AIA Sustainable Design Competition Winners

Winning design by ISU architecture grad students Mengwei Liu and Anastasia Sysoeva for a multistory, mixed-use infill project in Des Moines.

Iowa State Architecture Grad Students Among Winners in AIA Sustainable Design Competition

AMES, Iowa — A team of Iowa State University architecture graduate students is among the winners of the second annual AIA COTE Top 10 for Students competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA COTE), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and View Dynamic Glass.

The competition recognizes 10 student projects that demonstrate excellence in measures such as design and innovation, land use and site ecology, energy flows and energy future, and the concept of “long life, loose fit.” Judges selected projects that “use a thoroughly integrated approach to architecture, natural systems and technology to provide architectural solutions that protect and enhance the environment.”

“The Living Link,” a project by Mengwei Liu, a graduate exchange student from Tongji University, Shanghai, and ISU second-year architecture graduate student Anastasia Sysoeva, Moscow, is one of the 10 winning projects that will be on display May 19-21 at the 2016 AIA National Convention in Philadelphia and exhibited again at the 105th ACSA Annual Meeting in Detroit in March 2017.

Student design public space

Outdoor public space

Liu and Sysoeva developed their project in the fall 2015 Sustainable Building Design (Net Zero Design) graduate studio taught by Ulrike Passe, associate professor of architecture and director of the ISU Center for Building Energy Research. Students explored the relationship between buildings and environmental forces to produce design projects that make efficient use of energy, water, material and other resources, with the goal of achieving a sustainable and net-zero-energy building design (one that produces roughly as much energy as it consumes).

Sixth Avenue Corridor

In Passe’s studio, seven pairs of graduate students addressed sites along the 6th Avenue Corridor between University Avenue and the Des Moines River in Des Moines. The corridor, located in one of the oldest and most diverse areas of the city, has been named an “Iowa Great Place” by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and is undergoing commercial and cultural revitalization.

Each team designed a multistory, mixed-use infill project for a vacant lot along the corridor. Students visited nonprofit organizations and businesses and went door to door to speak with local residents to learn what types of development were desired and needed before developing their projects.

“Every project was based on the local economy and community needs,” Passe said. “Projects ranged from a laundromat and bus stop to a student center and gym to a food hub/farmers market.”

The Living Link

Liu and Sysoeva proposed two buildings — a community center with a library and children’s activity spaces, and a mixed-use building with a restaurant, residential units and a daycare center — on two lots across the street from one another at the intersection of Clark Street and Sixth Avenue.

Student design library

Community center

The buildings “perform as one system in a state of dialogue with each other,” providing a transitional element from the heavily commercial buildings to the south and the predominantly residential buildings in the surrounding neighborhood, the students explained in their competition submission.

“The most challenging aspect was that we had two sites divided by a road, which meant we needed to connect them as a whole,” said Liu. “We did this through the use of the same building materials and having the building entrances face each other.”

To reinforce that visual connection, the team designed a common landscape with native vegetation and a wooden platform linking the two buildings across Clark Street, Sysoeva said. The platform accommodates vehicle traffic but also promotes pedestrian crossing and creates a space for social gatherings.

Climate and community

The students used lightweight concrete as a primary construction material for its “advantageous thermal performance” and potential to be recycled. They integrated passive energy strategies such as insulation, a double-skin façade, sun-shading devices, natural stack ventilation and cross-ventilation via operable windows.

“Because of climate considerations we took advantage of solar orientation and natural ventilation,” said Sysoeva. “The double-skin strategy can be used for venting hot air in summer and for retaining heat in the winter.”

Photovoltaic roof panels, a green roof on the mixed-use building, a geothermal heat system shared between the buildings, and rainwater collection, storage and reuse also were part of the proposal.

Student design restaurant


The team also was concerned with creating a public space for community interaction both within and outside the buildings. They included bicycle parking in front of the restaurant to encourage eco-friendly transportation alternatives and sited a bus stop with canopy benches in front of the community center to aid public access.

Of “The Living Link,” the AIA COTE Top 10 for Students judges said, “This winning submission has taken an infill site and introduced density, leaving enough space to include the community. The students have successfully integrated the building with the public space and the neighborhood with a variety of social accommodations. The submission successfully addressed all 10 of the measures and incorporated them into a beautiful designed project.”

Three teams of Iowa State architecture graduate students from Passe’s fall 2014 Sustainable Building Design studio were among the inaugural AIA COTE Top 10 for Students last year.