Could the end of handwaving be nigh? It’s how architects usually get their point across when discussing energy performance. But Marc Schiler hopes new technology—especially BIM—that allows for the precise calculation of a building’s energy use and carbon footprint will make architectural handwaving a thing of the past.
Schiler (shown here, in glasses, with, from left to right, Ryan Hansanuwat, Vasudha Rathi, Goetz Schierle, and Elham Moore) directs the Master of Building Science program at the University of Southern California (USC), a two-year program with more than 20 students from around the world. The program began back in the early 1970s, when it was led by prefab pioneer Konrad Wachsmann. Subsequent directors left the imprint of their own research interests (such as solar access and structures), and Schiler is doing so as well: “My interest has been energy and climate-responsive design all along.” He likes that the program includes students with varied backgrounds; about 60 percent have architecture degrees and 20 percent are engineers, but the other 20 percent is a mix (“Last year we graduated a mathematician”).
“The most recent agenda,” Schiler says, “is to continue on with both structures and environmental issues, but make a crossover into [USC’s] design [instruction].” With other faculty supportive of efforts to, for example, bring environmental controls lessons into the studio, “we get rid of the handwaving,” Schiler says. And that’s progress.