4.411J / EC.713J
D-Lab Schools: Building Technology Laboratory

8.01, 18.01
Required of: 
Restricted elective for BSA; Arch + Design Minors

This course focuses on the improved design and/or retrofit and technical analysis of schools, primarily but not exclusively in developing countries.   Goals of our investigations include improving the thermal and luminous environment of classrooms to provide visually and thermally comfortable conditions for students and teachers with reduced need for energy-consuming systems; reducing indoor concentrations of airborne pollutants from indoor and outdoor sources;  and developing structural systems that reduce embodied energy and use of environmentally detrimental materials. The focus on the physical environment for education builds on previous work within the Building Technology Program, MIT’s D-Lab and this course for schools in Cambodia, Haiti, Nepal, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Singapore (as an exemplar for Southeast Asia) and South Africa. 

The course is set up as a series of short studies and lab-based projects, to be performed in teams formed to take best advantage of the skill sets of class participants.  Provided connections with local governmental or non-governmental partners encourage students to explore site- and country-specific educational systems and identify programmatic requirements for new or renovated classrooms. Lectures cover climate analysis, thermal comfort, natural ventilation, daylighting, and structural design. Necessary in-class instruction in simulation software will be supplemented by online tutorials. Results of these investigations will be compiled in a report, prepared in stages and submitted in final version at the end of the term. 

Software we anticipate using includes Rhino and the associated Grasshopper visual scripting program, which will allow us to perform climate, thermal comfort and energy analyses within a design framework that easily obtains necessary geometrical information from a CAD model.  We will also employ stand-alone software for structural design, airflow analysis and pollutant transport.

Course objectives:

  • Develop an understanding of culture, education systems, climate and construction. methods and materials in the country and local region of the school under consideration
  • Develop an ability to analyze climate, its impact on the thermal comfort of school occupants and its influence on building design.
  • Through experiments, application of engineering fundamentals and simulations, learn to quantify key aspects of building performance, including daylighting, moderation of indoor temperature, natural ventilation, and structural integrity and efficiency.
  • Improve written and oral communication skills, including an ability to present design concepts and building performance to a non-technical audience.