-End Design as the Critical Case Study Factor for Building Technology CoursesThis paper describes a seven-year development and refinement of lecture courses andtheir student case study assignments that leverage architecture students’ inherent interestsin “designer” buildings as the key to teaching building technology courses. Two coursesin particular are discussed - one on building thermal and day lighting envelopeperformance, and another on interior environment and service systems – emphasizingboth their relationship to issues of classroom technology and their further relationship tothe larger curricular sequence. Most importantly, each course leverages an investmentwith formal aesthetic interests to engage issues of technological and code compliantperformance issues. Taught at the first-year B.Arch. level, the “Introduction toTechnology” or “Building Performance” course looks at the most recently publishedvintage of custom compact homes worldwide to broach issues of thermal comfort,climate responsiveness, cultural difference, solar geometry, envelope thermal and daylighting performance. Taught at the third-year B.Arch. level, the “Systems and Services”course aims to provocatively read and interpret medium to large high-profile designprojects that demonstrate well-integrated relationships between their technical systems –from elevators and egress to MEP and acoustics – and their composition and formalvocabularies. These exercises are in tandem with Introductory or Comprehensive Studiorelated exercises and building surveys, where appropriate. Moving beyond traditionalbuilding technology texts, case study work allows that students engage with primarysource materials from Google Earth sites, to original building drawings, to down-the-hallsurvey and metering assignments. If the brunt of jokes regarding level of engagementwith technology in architecture programs has always pointed to its “tech” courses as theleast imaginative and learning-for-the-test forgettable, this explicitly design-oriented casestudy approach takes design to the core of technology teaching in architecturalengineering.

Svetz, R. A. (2011, June), Generalizing the Particular: Rethinking the Role of the Case Study in Building Technology Courses Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18023

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