Abstract artwork by Swensen

Research Projects

2012 Projects

Image of Carmen Trudell

Improving Indoor Air Quality by Passively Pre-filtering Harmful Particulates from Outdoor Air

Carmen trudell, assistant professor, architecture department
email: ctrudell@calpoly.edu


Combining passive architectural ventilation principles with air cleaning principles used in industrial hygiene has fostered a new type of performing wall system. Several modules for filtration of relatively large airborne particulates (i.e. sand, dust, soot, ash, and pollen) have been conceptually designed through previous research while studying at the Center for Architecture, Science, and Ecology (CASE).

A multidisciplinary team of Cal Poly students in architecture, environmental engineering, and aeronautical engineering will carry-forward this research by refining the design, iteratively fabricating and wind tunnel testing, optimizing, and documenting these modules. The modules are made from low-tech non-toxic materials such as ceramic or pressed-earth making applications in underdeveloped regions feasible, and making this a sustainable long-term solution.


Image of Jeff Ponitz

Fabricating Environmental Comfort

jeff ponitz, assistant professor, architecture department
email: jponitz@calpoly.edu


Environmental comfort is critical to productivity in working and learning environments, which are often expansive, undifferentiated spaces where users have little or no control over their personal space. This research will focus on performative ceiling systems as a means for positively impacting environmental comfort in working and learning spaces. Digital and physical processes of design, analysis, and fabrication will be integrated in the development of prototypes for ceiling systems that control airflow, sound, and light to create zones of comfort—defined not only in terms of thermal, acoustic, and photometric performance, but also in aesthetic and psychological terms.

Download Fabricating Environmental Comfort (.pdf).

2011 Projects

image of Cal EMA mitigation plan cover

2010 State of California Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan (SHMP)

ken topping, professor, city and regional planning department
email: ktopping@calpoly.edu

william siembieda, professor, city and regional planning department
email: wsiembie@calpoly.edu

michael boswell, professor, city and regional planning department
email: mboswell@calpoly.edu

This project seeks to significantly reduce deaths, injuries and other losses to property and the environment caused by natural and human-made hazards in California. Its scope is statewide and includes mitigation guidance for use by state agencies, local agencies and the private sector. This Plan earned "enhanced plan" status from FEMA's national mitigation office and thus qualifies the state to receive millions of additional dollars in the event of a Presidential-declared disaster in the state. This is one of only nine enhanced plans in the U.S. Special attention is given to earthquake, fire and flood hazards through mapping and risk analysis. A team of 64 state agencies participated in the plan development. CalEMA provided funding support. (The lead project team included Ken Topping, William Siembieda and Michael Boswell; all from the CRP department. Faculty from four Cal Poly colleges and many students were included in this work effort).

Go to http://www.caloes.ca.gov/cal-oes-divisions/hazard-mitigation for the 2010 SHMP.

California earthquake map

California Vital Infrastructure Vulnerability Assessment (Cal VIVA)

jill nelson, assistant professor, architectural engineering department
email: jinelson@calpoly.edu

jim guthrie, assistant professor, architectural engineering department
email: jbguthri@calpoly.edu

The California Vital Infrastructure Vulnerability Assessment (Cal VIVA) project became a viable project in Winter 2011. This large FEMA-funded project is a collaborative effort between Cal Poly and the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA). Jill Nelson, PE, SE and Jim Guthrie, PE, SE, Assistant Professors in the Architectural Engineering Department, are the Principal Investigators for the project. Both have recently joined the faculty at Cal Poly, after several years in private practice, and have significant experience in similar type projects. Jill Nelson and Jim Guthrie have been collaborating with the CAED City & Regional Planning (CRP) Department for the past year in connection with CRP's contract with Cal EMA to prepare the 2010 State Hazard Mitigation Plan (SHMP). The Cal VIVA project is a natural outgrowth of this effort and will serve as a vehicle to utilize the hands-on philosophy of Cal Poly to assist Cal EMA in its efforts to better determine the seismic vulnerability of state-owned buildings.

The Cal VIVA project will help Cal EMA prepare for natural disasters by identifying state-owned buildings that house critical functions and are vulnerable to earthquakes. Once these building have been identified, the State can plan for reductions in vulnerability by relocation of functions vital to continuity of operations or seismic strengthening of the building housing those functions. It is planned that in the future this project will expand to include assessments of the states' building inventory's vulnerability to other natural disaster such as flooding and urban wildfires.

The project will develop and test a prioritization process for all state-owned buildings. One of the first project milestones will be a test of the prioritization process against the database of state-owned property to generate a list of potentially vulnerable structures. A sample of these critical structures will be investigated by Cal Poly personnel. Based on field investigation and review of existing documentation, seismic evaluations will be prepared and upgrade concepts developed for these selected buildings. The results of these field investigations and evaluations will be reviewed as a means of refining the prioritization process and assessment methodology. A report will be prepared that will document the process as well as develop longterm planning goals for the state.

The grant includes funding for faculty and graduate students from the Architectural Engineering Department and other key personnel from other departments within the University. There will be opportunities to bring aspects of the project into the classroom in the form of seismic evaluation and upgrade and public-policy decisionmaking. It is planned that the project will also serve as a springboard for Master's projects involving seismic vulnerabilities. The grant will run from February 2011 to June 2012.

Photo of Greve

Climate Adaptation Policy Guide

adrienne greve, assistant professor, city and regional planning department
email: agreve@calpoly.edu

Faculty and students in the CRP department are working with the California Emergency Management Agency and California Natural Resources Agency to develop an Adaptation Policy Guide (APG). The APG is intended to provide a decision-making framework for use by local and regional stakeholders to aid in the interpretation of climate science and develop a systematic rationale for reducing risks caused, or exacerbated, by climate change. The APG also may be a useful resource for State and private sector stakeholders. This work will advance progress made through the California Climate Adaptation Strategy (CAS) and State Hazard Mitigation Plan (SHMP) by providing straightforward, yet flexible, guidance for communities to begin taking direct actions in response to climate impacts.

Effective local adaptation policy development must take into account the local environmental, economic, and social context. The APG is not intended to provide a prescriptive set of strategies. Instead, it will provide a framework to guide jurisdictions through the critical considerations necessary for adaptation policy development. Primary components of the APG include the following:

  • Guidelines for interpretation of climate change science for local relevance;
  • The steps and critical considerations for conducting a local vulnerability assessment;
  • A process for developing a local risk assessment;
  • An adaptation strategy toolkit that identifies areas of action, example strategies, and the considerations necessary to tailor policy options to meet local needs;
  • A method for prioritization of adaptation strategies; and
  • Guidance on integration of adaptation strategies into local policy documents including general plans, local hazard mitigation plans, local coastal plans, climate action plans, and sustainable community strategies.

Dr. Adrienne Greve is serving as project manager for the APG. Development of the APG began in February 2011 and will be completed in June 2012. The development process has two outreach components. The first is an advisory committee comprised of representatives from State and regional agencies and organizations. This committee will help assure that the APG is based on best available science and guidance, and includes measures bolstering state, regional and local coordination. The second outreach effort is intended to assure that the APG meets the needs of local jurisdictions. A suite of cities and counties representing a range of project impacts and adaptation needs will be selected to pilot the APG. The APG development team will spend time with stakeholders in these communities to assure clear, usable content for local policy-makers.

2011 Seed Grant Projects

photo of archerphoto of mcdaniel

Ultra-Low Forced Vibration Testing

graham c. archer and cole c. mcdaniel
associate professors, architectural engineering department

Our vision is to advance the understanding of structural dynamics through Ultra-Low Forced Vibration Testing (UL-FVT). This research directly aligns with the RCRI Innovative Technology emphasis area. UL-FVT involves shaking full-scale buildings with very low excitations at resonance to determine the dynamic characteristics of the structure. Our work to date has shown that the UL-FVT predicts building structure behavior that is similar to that predicted by a computational model. The next phase of this research is to secure external funding to validate the UL-FVT with larger amplitude FVT. This proposed work supports grant writing activities associated with our UL-FVT research.

photo of cabrinha

Greenwall Greenhouse at Chumash Farms

mark cabrinha, assistant professor, architecture department
email: mcabrinh@calpoly.edu


The Greenwall Greenhouse is a vertical farm greenhouse designed in collaboration with Chumash Farms in Los Osos. The Northern Chumash Tribal Council has established an organic farm in Los Osos with the intention of developing a sustainable way of life for the Chumash as well as a greenhouse project to demonstrate future sustainable agricultural practices through vertical farming. The Greenwall Greenhouse is a prototype greenhouse utilizing custom prefabricated vertical greenwalls as the primary enclosure and structural support structure, with a lightweight gridshell enclosure to form the greenhouse. The project is designed to be prefabricated, lightweight, and deployable through a flat-pack approach that can be assembled without skilled labor.

photo of greve

Climate Action Plan Implementation Pilot Study

adrienne greve, assistant professor, city and regional planning department

Climate Action Plans (CAPs) are a relatively new area of planning policy development. Due to this short history, there is little research evaluating the outcomes for communities that have adopted and begun implementation of a CAP. CAPs rely, in part, on shifts in the behavior and values of the residents in a community. This effort seeks to develop and pilot a tiered research effort intended to assess the social outcomes of CAP implementation. This effort builds on or complements multiple ongoing research efforts within the CRP Department and an interdisciplinary effort that spans multiple colleges at Cal Poly.

photo or laursen

Out-of-plane Structural Behavior of Locally Manufactured Compressed Earth Block Walls

peter laursen, assistant professor, architectural engineering department
email: plaursen@calpoly.edu

Stabilized compressed earth block (CEBs) structures are popular in underdeveloped parts of the world because of its low cost, sustainable use of indigenous materials, and its inherent simplicity. The current design practice for CEB structures in regions with severe natural hazards (typhoons and earthquakes) is highly questionable in terms of structural integrity. This is accentuated by the complete lack of experimental out-of-plane load testing of CEB walls. However, scientific evidence to prove a change in current design practice could make this a safer and more reliable choice.

The objectives of the work proposed here are to (1) plan an experimental testing program on the out-of-plane performance of CEB walls, including prototype wall design, testing setup design and manufacturing, coordination with the testing facility, and testing protocol development, and (2) prepare applications for external research funding for continued CEB wall research.

2010 Seed Grant Final Reports

photo of edmond saliklisphoto of robert arens

Rapidly Assembled Emergency Shelters

robert arens (r), professor, architecture
email: rarens@calpoly.edu
edmond saliklis (L), associate professor, architectural engineering
email: esalikli@calpoly.edu

Our multidisciplinary team focuses on helping distressed populations by applying design thinking to create an efficient, economical, and environmentally responsible emergency shelter. Although the scale of global disaster relief is overwhelming (and trending alarmingly higher), a mass-produced shelter design is a challenge well-suited to our disciplines of architecture and architectural engineering. On a more immediate level, this project provided an opportunity for our team to work collaboratively and employ a methodology—versioning—that uses digital tools to integrate design, testing, assembly and production into a single process.

The team of faculty and students has, to date, created three related versions of a shelter using a design process based on (1) the vertical integration of shared expertise, (2) the utilization of full-scale prototypes created with digital fabrication methods, and (3) extensive testing using both analytical and empirical testing. The shelter, with its equal emphasis on design, production and assembly, is a perfect opportunity to apply our developing methodology inspired by industrial and packaging design, and use it to create a single feedback loop that drives both design and fabrication. Given the need for large numbers of shelters (due to the growing frequency of disasters) in the face of diminishing resources, the team focuses on shelter designs based on efficiently fabrication and construction from sustainable materials.

Our research leads us to believe that shelters are most viable if they are hybrids of short-lived, fully recyclable materials and long-lived, reusable materials. This approach will satisfy the need for short-term shelter (without adding significantly to the waste stream) and provide a source of generic building materials (to be used in long-term rebuilding efforts).

Go to Rapidly Assembled Emergency Shelters final report.

Photo of Cesar Torres Bustamante

Inmap: Immigration Mapping Project

cesar torres bustamante, assistant professor, landscape architecture dept.
email: ctorresb@calpoly.edu

Immap is a project that depicts intricate economic and demographic relationships of immigrants in the United States by engaging mapping technologies self-reflexively. It focuses on Mexican immigrants, the largest group of Hispanic-origin people in the United States (66%) and the highest percentage in unauthorized migrants (56% of unauthorized population). The project actively maps relationships derived from Mexican immigrants in the U.S., constructing a 1:1 map in which the viewer is in the map. Rather than an isolated object, Immap becomes an extension of the viewer, a limb through which networks of information are used as a trajectory for inquiry and speculation. To better understand and critically act on the extent and repercussions of this current situation, information needs to be mapped tangibly: the mappings that Immap proposes develop an interactive interface that allows the user to physically manipulate and engage with the map.

The project maps economic and demographic, addressing the following questions:

  • In terms of demographics, how is the immigration landscape of the United States constituted? How has the immigrant population demographics changed over time?
  • What is the economic contribution through remittances from Mexican immigrants into U.S. economy? How have remittances also shaped Mexican economy?

Download Immap: Immigration Mapping Project (pdf) final report.

photo of Jun-Hyun Kim

Assessing the Built Environment Conditions for Walking and Biking Around Elementary Schools in San Luis Obispo, CA (ABC-SLO)

jun-hyun kim, ph.d., assistant professor, landscape architecture department
email: jkim99@calpoly.edu

Childhood obesity has become a major public health challenge in the U.S. Recent evidence shows that well-designed built environments supporting walking, bicycling and other healthy physical activities can help society address this challenge. This research examines the overall built-environment quality around school properties to determine specific barriers and facilitators of walking and biking among children and adolescents living in San Luis Obispo, CA. In addition, this research refines a school audit instrument based on the review of existing audit tools.  It provides a pilot test to identify the quality of the walking/biking conditions in San Luis Obispo County.

Download Assessing the Built Environment Conditions for Walking and Biking Around Elementary Schools in San Luis Obispo, CA (ABC-SLO) (pdf) final report.

photo of Professor Korman

Determining Multidiscipline Time-Space Relationships for Building Information Modeling of Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Systems (MEP) Systems

thomas m. korman, ph.d., pe, pls, associate professor, construction management
email: tkorman@calpoly.edu

The recent introduction of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software solutions provides a virtual construction solution, which includes the following elements: design (3-D), scheduling (4-D), cost (5-D) and life-cycle (6-D).  These elements can be interlinked.  Practitioners, however, still face similar problems as they have in the past.  Entry of incorrect data or faulty assumptions into the BIM system results in project personnel being misled by the output from the system.  While most BIM software solution have the ability to contain information and data regarding a project, they do not contain knowledge-based logic and reasoning structures to assist users during the planning and design and, therefore, lack the capability to assist in the resolution of time-space conflicts.  

To be able to fully realize to the potential of BIM software solutions in the future, knowledge capture and the integration of logic and reasoning structures is imperative.  As stated above, by using BIM software solutions, the determination of physical interferences has become a mundane task.  BIM software solutions are able to contain scheduling (4-D) data and link it with the geometric model.  The RCRI-funded research provided the necessary time to collect the data needed to prepare an improved proposal to submit to NSF under the Research for Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) grant program.  This task involves identifying and classifying time-space relationships for MEP systems and developing a preliminary theory for a logic-and-reasoning structure to assist with the project scheduling of MEP systems in BIM.

Download Determining Multidiscipline Time-Space Relationships for Building Information Modeling of Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Systems (MEP) Systems (pdf) final report.

Troy Peters

SolarShoeBox, Passive Solar Interface for EnergyPlus

troy peters, assistant professor, architecture department

Architects who want to design sustainable, green and energy-efficient buildings frequently find it difficult or too time-consuming to use and learn building simulation software. To address the shortcomings of integrating building simulation in architectural design and to make it more appealing to architects, this project develops a simple interface for EnergyPlus. A Macintosh version that has a Help/Tutorial panel along with additional modules for daylighting is available.

Go to SolarShoeBox, Passive Solar Interface for EnergyPlus final report.

photo of Professor Simonian

lonny simonian, associate professor, construction management department
email: lsimonia@calpoly.edu

Building Information Modeling (BIM) offers the potential for significant savings in the cost and time required to construct a building.  There are, however, several legal issues associated with its use.  These issues include: ownership of the BIM model and data, allocation of risks, privity of contract and third-party reliance, professional design responsibility, standard of care, effect of the Spearin doctrine, and consideration of the economic loss rule.

Despite the significant benefits associated with BIM, the design and construction industry has not properly addressed these issues.  While our legal system principally is concerned with individual rights and responsibilities, BIM is essential a collaborative effort amongst several different entities. This difference in focus between personal versus collective betterment results in a tension between an individual firm’s need to tightly define their responsibilities and limit their reliance on others, and the need to promote collaboration and encourage reliance on information stored within a shared building model.  This research examines current literature to determine the legal implications associated with the use of BIM.  The outcomes of this research effort provide the basis for a research grant proposal to one or more of the organizations sponsoring funded research, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), and/or the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Go to Building Information Modeling (BIM) – Legal Issues and Risk Management final report.

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