Sep 22, 2023  
Rensselaer Catalog 2023-2024 
Rensselaer Catalog 2023-2024

School of Architecture

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Dean: Evan Douglis

Acting Associate Dean: David Bell

Chair, Undergraduate Programs: Rhett Russo

Associate Dean for Graduate Education:  Chris Perry

School of Architecture home page:

Architecture is situated at a unique moment in history where a convergence of global interest’s demand that the discipline responds in a critical and innovative manner. Faced with an ever-increasing focus on creating new forms of renewable energy, smart grids and coastal city solutions, computational engines, immersive environments, and ecologically sound building components for the 21st century, the profession of architecture has inherited a wealth of transdisciplinary priorities that calls out for a new era of creative inquiry and engagement.

Reinterpreted as a moment of opportunity, it is an extraordinary time in academia to explore alternative design methodologies, digital design and manufacturing technology, a variety of more expansive interdisciplinary collaborations, and the larger mission of educating the next generation of architects to harness their innate intellectual and creative imagination in service of a complex planet undergoing continuous change.

The School of Architecture at Rensselaer takes pride in preparing its students to become future leaders in the profession. Beyond offering a comprehensive education that leads towards licensure within two NAAB accredited professional programs the school aspires to create an environment and culture that rewards the nobility of ideas, the roots of theoretical inquiry, the merits of social responsibility, the resounding effects of innovative design, and the impressive achievement of realizable proposals that are thoughtfully conceived as benevolent gifts to the world at large.

In response to a transdisciplinary approach to education, the School is uniquely structured as a constellation of preeminent research areas (Architectural Acoustics,

Lighting and Built Ecologies have the capacity to realign in favor of a variety of potential collaborative arrangements. Seeking to build a more robust set of graduate study concentrations in support of our internationally renowned undergraduate program, the beginning student of architecture resides within a dynamic and inspired interdisciplinary environment prepared to take on the many exciting challenges facing our profession today.

The school offers a broad set of full semester study abroad programs in Italy, India, China and Latin America providing an invaluable perspective of the rich architectural legacies found throughout the world today. Students also have an opportunity to enroll in the internationally renowned CASE/NY program (Center for Architecture Science and Ecology) in NYC which provides access to next generation building components and systems required for sustainable world.

Additionally, the new ARCH initiative represents an exciting career development opportunity for all B.Arch. and B.S. students. After spending their junior year summer on-campus engaged in an immersive design-build studio experience, students will then have the opportunity to enroll in a fall or spring semester-away internship or co-op experience at a top architecture firm almost anywhere in the world. Acquiring real world practical experience in combination with a dynamic on-campus educational experience represents the ideal pedagogical model for the education of an architect.

Seeking to prepare future leaders, Rensselaer’s School of Architecture offers a comprehensive, contemporary, and innovative approach to the study of architecture as its students reimagine, in the most exciting and impactful way, the built environment for the 21st century.

To prepare students to become leaders in an increasingly complex and changing world, the School maintains a wide range of specialized facilities that support research activity and enhance education with emerging technologies.

The Digital Fabrications Lab, closely linked to the design studios, provides the latest technologies for fabrication and prototyping of design work. Dedicated facilities for 3-axis routing/milling, laser cutting, rapid prototyping (3D printing), structural testing and analysis and ceramics research, complements a fully equipped woodworking shop for both students and researchers. The digital lab provides critical fabrication technologies necessary to respond effectively to an increasing emphasis on technology in architecture at this moment in history. 

The Digital Futures Computer Lab is the newest addition to the School of Architecture. With the acquisition of high-end workstations, integrated video conferencing, a render farm, and robust software application tools, this new lab provides an ideal setting to explore advanced parametric design available in any school of architecture throughout the U.S. The Digital Futures Computer Lab is directly linked to the Fabrications Lab, and this in combination empowers students to work seamlessly between virtual and physical modeling. 

Architectural Acoustics research facilities include a testing room with a hemi-anechoic chamber, a binaural listening and auralization test station, computer labs, coupled laboratory spaces with two 24-channel loudspeaker systems, video projection, and INET 2 connection for multimodal (audio/visual/haptic) telepresence research, scale-model reverberation and anechoic chambers, specialized acoustic laboratory equipment, advanced acoustics vibration measurement systems, laser doppler vibrometers, and acoustic modeling and computation software.

The Lighting Research Center (LRC), housed in a 30,000 square foot facility in the historic Gurley Building in downtown Troy, has state-of-art equipment and the ability to perform research in diverse areas of lighting. The LRC also maintains the necessary measurement equipment, computer-aided optical design capabilities, and workshop required to produce and evaluate fully functional prototypes and models.  This faculty represents one of the best-equipped university-based lighting laboratories in the United States.  

The Laboratory of Human-Environment Interaction Research; the Solar and Microclimate Laboratory, field study facilities, and various other laboratories associated with research at the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) round out a robust research and testing capability.

In addition to the School of Architecture’s rich array of well-equipped facilities, the Polytechnic research university setting at Rensselaer provides students, faculty, and researcher’s access to many other facilities, and inter- and cross-disciplinary opportunities.

This combination of excellent programs contemporary and well-equipped facilities and exemplary educators providing top-tier instruction and mentorship to students collectively represents the essential attributes required for a leading architectural program in the beginning of the 21st century.

Equipment, Supplies, and Travel

Design studios form the core of architectural education at Rensselaer.  Project based instruction with a faculty to student ratio of approximately one to 12 provides an inspired setting where synthesis of knowledge and creativity are celebrated as a holistic project. Most studio courses do not require textbooks, but rely heavily on software, printing, and modeling. Students should anticipate costs associated with the purchase of materials. First-year students will have an opportunity to purchase a basic kit with the tools needed for their design studio. A technology fee is assessed to cover some, but not all, of the software and services provided to the students. Travel and field trips to nearby cities are also a regular and strategic part of the design curriculum. Students should also be prepared to cover costs associated with regional travel.

Degrees Offered


Architecture B.Arch., M.Arch., M.S. in Arch.
Building Sciences B.S.
Architectural Sciences M.S., Ph.D.
  Concentration in Architectural Acoustics  
  Concentration in Built Ecologies  

Concentration in Lighting

Lighting M.S

Overview of Undergraduate Programs

The School of Architecture offers a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree. The Bachelor of Architecture is a professional degree accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board. Approximately 60 students are admitted directly into the program each year.

As a professional program designed for those ready to begin architectural study in the first year, the School of Architecture’s admissions decisions are based on the following criteria: overall academic excellence, creativity (demonstrated through work in the arts and other associated areas), and clear evidence of an inspired individual committed to receiving a rigorous exploratory and comprehensive education.

Application Requirements

The School encourages visiting the campus and the Greene Building, home of the School of Architecture, along with a faculty interview. Architecture candidates are required to submit a creative portfolio with their application. The School of Architecture prefers that applicants use the online portfolio system to upload digital files. A digital submission makes it easier for all applicants to format their material as well as accelerates the evaluation process for prospective students applying as freshmen or transfers into the B. Arch. Professional Program. Students with unusually strong academic profiles may be reviewed without the portfolio (GPA of 3.5). Please note that such cases are exceptionally rare and that in all cases a portfolio is preferred. For portfolio requirements visit

Transfer Students

The School welcomes students who have completed architecture course work at other schools to apply as transfer students to Rensselaer. Upon acceptance, transfer students are placed at an appropriate level in the professional program based on a review of their transcript, course descriptions, and work portfolio.

Overview of Graduate Programs

Rensselaer’s School of Architecture offers both master’s and doctoral level graduate programs.

Master’s Programs

The School of Architecture offers a number of distinct masters degrees. The Master of Architecture is a first professional degree. It is accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board for students already holding at least a baccalaureate degree in another field. This degree’s course of study parallels much of the course and studio requirements for the Bachelor of Architecture program. Approximately 12 students are admitted to this program annually.

The M. Arch. program is designated as a STEM program in Architectural and Building Sciences/Technology (CIP code 04.0902) making international M.Arch. graduates eligible to extend their F-1 Visas for up to three years in order to work in the United States.

The remaining master’s programs are advanced degrees in architecture, architectural sciences, and related fields. They include:

  • Master of Science in Architecture (The M.S. Architecture program is designated as a STEM program in Architectural and Building Sciences/Technology (CIP code 04.0902) making international M.S. Arch. graduates eligible to extend their F-1 Visas for up to three years in order to work in the United States.)
  • Master of Science in Architectural Sciences (Concentration in Architectural Acoustics)
  • Master of Science in Architectural Sciences (Concentration in Built Ecologies)
  • Master of Science in Architectural Sciences (Concentration in Lighting)
  • Master of Science in Lighting

Doctoral Programs

The Ph.D. in Architectural Sciences is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary degree supporting research and scholarship across the many topics arising from the theory and practice of architecture and the built environment. It is open to candidates with a professional degree in architecture and those with degrees in related design fields from science, engineering, and the humanities.

Although the discipline of architecture has a strong and complex knowledge base, its essential nature causes it to synthesize the knowledge produced in many other fields, from sociology and history to information technology and the performance of materials. The degree is aimed at producing a context for the advanced study and research between architecture and appropriate areas of science, engineering, and the humanities.

Those pursuing doctoral study in Architectural Sciences at Rensselaer may select from three areas of concentration. They include:

  • Ph.D. in Architectural Sciences (Concentration in Architectural Acoustics)
  • Ph.D. in Architectural Sciences (Concentration in Built Ecologies)
  • Ph.D. in Architectural Sciences (Concentration in Lighting)

as well as in emerging areas of specialization in aspects of architecture and technology.

Research Innovations and Initiatives

Communication Acoustics The School of Architecture faculty is renowned for its acoustic consulting expertise and academic research in areas of communication acoustics such as advanced techniques for computational modeling of room acoustics. Current research includes the modeling and perception of coupled acoustical spaces, perception of early reflections due to scattering of sound by rough surfaces and the fine structure of reverberation, room sound coloration, and telepresence questions involving cross-modal interaction between visual and acoustical stimuli, as well as interaction between tactile and aural stimuli.

Acoustics of Concert Halls and Other Performance Venues and Classrooms
The School of Architecture faculty is also renowned for its acoustic consulting expertise in designing performance venues and worship spaces. Architecture faculty and graduate students have traveled to different halls, such as Boston Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory, Boston, Mass.; Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, N.Y.; and Cohoes Music Hall, Cohoes, N.Y.; to measure acoustical properties and acoustical energy coupling with monaural and binaural receivers. A more recent emphasis is on classrooms where poor acoustics are detrimental to learning. Research and design in this area includes computer modeling and experimentation with scale models as well as measurement and analysis in existing facilities. Stage Acoustics evaluations using spherical harmonics receivers, a recently completed thesis project, involved modeling various geometries for stage acoustics, and experimental evaluations using advanced microphone systems. Other studies concern sound propagation and scattering using advanced diffusion- and transport equations, physical scale models, physical theory of diffraction and diffusivity of reverberation, etc.

The acoustical analog of visualization aims to recreate sound fields from computational models of spaces. Current core research includes the development of more accurate mathematical models for room acoustics, determination of accurate scattering and diffraction coefficients for performance-hall design and modeling, and subjective studies on the effect of sound quality on human performance, including productivity, ease of hearing, and auditory comfort.

Electronic Enhancement of Acoustical Communication Over Large Distances
This work focuses on the development of “acoustic telepresence systems” that will provide an unmatched auditory sense of presence across distances. This research is an essential aural counterpart to current research in computer-mediated visual technologies, with possible applications in teleconferencing, distance education, games, and virtual reality.

Measurement Techniques for Room Acoustics
New measurement technologies can be used for more effective representation of sound fields, leading to a better understanding of physical phenomena and aiding acousticians in the design process. Spherical harmonics and co-prime microphone arrays are recent research topics.

Synthetic Sensing and Synthetic Environments
Current research includes the experimental development of alternative sensory methods for individuals and the development and testing of immersive and augmented electronic environments for teleperformance and design collaboration. A guiding principle of the research is the complementary nature of media, computation, space, and the body rather than the substitution of human skills or spatial conditions with computer technology.

Computational Acoustics and Computer-mediated Design Processes
This research area is primarily concerned with Computer-Aided Design and the redefinition of the design process. The computer is envisioned as a medium for opening up new possibilities for architectural and urban design, rather than a tool for performing well-known tasks more quickly and cheaply. New design algorithms, new roles of computing in the client-designer-builder network, and new design processes are at the core of research in this area.

Product and Transmission Sound Quality
The product sound quality approach is firmly based in psychoacoustics and psychology. Using jury evaluations, the sound perception of humans is investigated with the ambition of finding new, psychoacoustically relevant sound metrics. The research includes simulation and modeling of the sound quality for products such as automobiles or appliances. Work in transmission sound quality focuses on the effect of transmission inaccuracies of speech systems, linear and nonlinear distortion in microphones and loudspeakers, and in related applications.

Light and Health
The Lighting Research Center continues to expand research initiatives in the area of light and health. Investigations include the role of lighting in the mitigation of diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Seasonal Affective Disorder and the interaction of lighting with the human circadian and other biological systems. This research has far-reaching implications in the areas of medical research, photobiology, biotechnology, engineering, and related sciences.

Solid State Lighting
Solid state lighting is one of the fastest growing areas in lighting technology today with wide implications for all areas of lighting including architecture, transportation, and information technology. The Lighting Research Center has developed core competencies in this area and works to expand research in solid state lighting development and application.

Horticultural Lighting

The development of solid-state light sources, with emissions in both the visible and non-visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum, has allowed for the development of specialized lighting systems that can be tuned and adapted to the needs of a wide variety of plant species. Lighting and ultra violet energy can also play a role in the mitigation of plant pathogens, diseases, and pests. The Lighting Research Center is currently conducting research in both the areas of plant growth as well as control of plant pathogens using light.

Connected Lighting

With the growing interest in the Internet of Things (IoT), intelligent lighting systems are quickly becoming available. These systems have advanced sensing and control capabilities that can automatically adapt lighting to the needs of various users in a building. These control systems can integrate lighting with other building systems include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), fire safety, and security systems. Researchers at the Lighting Research Center are conducting research in a number of areas related to connected lighting including human factors and user acceptance, sensor technologies, communication protocols, and system evaluations.

Energy policy
With growing need for electricity nation-wide and increasing societal pressure to avoid building new generation plants and transmission lines, there is increasing need for research in the area of “demand/response” technologies. These technologies can be used to decrease electric demand at peak times quickly without negatively impacting employee comfort or productivity. Lighting plays a key role in this area, and the Lighting Research Center research assists the development of demand/response technologies and policies.

Intelligent Roadway Systems
With the increasing complexity and congestion of roadways throughout the United States and the development of new communication and information technologies, lighting plays a key role in the transmission of information to drivers. The Lighting Research Center researches the development of lighting as part of intelligent roadway systems.

Innovation of Emerging Building Techniques
Research includes the technologies and infrastructural systems driven by sustainable approaches to ecologies and building within them towards the development of radically new buildings systems, structures, and environments that are informed by the behavior of natural systems and/or performance characteristics of emergent technologies.

Dynamic Shading Window System (DSWS)
DSWS uses a newly developed solar-energy technology to convert the sun’s light and diverted heat into storable energy that can be used to efficiently heat, cool, and artificially light an office building. Photovoltaic devices convert light into power to run tracking motors embedded in the building’s interior walls. The remaining energy is used for heat, air conditioning, and artificial lighting. Surplus energy can be stored. The advent of thinner, smarter materials allows application of existing technologies to systems that are more effective and visually unobtrusive. Tiny one square centimeter solar cells are one of the new technologies being incorporated in the DSWS.

Active Building Envelope (ABE)
The patented Active Building Envelope (ABE) system uses a photovoltaic (PV) system to collect and convert sunlight into electricity. That power is delivered to a series of thermoelectric (TE) heat-pumps that are integrated into a building envelope. Depending on the direction of the electric current supplied to the TE heat-pump system, the sun’s energy can be used to make the inside space warmer or cooler. ABE systems operate on the micrometer scale using thin-film photovoltaic and thin-film thermoelectric materials, potentially resulting in extremely thin (less than 500 µm) ABE-surfaces, functioning as a thermal coating system for both new and existing building surfaces. The ABE system on the micrometer scale leads to a new class of materials whose thermal conductivity would no longer be determined by thickness. Research in this areas focuses on the design and optimization of a prototype on the micrometer scale.

Design Research—An Interdisciplinary Model
With the intention of innovating solutions that address the complexity of pressing ecological problems facing built environments, the Built Ecologies program positions the interdisciplinary role of architectural design as a catalyst for inspired collective invention. The discipline of Architecture has conventionally been an assimilator and integrator of information and technologies that span many scales and knowledge bases, from infrastructural engineering to material science, and synergistically cross-pollinating highly specialized emerging technologies. With a dedication to the discovery of new knowledge and innovative application of new techniques and technologies to infrastructure and building design, the program catalyzes the transfer of scientific knowledge and technology between disciplines and industries. The aim is to support investigations into and dissemination of emergent sustainable approaches and technologies of building design, construction, and maintenance.





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