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Sustainability - Penn State Architecture

Cropped view with an energy-efficient house and wild grasses in the foreground, with a group of students and the Washington Monument in the background.

Architecture Research Cluster

The Sustainability research cluster investigates architecture’s potential to improve the quality of life for current and future societies around the globe, addressing issues of natural resource consumption, pollution prevention, and organizational dependencies. Our faculty address aesthetic, technical, economic, and social issues in projects that cover multiple scales.

From design processes, historical and theoretical aspects of sustainability, material reclamation and reuse, to identifying social structures preventing sustainable practice, this research cluster offers a comprehensive view of sustainability that promotes interdisciplinary integration. Faculty bring both practitioner and academic experience to their investigations, producing generalizable knowledge that can also be applied in the professional practice of architecture.


Explore the faculty and students in this research cluster.

Core Faculty

  • Rahman Azari: life cycle environmental impacts of built environments; innovative construction materials for energy production and carbon sequestration; and building energy and carbon efficiency
  • Laia Celma: sustainable architecture
  • Rebecca Henn: cultural contingencies of design, social structures of sustainability
  • Lisa Iulo: environmentally conscious design education, ecological design and planning, energy and resource efficient building and housing solutions, affordable housing, urban design, community-scale renewable energy, integrative process, and project delivery methods
  • Ute Poerschke: functionalist theory; relationship of design and technology; history and theory of sustainable design; architecture for a renewable energy era

Associated Faculty

  • James Kalsbeek: architecture and memory; materials reclamation
  • Darla Lindberg: organizational systems, responsive social problem solving and public health
  • Alexandra Staub: postwar European housing and urbanism; spatial practices and cultural identity

Ph.D. Students

  • Mahsa Adib
  • Maryam Aman
  • Lara Garcia
  • Elnaz Ghasemi
  • Jie Li
  • Hanin Othman
  • Tasneem Tariq
  • Jingshi Zhang

M.S. Students

  • Arjun Kizhakkemarakkattil Janardhanan
  • Parinaz Mansourimajoumerd
  • Sina Memarian
  • Zia Mohajerzadeh
  • Tasneem Tariq
  • Holly Zimmerman
Student thesis work showing wind temperature and internal airflow 'heat maps' overlaid on architectural images
Technical drawing of prototype for an Artificial Leaf-based Façade Cladding (ALFC) System; design by Rahman Azari (Penn State) and Mohammad Asadi (IIT).

Faculty Research

Section image: Technical drawing of prototype for an Artificial Leaf-based Façade Cladding (ALFC) System; design by Rahman Azari (Penn State) and Mohammad Asadi (IIT).

Artificial Leaf-based Façade Cladding Systems

Technical drawing of prototype for an Artificial Leaf-based Façade Cladding (ALFC) System; design by Rahman Azari (Penn State) and Mohammad Asadi (IIT).

Artificial Leaf-based Façade Cladding Systems for Energy Generation and Carbon Sequestration

Lead Faculty: Rahman Azari
Team: Azari, Rahman (Penn State); Asadi, Mohammad (IIT)
Affiliation: RE2 Lab
Funding: American Institute of Architects (AIA)

The project aims to develop prototype for an Artificial Leaf-based Façade Cladding (ALFC) System and evaluate its thermal and energy generation performance. Artificial Leaf mimics photosynthesis process to convert carbon, water and sunlight into methane and oxygen through a carbon neutral chemical process. The integration of AL into building applications requires development of materials that are abundant, robust, safe, efficient in carbon removal and energy production, and ideally inexpensive. AL also requires fine-tuning and calibration for architectural applications. The student interested in this project would have energy simulation skills as well as interest in environmental performance of buildings.

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Environmental LCA + Urban Sustainability

A line graphic examining life cycle environmental impacts at the scale of city.

Environmental LCA and urban sustainability

Lead Faculty: Rahman Azari
Affiliation: RE2 Lab

This project aims at development of environmental LCA-based models to understand sustainability at urban scale. It proposes a methodology for assessment of embodied carbon and life cycle environmental impacts at the scale of city, and develops statistical models, metrics, and benchmarks to link urban morphology to environmental performance. The student interested in this project will have interest (and ideally skills) in environmental LCA and data-driven methodologies.

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Student Work + Publications

Projects and publications generated by students in the Sustainability research cluster.

Theses in Sustainability

Daylighting in Density: A Parametric Study of High-rise Residential Buildings and Urban Street Canyon Configurations in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sumaiya Mehjabeen (M.S. 2020)
Co-Advisers: Ute Poerschke, Lisa Iulo | Committee: Benay Gursoy Toykoc, Richard Mistrick (Architectural Engineering)
Indigenous Knowledge and Displacement, Audrey Buck (M.S. 2020)
Adviser: Darla Lindberg | Committee: James Cooper

Database as a Tool for Case Study Analysis: Exemplary Temporary Shelters in a Flood Scenario, Tyler John Corbley (M.S. 2019)
Co-Advisers: Benay Gursoy Toykoc, Loukas Kalisperis | Committee: Marcus Shaffer, Lisa Iulo

From Waste Paper and Discarded Textiles to Board Stock: An Exploration of Household Waste as a Material Resource for Making, Andrew Lewis Chesakis (M.S. 2019)
Adviser: Marcus Shaffer | Committee: Esther Obonyo (Architectural Engineering), DK Osseo-Asare

Resonsive Skin: Designing an Adaptive Building Envelope for Warm-Humid Climate using Bamboo Veneer as a Hygroscopically Active Material, Manal Anis (M.S. 2019)
Adviser: Marcus Shaffer | Committee: Benay Gursoy Toykoc, Ute Poerschke

A Systemic Approach for Integrative Design of Buildings and Landscapes: Towards Ecosystem Services Provision in Urban Areas, Clarissa Albrecht Da Silveira (Ph.D. 2018)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Andy Cole, Lisa Iulo, Loukas Kalisperis, Hong Wu

The Circular Economy of Dharavi: Making Building Materials From Waste, Sourav Dey (M.S. 2018)
Co-Advisers: Lisa Iulo, Ute Poerschke | Committee: Ali Memari

Masonry Screen Walls in Paragruay. Creating a Digital Framework for Optimizing Environmental Performance Through Shape Configuration, Elena Vazquez (M.S. 2018)
Co-Advisers: José Duarte, Ute Poerschke | Committee: Denise Costanzo

Branding LEED to Millennials: A Consumer-Oriented Approach to the Marketing of Green Building Certifications, Yasaman Roostaeian (M.S. 2017)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Ralph Oliva (Business), Lisa Iulo, Loukas Kalisperis

How Architectural Design Can Impact The Value of Sustainable Homes. The Case of Center County’s Single-Family Housing, Shahrzad Fadaei (2017)
Adviser: Lisa Iulo | Committee: Scott Wing, Jiro Yoshida (Business), Ali Memari (Civil and Architectural Engineering)

Architects Anonymous: Developing a Participatory, User-Friendly Platform to Generate Region-Specific Climatic Building Design Strategies for the Anonymous Architect, Shivaram Punathambekar (M.S. 2016)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Lisa Iulo, Katsu Muramoto

Opportunities and Life Cycle Energy Impacts of High-Performance Windows in Reducing Energy Use in Residential Buildings, Negar Ashrafi (M.S. 2016)
Adviser: Lisa Iulo | Committee: Shadi Nazarian, Allen Kimel (Material Science and Engineering)

Framing a Turkish Campus Sustainability Assessment SystemCansu Tari (M.S. 2016)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Lisa Iulo, Neil Korostoff (L.Arch.)

A Participatory Approach for Constructing Energy Resiliency, Mina Rahimian (M.S. 2015)
Co-Advisers: Lisa Iulo, Ute Poerschke | Committee: Daniel Cardoso Llach

Design of a Computer Controlled Sun-Tracking Façade Model, Mahzad Tashakori (M.S. 2014)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Jeffrey Brownson, Loukas Kalisperis

Transition as Condition: Toward Flood Resilience Through Flexible Architecture, Karen Henrique (M.S. 2014)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Lisa Iulo, Loukas Kalisperis

Resourceful Perspectives: Valuing Industrial Heritage in Small Towns, Craig T. Bastin (M.S. 2013)
Adviser: Lisa D. Iulo | Committee: Jawaid Haider, Steven A. Walton (STS)

An Approach to Sustainable Regionalism, Moondeep Pradhananga (M.S. 2013)
Adviser: Rebecca Henn | Committee: Ute Poerschke, Mallika Bose

Investigating the Energy Footprint of Conventional Facade Systems To Modern Multi-Layered Façade Systems, Neeraj Chatterji (M.S. 2012)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Lisa D. Iulo, Loukas Kalisperis

Developing a Zero-Carbon Community at Shanghai World Expo Park, Jian Gong (M.S. 2011)
Adviser: Madis Pihlak | Committee: Lisa D. Iulo, Ute Poerschke

An Investigation into a Visual Framework Integrating BIM-ESS workflow in the Early Design Phase, Rohan Haksar (M.S. 2010)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Loukas Kalisperis, George Otto

Applying Sustainable Design Techniques in Palestinian Residential Buildings, Hala Haddad (M.S. 2010)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Madis Pihlak, James Wines

Towards Sustainable Design: The Excluded Issues. LEED Rating System in India, Kaustav Gupta (M.S. 2009)
Adviser: Jawaid Haider | Committee: Lisa D. Iulo, Ute Poerschke

An Investigation into the Methods to Facilitate Understanding of the Use of Energy Simulation Programs by Architects in the Early Design Stage, Suhas Bambardekar (M.S. 2009)
Adviser: Ute Poerschke | Committee: Lisa D. Iulo, Loukas Kalisperis

Hurricane Katrina Aftermath and Post Disaster Construction: Towards a Self-Generative Society, Gina DeLeon (M.S. 2008)
Adviser: Darla Lindberg | Committee: Lisa D. Iulo

Urban Co-Evolution: The Architectural Linkages Between People and Ecology, Emily Denhoed (M.S. 2008)
Adviser: Lisa D. Iulo | Committee: B. Ikubolajeh Logan, Ute Poerschke, James Wines, Loukas Kalisperis