VDS Summer Studio

A few weeks ago I was able to participate in a very interesting joint project between Syracuse University and Nanjing University. The project was designed to be an intervention and improvement to an existing structure.

Virtual Design Studio (VDS) is a design program that is still in the developmental stage. The goal is to integrate lighting, ventilation, structure and a variety of other analyses into one digital modeling system to improve environment conditions of building. Using the model of the VDS system, we set out to analysis an existing building, draw up concepts and designs meant to improve the over all energy consumption of the building while also addressing other issues and possible avenues of improvement and integration. The new design was then analyzed using several digital modeling programs to ensure that occupants received an improved architectural environment.




Running building simulations


The VDS project itself was crammed into a 2 week crash course accented with guest speakers and lectures detailing environmental architecture, design innovations and a wide range of project overviews which were extremely inspirational. It was also interesting that each group had members from different fields of study: architects, building technology, engineers and city planners; which created a wonderful atmosphere for creativity and helped open your eyes to concerns that you may not have though of while simply looking at the project from your usual vantage point.


One of the groups presenting their work

In the case of my group, we reworked the design of the Liberal Arts building on the Nanjing University campus. The building is already scheduled to be renovated and will become the future home of the Architecture Department, which made the project all the more exciting for our group. The major concerns we would were a lack of good lighting, too small spaces, and poor ventilation. To address these issues made several changes.


To improve lighting we made the windows larger but also used shading panels and reflecting panels to better control how much direct light came into the rooms. To create larger spaces for studios, we moved the corridor from the center of the building, to the north. We also opened the corridors to the facade to improve the natural lighting in those areas. As for ventilation we researched different kinds of window openings along with the natural air flow in the designed space. Finally we opened the front of the building with a glass atrium to improve visibility of the structure (and entrance) to the main road and stadium to the east.


We also redesigned the envelope of the building. For those of you not familiar with the term, the ‘envelope’ of a building refers to the walls, windows, roof and structural elements that make up the outside of a building. In our case the windows with their newly designed panels, a green wall, and green roof were all part of our envelope design.


We ended up doing a lot of lighting and ventilation analysis as part of our design and one of the things we really hoped to do was show that data in a ‘non-chart like’ visual manner. We also did several renderings of what the newly designed building would look like.


Over all I was really happy to be part of the VDS project. Not only was the course work interesting but the guest lecturers were amazing and the people (both professors and students) involved were all wonderful.

Most (but not all of) the students and teachers that worked on this summer’s VDS project. Not pictured but certainly needing mentioning are Professors Pelken and Vassilev who where absolutely amazing in their guidance during this project.


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