Integrated Campus Modeling – the Salovich Project

I’ve been holding back on this post since mid-September until all the stars were in alignment –  we now have a website and have issued the press release, so here is my BIG news for the Fall:

I’m really excited to share that the Department of Landscape Architecture and the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota have been awarded $255,545 to develop a new curriculum focused on teaching on the integration of energy and environmental modeling of campuses.

The Salovich Zero+ Campus Design Project is investigating how to integrate energy and environmental performance modeling, using the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities Campus as our laboratory. The project is a collaboration between the University’s College of Design’s Department of Landscape Architecture and School of Architecture, in association with Capital Planning & Project Management, Facilities Management, and the Institute on the Environment. Funding is provided by the Ann Salovich Fund.

Modeling the energy performance of buildings is well established and integrated into the design of all new buildings at the University of Minnesota per state law. Performance modeling of environmental factors (storm water, biodiversity, shade and ground cover, energy use in the landscape, and other criteria) are not usually considered or integrated into the creation of the building energy models. These environmental factors play a significant role in the actualized performance of the campus, and also contribute to the beauty of place. The Salovich Zero+ Campus Project will explore how to integrate the modeling of buildings into the campus landscape, and to enhance the performance of the landscape.

The Project consists of several interrelated tasks: developing a new multi-disciplinary graduate curriculum on campus modeling, hosting symposiums/workshops/student forums to increase interest into campus modeling, providing student scholarships to promote academic excellence into researching campus modeling, and disseminating knowledge about campus performance modeling

The project team is lead by Lance Neckar – Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture, and Mary Guzowski – Director of Graduate Studies, School of Architecture/Director of  MS Sustainable Design program, while Loren Abraham and myself are the research fellows who will do most of the work and teach the classes. Our graduate research assistants (for 2010/2011) include Derek Schilling (MLA candidate), Elizabeth Turner (M.Arch/MS candidate), and Laurie McGinley (M.Arch candidate).

from: Condon et al, Urban Planning Tools for Climate Change Mitigation

The results  of the Zero+ Campus Design Project are intended to guide University-wide investments such as shade trees, green roofs, green walls, garden spaces, and other zero-emission interventions, in line with the Anne Salovich bequest to beautify the campus.

Research and Educational Initiative

The project will enable us to integrate zero-emission design in campus buildings and landscapes and to evaluate the ecological, economic, and health benefits of doing so. We seek to create a common protocol to evaluate the integration of greenhouse gas emissions, energy, and water across scales. Using select areas of Twin Cities Campus, we will also evaluate design strategies that optimize building and landscape performance, testing and assessing the results in an interdisciplinary course.

The first official Zero+ Campus Design Course will be offered in the 2011 May Term. There are several other classes being offered this spring and next fall that are aligned with the Salovich Project, but are being funded by the Architecture School. These include a Spring Catalyst, a graduate studio during the second half of spring semester, and a fall seminar.

The grant also includes funding for a ‘prize’ to support innovative design proposals for a real project on campus. This is the biggest loose end, as we have yet to figure out when and how the prize money will be awarded…

Project origins

The concept and proposal for the zero plus campus project emerged from a discussion between Lance & I following a guest lecture I made to his studio last fall about the lack of simulation tools for landscape architects. I’d been following the progress of Masdar and Dongtan, and have been wondering what tools and programs Arup and Foster were using to predict the performance of the urban forms. Then I read Condon et al, Urban Planning Tools for Climate Change Mitigation which clearly identifies the lack of tools that integrate buildings and site – a crucial link for truly creating eco-cities, which got me wondering aloud in my lecture.

The project was originally conceptualized as a pure research and development endeavor budgeted at around $500k for three years and was submitted for a UMN IREE grant back in January 2010. After the proposal was rejected on a technicality by IREE for not being able to fund projects that directly involve the campus, it was suggested that we re-write the proposal funding the development of a curriculum about campus modeling that could be funded by the Salovich fund.

Research underway

Most of the past few months since we got the grant have been focused on planning the next three years. We’ve also started researching several critical issues related to the courses we’ll be teaching:

  • reviewing all the existing modeling tools (over 383 are listed by the DOE) to identify potential programs for the courses
  • literature review of applicable modeling tools and protocols
  • seeking case studies that have data for both energy and environmental performance
  • comparison of metrics and benchmarks between various tools
  • collaborating with the UMN Campus Planners to identify potential research areas on campus that align with the campus master plan

Part of the project’s outreach mission will be to disseminate our findings, research, and curriculum, so stay tuned. If you wish to be added to the project’s email list for news releases and events, please send a note to:


2 thoughts on “Integrated Campus Modeling – the Salovich Project

  1. congrats barry. this is pretty awesome news.

    you guys plan on bringing thomas auer/transsolar or werner sobek in for a discussion? and more importantly, do you want another graduate research assistant? i kid… slightly.

  2. Thanks Mike, we’ll need to refresh our research assistants next year after our current crop graduates, so the waiting list starts now…

    the symposium is currently a big ? our ‘event planning’ efforts are focused on several stakeholder (faculty, facilities folks, and local residents) input sessions that will happen early next year. Transolar or Sobek would be awsome, but we’re looking for folks beyond the energy modeling side that bring ecological performance modeling to the table too. those are rare cats indeed (and perhaps why we haven’t found any similar efforts yet).

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