Sharing Your Project & Lessons Learned - Melanie

Your Name
Melanie Porras
Linked Student
Journal Entry For
Module 11 - Sharing Your Project
Mar 15, 2022 8:17 PM
Last Edited
Mar 22, 2022 6:10 PM



  • Key / Essential / Unique Design Features
  • image

The unique design features that I explored in this project was the large overlapping squares. I did this to mirror the stacking feature of the site, Stanford Dish, and for the opportunity to nestle the building into the hills. This structure enabled the creation of additional space either above, such as green roofs, or overhangs which people could occupy beneath. The green roofs also acted as an exterior space for the cafe area on the second floor; this would enable occupants to sit outside if they liked. Lastly, the green roof on the top floor would act as an architectural feature that people from above could use to easily identify the building.


Additionally, the shape and the layout of the building really guided the circulation for the building. And this guided movement forced people both inside and outside the building. This was intentionally done to help blend the interactions between inside and outside spaces. Given that the building’s site location was the Stanford Dish, I wanted occupants to either be visitants of the Stanford Dish trail or have accessibility to the Stanford Dish trail so they could explore the area after.


Lastly, the overhang features were extended by the green roofs to create overhangs on each side. By doing this, I was able to let the appropriate amount of sunlight to come into the building. This was critical for my first design goal of net zero site or source energy. I wanted to ensure that the building would be designed to minimize its energy usage as too much sunlight would force the HVAC demands to be higher.

  • Your Big Successes


The two large big success of this project that I am proud to share is in the materiality itself. I used a mass timber frame with rammed earth as an envelope system. This really integrated sustainable materials into my building which was one of my design goals. Although the rammed earth performs isotropic, meaning it behaves the same in the parallel and perpendicular directions, it’s compressive strength of 2 MPa, was simply not enough to support the loads of the building. So, because of this, I didn’t use the rammed earth walls as a structural wall but rather an envelope wall, so no structural components are actually interacting with the wall itself.


My second big success was using a combination of an atrium and large glass facade that would enable light to enter throughout the whole building. This was part of my third design goal, which was to create positive user experience. I wanted to make sure that occupants not only used the building for the exhibits and to learn more about sustainable building design, but rather used this space as a place to exist and go about living their life, whether it was getting coffee at the cafe, as a study spot, or even just a place to lay outside in the sun. Making my building not only functional but livable and a desirable space, was really important.

  • Your Big Challenges

One of the biggest challenges I faced was the modeling itself. This was my first time using Revit and so getting familiar with the functions and how to use them took a bit of time. However, Revit is pretty user friendly and I was able to pick it up after a few weeks into the class. The other challenge stems from lack of experience designing members and picking correct sizing.


One of largest challenges was size proportions and knowing how to size structural members and HVAC systems. As you can see in the image above, the mass timber columns are disproportionate to the windows mullions and if I had more time I would investigate making the columns smaller and the mullions larger. Ideally, the structural mass timber would be worked into the facade.


My biggest modeling challenges were modeling the HVAC system. This was one of the biggest challenges because of the fickleness of the HVAC modeling components but also because of the location of the atrium. Since my atrium was in the core of the space, I had located the mechanical room just to the left. The location of the atrium made it difficult to navigate around as you could not cut through the space. I ultimately used two different air handlers and tried to create two separate systems: one going to front of the building and one towards the back.

  • Lessons Learned

There are so many different components that go into designing a building. Very holistically, you have to consider the purpose of the building and the method. While its purpose will be accomplished through the architectural design, its method will be accomplished through the structural, HVAC, and plumbing design. The structural, HVAC, and plumbing components are what actually help a building stand and are actually the most important part of the building. It is critical that you think of these systems early on and actually shape your architectural design around it. If you let the opposite happen, you will run into a lot of issues. For me, I wish I had thought about how the atrium would impact HVAC and how the mass timber would connect to the rammed earth walls.

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