Date of Award

Spring 5-30-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master in Interior Architecture [Adaptive Reuse]


Interior Architecture

First Advisor

Jonathan Bell

Second Advisor

Heinrich Hermann

Third Advisor

Wolfgang Rudorf


To comfortably inhabit historic buildings we have developed mechanical devices to manage the internal environment so that it is possible to keep the room temperature stable despite season and climate. However, enormous energy is necessary to sustain these machines, which poses practical and environmental problems. To overcome and prevent this waste, efforts have been made to control the internal environment of contemporary buildings using natural principles. Is it possible to use this approach to improve the performance of historic buildings without compromising character or significance?

This is an ideal topic to test against RISD campus buildings. The campus is made up primarily of buildings built over 100 years ago, and most are structurally and mechanically vulnerable. The majority of buildings are insulated from the exterior wall, while the insulation of the windows and the efficiency of the air conditioning and ventilation systems are inadequate. Based on analysis of the age and inefficiency of each building, the Metcalf Building must be addressed, as the analysis shows that Metcalf has many overheated departmental spaces. There is no air-conditioning facility and the effectiveness of ventilation is not properly maintained. This problem eventually causes the temperature and humidity to rise excessively due to heat emitted from people and machines. If we develop conventional facilities to resolve this, it will consume an enormous amount of energy to maintain the indoor environment, and spatial losses can not be avoided.

How can we resolve heating and cooling the Metcalf Building without creating other issues? This problem can be effectively overcome by applying the principle of air convection to a building. Air convection is the circular motion that occurs when warmer air — which has faster moving molecules, making it less dense — rises, while the cooler air drops. Using this principle, the hot air inside the building is discharged to the outside, and the cold air from outside is sucked in to create a natural air-conditioning and ventilation system. An example of this phenomenon is the termite habitat: termites circulate air using the temperature difference between the habitat and the ground. Through this difference in temperature, the cold air continues to be supplied to the inside of the habitat, and the heated air from the inside is discharged to the outside.

The same principles will be applied to the Metcalf Building. First, install ceiling panels that will allow air circulation inside the building. Second, the double facade is used to create a passage for air flow. Cold air and hot air will move through this passage. The cold air flowing from the back of the building passes through the ceiling panels of each floor and is then discharged outside. Finally, electricity is produced using the speed at which the discharged air flows. The energy thus generated is used to help air circulate inside the building. In doing so, the room temperature can be efficiently maintained using only a small amount of energy without changing the essential character of the historic building.



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