July 17, 2024

Architecture students push limits in national competition

Five members of UT’s chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute won an invitation only national competition for their design of an energy-efficient house also accessible to people with disabilities.

The design created by Phil Geiman, Katie Lewis, Jared Pohl, Ryan Stechmann, and Steven Whitmore will go beyond their theoretical concept and will actually be built into a Habitat for Humanity house. The students had to design a 1,300-square-foot Nashville-based home that was compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Energy Star, as well as the energy efficiency criteria of the US Department of Energy.
“Our passage strategy it was trying to allow for natural ventilation as much as possible, and not have to use as much electricity and expensive heating ventilation and air conditioning systems,” said Stechmann. Lewis explained that they even considered the landscape, making sure gardens were wheel chair accessible.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, we were actually not trying to stay in the constraints of the competition but actually push those and see how far we can maybe stretch those,” said Whitmore.
The biggest challenge that the students had to overcome were deadline constraints. The Construction Specifications Institute wanted the preliminary designs during the week of final exams. Outside of this the group was able to work well together. “For a group project it was relatively smooth. We were all very optimistic about the outcome,” said Lewis.
Lewis said  that they were able to play into each other’s strengths. He worked on the design and the writing. Pohl’s strength lied in the technological aspects, specifically in the details of the green roof. Stechmann put together the specification book, which is the text version that helped them convey their design. “I think that’s where we kind of succeeded everyone contributed,” said Pohl.
The group’s motivations varied. Stechmann stated that he was motivated by winning and Pohl was excited by working with different architecture students. For Lewis the design related to her thesis that sustainable architecture is attainable for everyone. “Just the fact that we had the opportunity to get our work, into more of a professional audience was actually pretty exciting for me,” Whitmore said .
Pohl explained that the opportunity went beyond what an academic project requires. “You’re putting that product in front of professionals who actually take it pass schematic design into the construction drawings every day. You had to be right,” he said.

Having the opportunity to create a sustainable architecture design that would be used for Habitat for Humanity seemed to resonate with everyone in the group. Geiman explained that he enjoyed bringing what he considered very high-minded ideas to a very concrete level to a client that may not get that very often.
“We were talking about a lot of the design ideas, we were like well you know is this something that the homeowner can appreciate. Is it something they’re going to value,” Pohl said. “Or is it the cheapest off the shelf stuff. I think that’s kind of where we were really able to enhance the design that we’re going to give someone something that is really nice.”


Edited by Zach Dennis