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Iowa State architecture prof heads to UK on fellowship

June 19, 2014



AMES, Iowa — Andrea Wheeler, an assistant professor of architecture at Iowa State University, has received the Sir Edmund Happold Senior Visiting Research Fellowship for an eight-week residency at the University of Bath, United Kingdom.

The fellowship is awarded to an applicant who will enable collaborative research leading to a long-term relationship between the host and the applicant’s home institution.

Wheeler will travel to Bath July 1 through Aug. 26 to conduct research examining the feasibility of Passivhaus (passive house) methods for the cultural and climatic conditions of the United States, including those experienced in Iowa, and how to evaluate the performance of a school built to Passivhaus standards.

The Passivhaus design approach adheres to a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building. The physics-based approach requires that designs achieve specific targets for energy performance, which results in ultra-low-energy buildings that need little energy for space heating or cooling. 

"The United Kingdom has seen a recent growth in the number of schools being built to Passivhaus standards," Wheeler said.

"Passivhaus excels as a method to address energy efficiency and human comfort, but how does it perform in other aspects of school design—issues of social sustainability and community building, or health and well-being related to air quality? What is the relationship between school design and innovative pedagogy? How is the Passivhaus approach marketed to the community and parents whose children’s schools are being constructed this way?"

During the fellowship period, Wheeler will work closely with David Coley, professor of low carbon design and head of the Center for Energy and the Design of Environments at the University of Bath Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering. She will visit recently built Passivhaus and other contemporary sustainable schools in the UK and interview school officials, designers and architects to prepare case-study materials.

She hopes to establish a research relationship with Architype, a London-based professional design practice leading the increase in Passivhaus school construction. She also plans to reconnect with White Design, "a practice that has designed some of the most inspirational schools in the UK," with whom she has collaborated on prior research.

Wheeler's research will inform a book she plans to write on sustainable schools as well as a collaborative journal article with Bath colleagues on building performance evaluation of Passivhaus schools. She also intends to develop grant proposals for future research and exchanges between faculty from Iowa State, the University of Bath and other UK universities, she said.

Wheeler holds a national diploma in art and design with distinction from the University of Wales, Newport; a bachelor of arts in architecture with honors from Plymouth University; a graduate diploma in architecture and a master of philosophy in mechanical engineering, both from Oxford Brookes University; and a PhD in architecture from the University of Nottingham, all in the UK.

Prior to joining the faculty of the ISU Department of Architecture, she had been a postdoctoral research fellow in the University of Nottingham Schools of Education and Built Environment; a senior researcher for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Sustainable Behaviors Unit; a research associate for the University of Loughborough Department of Civil and Building Engineering and a teaching and learning coordinator for the University of Loughborough Center for Engineering and Design Education.

Andrea Wheeler, Architecture,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,