Design Project Description - Spring 2016

Nature and Scope of the Project

This year, the project concerns the behavior of people in a building.

Much has been accomplished in the last decade toward designing environmentally conscious buildings. However, experience shows that users play a noticeable role through their behavior, which affects the overall green-ness of the building. So, the ultimate green building is one that has been constructed in an environmentally sound way and that is being used by environmentally conscious people.

Projects in the course this year will be devoted to the design of a building component or of a personal device that promotes environmentally conscious behavior on the part of its users. Ideally, this is to be achieved not by a negative incentive that punishes consumptive behavior but rather by a positive incentive that rewards environmentally conscious behavior, so that the "sustainable thing" is the personally preferred option. Since this is an engineering course, the project ought to include the design of a piece of technology integrated in a building or to be used in a building.

Students will have the opportunity to incorporate Raspberry Pi technology into their design. Raspberry Pi is "a low cost, credit-card sized computer that ... enables people of all ages to explore computing." It has emerged as a favorite technology for the Internet of Things. A very flexible technology, it can be paired with a large variety of sensors, a camera, lights, actuators, web applications, and much more. While use of Raspberry Pi (RPi) is not required, it is encouraged, and all students will be required to participate in a lab introducing them to the basics. Technical assistance will be provided throughout the term for those who choose to incorporate Raspberry Pi into their design.

The term-long design project has four objectives:

  1. To develop an appreciation of the complexities of building-user interactions;
  2. To gain practice with the sustainable design process under constraints and specifications;
  3. To gain a working understanding of an emerging technology for the Internet of Things;
  4. To practice presentation and defense of a sustainable design in front of an audience.


Students will group themselves in teams of 4 to 5 students, and each team will work on a separate project for the duration of the term. Several ideas are listed below, but students are encouraged to pursue ideas of their own, as long as these fall under the preceding scope. Teams will then proceed with the corresponding sustainable design project under the supervision of an assigned TA, the professor, and possibly an external client or faculty adviser.

Each project must be approved by the instructor before moving forward and will follow the steps outlined below. The project will culminate by the end of the term in an oral presentation in front of a review board and the entire class. A 20-to-30 page report is also required.

Project Ideas

The following ideas are proposed to the students as illustrations. Students are encouraged to pursue their own idea provided that it falls under the preceding scope and receives instructor's approval.


Week 1
Week 2
Weeks 3-5
Week 6
Weeks 7-10
Week 10
Week 11


1st report 2nd report
Importance of behavior being addressed 5% -
Selection of preferred alternative behavior 5% -
Positive incentives and approach 15% -
Specifications & constraints 15% 5%
Use of technology
(choice of systems components, logic)
20% -
Creativity in the design
(first overall, then in details)
20% 10%
Key numbers
Feasibility of the system
10% -
Refined design - 15%
Incorporation into the building
or design of the human interface / safety
- 10%
Fabrication of a prototype - 10%
Testing of the prototype, iterations - 15%
Estimation of projected environmental
benefits and impacts
- 10%
Basic economic analysis - 5%
Basic market analysis - 5%
Quality of oral presentation
(including ability to answer questions)
10% 10%
Quality of written report - 5%
TOTAL 100% 100%