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north dakota design build 2011

While working at North Dakota State University, Malini Srivastava led a team of students in designing and building a demonstration Passive House at the 2011 Minnesota State Fair.

the final Passive House exhibit at the MN State Fair

"Starting in June 2010, the Design/Build studio had - 28 weeks in planning, preliminary site design, and fundraising; 15 weeks in design and documentation; 9 weeks in construction preparation and fundraising, redesign, and documentation; 2 days in packing and transportation; 4 weeks in set-up and construction of the exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair; 2 weeks of exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair; 1.5 weeks of dismantling and packing; 2 days of transportation to Wisconsin; ~30 weeks of storage and waiting in Wisconsin until Spring 2012; ~28 weeks of estimated construction in 2012; Permanent occupancy is anticipated in late 2012 followed by several years of performance data tracking.


The limitation of available resources, the unknowns of a first-time effort and the vagaries of a project where several people and entities were involved created an unpredictable process. All these challenges were navigated by a group of passionate students who, despite the hurdles, created the potential for a lasting legacy of Design/Build education at NDSU. To further the community service potential of the Design/Build studio, projects are now being explored with local agencies and organizations. These projects have the potential to provide innovative, energy-efficient, cost-effective housing in the community; to form partnerships with the secondary education system while initiating high school students in environmental issues related to buildings; and to educate the local construction community in cutting-edge energy-efficient practices. Meanwhile, a large grant received by the Design/Build studio and faculty members at the Department of Architecture and Landscape Architecture has the potential to impact how energy is used at NDSU. Design/build enables students to develop concepts and see them through all the way to construction, creating, developing, and building these concepts in a short period of time. The translation of an idea into a built construct is something that is typically not supported by either academic training or internship. In spite of these specific differences, design/build is neither a replication of internship nor a replacement for the academic setting, but is instead a way for students to experience the multitude of voices and concerns inherent in any construct of substantive proportions, architectural or otherwise. Every student gains irreplaceable experience in navigating an overwhelming set of conditions as they begin to find their place and interest in a multi-faceted, messy process."  

- Malini Srivastava 

"Does design/build belong in architecture school? The answer to this question is not simple, although at first, it may seem obvious. One might just as well ask, does clinical experience belong in medical school? Insofar as medical school exists to educate students in the arts of patient diagnosis and treatment, experience working firsthand with actual patients is clearly necessary. By the same logic, insofar as architectural education exists to educate students in the arts of making buildings, design/build experience is as necessary for architects as clinical experience is for doctors. However, simply to admit the necessity of design/build experience within architectural education is not yet to say that design/build belongs in architecture school. The Internship Development Program (IDP), administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), grounds students in the tactical operations of professional practice – in fact, establishing that architectural education, to the extent that it is understood to lead to professional licensure, cannot be completed within architecture school. Yet, completing architecture school is necessary for licensure, at least within those jurisdictions where a degree from an accredited program is required to qualify as a candidate for the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Whether or not a specific jurisdiction requires a degree, architecture school has a unique role to play in architectural education, a role which experience in practice apparently cannot fill on its own. All of which is only to say that behind this question – does design/build belong in architecture school– is another, deeper question: what is the purpose of architecture school? To further confound the issue, schools of architecture necessarily address both vocational concerns (e.g., how to properly detail a building envelope) as well as historically, ethically, and culturally embedded ones (e. g., questioning the ethics of practice). Stated differently, architecture school is neither fully concerned with training nor is it fully concerned with questioning. But to the degree that architecture school is capable of provoking students to reflect on architecture’s disciplinary boundaries, it is doing something that internship is neither expected nor obligated to do. And it is in pursuing this kind of provocation that design/build’s place in architecture school is best established – not because students are able to have a design built (to have their work enter into the “real world”), not because the program develops their ability to collaborate with each other and with clients, suppliers, and code officials, and not because it gives them experience working with budgets. For all of this and much more, we depend on internship. Instead, if design/build has a place in architecture school, it is to provoke students to ask: What is it that architects should do? What are our limits? What is our place? In my view, NDSU’s Design/Build Studio obligated its students to confront these questions. The exhibition at the State Fair was the most obvious and most critically important instance of this confrontation. That the students were brought at the Fair to face an often-skeptical, continually transient, sometimes curious, occasionally indifferent “public,” and that each of the students had to confront and resolve in a public forum, with its constituent moments of argument and compromise, the question what should architects do: that, in my opinion, is the program’s best claim to belonging in school." 

- Mike Christenson

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