Headshots of Lisa Iulo, at left, and Elena Vazquez

Architecture professor and recent alum earn international honors for research

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An architecture faculty member in the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture’s Stuckeman School and a recent architecture alumna of the school have been recognized for their research by the Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC), an international association of architectural research centers, academies and organizations committed to the research culture and supporting infrastructure of architecture and related design disciplines.

Lisa Iulo, associate professor of architecture and director of the Hamer Center for Community Design, was named recipient of the 2023 ARCC Mid-Career Research Impact Award. The award acknowledges faculty in architectural research that demonstrates substantive evidence and impact through original contributions, rigorous methods, innovative outcomes, successful dissemination, significance and distinction.

According to the award letter from Adil Sharag-Eldin, ARCC president, Iulo was selected for the honor based on the quality of her research, evidence of an extensive body of inquiry and the impact of her work in the field of architecture.

As director of the Hamer Center for Community Design, Iulo leads a team of researchers in creating community partnerships that integrate socio-economic and environmentally conscious resolution to design and planning problems. The center has partnered with several communities in Pennsylvania and beyond since 1996 to offer design solutions through a community-based approach.

Iulo has become a champion of energy-efficient affordable housing, having many published articles and speaking on the topic at numerous events and peer-reviewed conferences both nationally and internationally.

In 2012, she founded the Energy Efficient Housing Research Group (EEHR) to investigate “responsible housing” in order to inform better housing and more resource-conscious living. In 2014, EEHR partnered with the State College Community Land Trust to research, design and document the GreenBuild Duplex, located at 1394 University Drive in State College, Pennsylvania. The GreenBuild homes are designed to be net-zero energy, meaning they produce as much energy as they use, while remaining affordable to median-income homebuyers in the area.

She also leads the Penn State Initiative for Resilient Communities (PSIRC), which formed in 2019 with support from Phase 3 of the Penn State Strategic Plan seed grant program, to provide an environment of shared discovery in which people can come together to address local resilience challenges of small, riverine communities vulnerable to flood risk.

In collaboration with colleagues from across the University, Iulo has received research funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, as well as the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) and other University entities.

In addition to her extensive work with the Hamer Center for Community Design, Iulo is an associate director of the Center for Climate Risk Management at Penn State.

Elena Vazquez, who graduated with her doctorate in architecture from Penn State in August 2022, was named the 2023 recipient of the ARCC Dissertation Award. The award is intended to honor significant new research in architecture and environmental design and to recognize the achievement of an emerging scholar.

In her doctoral studies as a researcher in the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing (SCDC), Vazquez helped develop a window screen system for buildings that automatically changes its shape based on indoor and outdoor environmental conditions.

Titled “Kinetic Architecture: A performance-based approach for developing a shape-changing skin using bistable and smart materials,” Vazquez developed the responsive building façade system that features screens made of smart and bistable materials on the inside a building’s windows, which open and close based on the weather conditions and lighting outside, as well as the indoor lighting and climate requirements.

“Novel smart materials present exciting new opportunities to rethink our buildings to become attuned and react to outdoor conditions. This study helps advance our understanding of bistability for architectural design, bringing forth a new generation of energy-efficient actuators that help design for a changing climate,” she said.

Vazquez is now a technology and design research fellow at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She earned a graduate certificate in additive manufacturing in 2020 and her master of science in architecture in 2018, both at Penn State.

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