SMART and Global Health Equity Communities of Excellence have busy first year

Faculty across architecture and urban planning ocntinue to address society's grand challenges as leaders of UB's interdisciplinary research communities on sustainable manufacturing and advanced robotic technologies (SMART), which pairs architects and processes in design and building; and global health equity, which connects culture, gender norms, human behavior, policy and the build environment to develop solutions to global health challenges. Here we offer a glimpse into their latest work.


Participants in the 2016 Architectural Cereamic Assemblies Workshop mold, press and sculpt clay into bioclimatic facade components. The clay- storming sessions were held in Hayes Hall’s new attic studios. 

Bioclimatic Ceramic Assemblies. Faculty members

Omar Khan and Laura Garófalo are working with leading architectural manufacturer Boston Valley Terra Cotta to develop research in large-scale ceramic assemblies for bioclimatic innovation in building. The 2016 Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop, held in Buffalo last
August, kicked off an annual workshop series designed to incubate new products and support the scale-up of ceramic applications. The exploratory workshop brought UB faculty and students together with sculptors and designers from Boston Valley as well as educators, artists and architects from around the world for five days of group-based learning and ‘clay storming’ sessions. Among the concepts being tested are the use of clay bodies as breathable, green walls and evaporative cooling surfaces, and the development of vessel- like components to manage rainwater storage and filtration.

Among the participants was Matthais van Arkel, a Swedish artist and three-dimensional painter interested in the study of materiality. In his first time working with clay, van Arkel created a simple system of thumb-pressed clay bricks. He envisions the bricks being formed in part by the aggregation of human touch — the thumbprints of community members or impressions from the eventual users of a space. The workshop was also a hands-on introduction to clay for Melissa Rivers of Selldorf Architects in New York City. Her goal was to get closer to a material of increasing interest to Selldorf, noted for its use of custom-formed, glazed terracotta façade panels in Manhattan’s 10 Bond Street. “It’s about knowing what’s possible and taking that back for application to the surface of our buildings,” she said.

Photograph of students working with ceramic design.

Khan, who has led the school’s multi-year collaboration with Boston Valley on digital fabrication and design in terra cotta, says emerging technologies present opportunities to aggregate and network assemblies to the scale of the façade.

The more than two dozen participants also included ceramacists from across Europe as well as representatives of Morphosis; Walter P. Moore (NYC); AECOM; Woodbury University; Cornell University, University of California, Berkeley; San Jose State; and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. In addition to Boston Valley and the School of Architecture and Planning, ACAW co-sponsors were Alfred University’s New York State College of Ceramics and Data Clay. 

“Affine Shells” is a wind screen installation at the new Conventus building in downtown Buffalo. The conical forms of thin- gauge steel are the latest evolution of research by architecture faculty members Christopher Romano and Nicholas Bruscia with industry partner Rigidized Metals. Photo by Mahan Mehrvarz 

Adaptive Shading. Jin Young Song, assistant professor of architecture, will advance building efficiency through a micro shading system that integrates thermal and mechanical responses to light. LEAF (Low Energy Adaptive Façade) is a self-adapting micro shading façade design using responsive polymer sheets. Leaf integrates a photochemical responsive polymer

sheet into building façades through an origami-inspired folding pattern. The shading system emulates the diffuse, dappled light quality created by trees, sensitively responding to daylighting conditions. Song, who presented his research paper in October at the Façade Tectonics 2016 World Congress, will develop the prototype with UB chemical and biological engineer Haiqing Lin and civil and structural engineer Jongmin Shim.

Corbelled structure: Georg Rafailidis, assistant professor of architecture, recently traveled to Switzerland to test new research in dry-stacked, corbelled structures with the concrete manufacturing industry. The research advances sustainability through the use of an ancient building technique and a modular assembly that is supported by compression rather than fasteners or mortar. The required precision and repetitive stacking also makes robotic applications relevant. Rafailidis will advance the work with UB computer science engineer Nils Napp and civil and structural engineer Andreas Stavridis.

Affine Shells. Christopher Romano and Nicholas Bruscia’s research into self-structuring, thin-gauge steel has its latest genesis as a sculptural wind screen for the new Conventus building in downtown Buffalo. “Affine Shells” is a set of three 18-foot conical forms of sheet steel developed by the architecture faculty members in partnership with Buffalo’s Rigidized Metals. The research-to-practice commission was initiated by Ciminelli Real Estate, which is the owner-developer of the signature development on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Denise Juron-Borgese, vice president for development
and planning at Ciminelli Real Estate and a UB alumnae, approached Romano and Bruscia based on their installation of Project 2XmT, a sculptural wall of Rigidized steel panels in Buffalo’s Silo City, along Lake Erie. The Conventus challenge would be similar: develop a subtle, artistic structure that would enhance the gateway site while handling multi- directional winds.

To achieve this tight correlation between structure, aesthetics and performance, Romano and Bruscia began with a series of self-supporting, cylindrical forms. The system’s global curvature lightens the structure while the staggered grid of welded plate steel maintains short spans and a thin profile. The weaving of skin and structure achieves the desired sculptural effect. Functionally, the windscreens are sized and sited to maximize wind redistribution with their panels heavily perforated to minimize wind pressure.

Material and fabrication efficiency was challenged by the requirement that each conic shell vary in size (to handle the buffeting winds). By deriving the three shell structures from a larger, master conical form, the team was able to generate a system of shared panel types and, for ease of fabrication and assembly by Rigidized Metals, a standard set of dimensional offsets and scalar relationships.

Romano and Bruscia will continue to push the limits of thin-gauge, textured sheet metal through SMART. Their latest project with Rigidized Metals is “Roll,” a lightweight horizontal canopy
of self-structured sheet steel panels stabilized by a three-roll bending process. Inspired by the bidirectional corrugated structures created by French architect and engineer Robert LeRicolais, the project will also introduce a new technique to Rigidized Metals’ fabrication capacities. 

Global Health Equity

Nepal native’s research on shelter design hits close to home

As a member of the Community for Global Health Equity research team, architecture student Sadichchha Dhakhwa has found her niche developing vernacular shelter design strategies for refugee resettlements around the world. The work hits close to home for this Nepal native, who witnessed first-hand the effects of poor shelter design and accessibility a er a devastating earthquake hit the country in 2015.

A first-year MArch student who also earned her undergraduate degree at UB, Dhakhwa jumped at the opportunity to join CGHE a er learning about its work with Ugandan resettlement camps for refugees of South Sudan. Led by architecture professor Korydon Smith, the project will develop translatable design strategies based on the success of the Ugandan model, implemented by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the United Nations High Council on Refugees.

Dhakhwa was able to hit the ground running, joining
the team just as Smith returned from a visit to Uganda, where he and several other CGHE team-members met with representatives of the DRC and UN and toured several resettlement camps.

As a full-time research assistant, Dhakhwa is building the case for vernacular architecture resettlement strategies based on NGO-led efforts like those in Uganda and other communities throughout the tumultuous North African and Middle Eastern region, where millions are displaced daily. Smith and his team posit that vernacular architecture, which employs locally sourced materials and indigenous building techniques, is a more sustainable and resource-efficient approach that also promotes independent settlement.

The UN’s implementation of parcel allotment programs in Uganda has also been shown to foster independent land use and the development of self-building skills among refugees. 

“I believe it is important to engage architects, planners, and designers in the conversation in the current refugee crisis," says Dhakhwa. "I woul dlike to continue to work with various organizatios or firms that are involved in humanitarian architecture and be involved in projects looking to help an affected population."

Participants in CGHE's Global Innovation Challenge 2016 assessed problems and developed social, economic, technological, and public policy solutions to mee the sanitation needs of one of the world's larges most vulnerable populations: the 360 million children and adults with disabilities worldwide. Photo by Douglas Levere

Where lack of sanitation prevents children from completing school, Global Health Equity offers help

A child with mobility problems can’t use the bathroom in his school because it has only squat toilets. Feeling like an outsider, he stops going to school. A menstruating teenage girl doesn’t have the privacy she needs in her school bathroom, or maybe she doesn’t have the products she needs to manage her menstruation, and she, too, stops attending.

Millions of school-aged children with and without disabilities and who live in low- and middle- income countries around the world grapple with this lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene — or WaSH — facilities in their communities. In fact, it’s one of the biggest barriers to their health and formal education (in India, 23 percent of girls drop out of school once they hit puberty).

In just over a year of operation, UB’s Community for Global Health Equity has already mobilized solutions that get to the root of this pervasive disparity by integrating design, planning, public health and policy.

Last spring, the community seeded student proposals for community action in Uganda and India through an ideas competition guided by the international WaSH organization WaterAid. The research team is also behind a new global monitoring system developed by UNICEF
and the World Health Organization (WHO) that will assess not only the availability but accessibility of basic water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools around the world. 

“Beyond denying basic humanitarian rights to children around the world, inadequate wash is a major global health and economic concern," said architecture professor Korydon Smith, co-director of CGHE. "If we can move the needle on wash, we can set up the next generation for success and create a foundation for stability in the developing world."

In addition to seeding new research and developing an international survey tool on WaSH, CGHE traveled to India in January 2016 to assess water and sanitation in the rural village of Maradu. Their data and analysis will now inform a public sanitation plan for the village. 

The survey tool — part of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation – was developed to assess world progress toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which aim for universal WaSH in schools by 2030. Among its task force participants were Smith, UB epidemiologist and CGHE co- director Pavani Ram, and UB’s world-renowned inclusive design scholar Edward Steinfeld.

Assessing such basic WaSH standards as the availability
of handwashing facilities and separate toilets for girls and boys, the tool will be administered in hundreds of thousands of schools in more than 100 countries. For the first time, the international metric pays special attention to issues of equity and accessibility, addressing the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

UB students are also addressing WaSH at the ground
level through CGHE, which sponsored a hack-a-thon style “Global Innovation Challenge” last spring. The weeklong event teamed up students in architecture, urban planning, engineering, public health, computer science and pharmacy to develop actionable solutions in partnership with community leaders from India and Uganda.

Noting the scarcity of data available on inclusive WaSH facilities in schools, the top-prize- winning team developed strategies to collect school-level data on demographics and inclusive WaSH facilities. They will create a mapping platform to show geographic disparities in WaSH for schools and target funding resources and policy action.

The other winning proposal addresses gaps in access to menstrual hygiene products, a significant barrier to school attendance for girls. A proposed mobile hygiene van would travel to schools and other unreached places such as slums to offer such products as well as soap, hand sanitizer and free health consultation.

Faculty affiliated with the Community for Global Health Equity will now work with members of both teams to refine their ideas, locate partner organizations in low-income settings and test their innovations. 

The Communty's 2017 Global Innovation Challenge will focus on developing interdisciplinary, design-informed solutions for the health and wellbeing of refugees in Buffalo.