Bridging the Gap Between Industry and Academia

by Jeffrey Vaglio, Ph.D., PE, AIA

Students Emmie Lai (M.Arch ’17, left) and Debjit Kundu (MBS ’18; right) listen closely as Gary Walhenmaier provides instruction on aluminum frame assembly at the Southern California Glass Management Association (SCGMA).

Many of us are self-proclaimed “facade geeks.”  Many of us became that way because we were inspired by another “facade geek.” And now, many of us are Facade Geeks, thanks to the Facade Tectonic Institute.  The truth, however, is most of us probably did not understand the great opportunities that existed within the facade industry when we were students, in the career exploration stage.  We each have to do our part to improve the connective tissues between industry and academia.

At the Enclos Advanced Technology Studio, we were finding incredible modeling talent – parametric and Revit gurus – but there was always a steep learning curve on even fundamentals of building enclosure systems, how environmental loads are accommodated in design details, and considerations for constructability. After partaking in complimentary roles to several one-off courses at universities in the region (e.g. Molding the Built Environment of Tomorrow and The Great Green Wall) we decided to take action and shape a course that introduced the fundamentals with an opportunity to prototype and experience the craft that goes into making facades.

Working together with the Building Science program at the University of Southern California School of Architecture – in particular, Professor Doug Noble, Ph.D., FAIA – we established ARCH 518 Advanced Surface Tectonics: Methods in Materials and Enclosures as part of the program’s expanding offerings focused on the facade specialty.  During the last two springs, this course has provided Luke Smith, AIA and I the opportunity to engage graduate students discussing building envelope performance issues, design strategies for addressing these issues, and the constructability ramifications of those design decisions. The course attracted a mix of graduate students from the Architecture and Building Science programs:

Prototype of a mechanized glass fin louver assembly by Dennis Chow (MBS ’16) within a self-built aluminum window box, built thanks to the Southern California Glass Management Association (SCGMA).

“I had developed an interest in building facades, especially facade retrofits and how they can be a game-changer for the vast stock of existing buildings. The idea hooked me on to design, performance and engineering aspects of building facade construction. This led me to this course to get a foundation in my developing knowledge and interest in this field.”   - Kushnav Roy (MBS ’18)

The issue of constructability ramifications became no clearer than when the students were given the opportunity to construct their own windows, as expressed by Dennis Chow (MBS ’16):

“I really enjoyed building facade units…It was stimulating to have to wrestle with the functions of rarely-scrutinized elements such as profiles, gaskets, and fasteners.”

With the generous support of the Southern California Glass Management Association (SCGMA), 70+ students of ARCH 518 have received an in-depth, hands-on experience where they fabricated aluminum and glass, assembled window frames, receive 1-on-1 instruction from glaziers, and gained a respect for the role of the glaziers and their skillset in the delivery of building enclosures.  What SCGMA is doing to represent our industry in engaging academia is phenomenal.

In addition to the hands-on experience, the class mixed lectures from industry experts, case study evaluations, and an application of those learnings in the form of a design exercise.

“ARCH 518 was a great class. I think it was the balance of real-world assembly, lectures, group and individual work, and research that made it feel as though we were learning a lot in a short amount of time.”    - Dennis Chow (MBS ’16)

In short, I am truly thankful to those who inspired me into this industry. If they had not gone the extra mile to connect back with academia, I might not have been made aware of this fascinating field. Carrying on this spirit, ARCH 518 is one way our team aims to raise awareness, educate and excite the next generation of facade geeks. With a new school year approaching, I encourage all industry veterans to consider how connecting with academia may be an avenue to help further our industry’s future.

A course syllabus for ARCH 518 is available here.

Jeffrey Vaglio, PhD, PE, AIA
Jeffrey Vaglio is an engineer, architect, and researcher who focuses on the design and performance of advanced building enclosure technologies. He is currently the Vice President of the Advanced Technology Studio of Enclos, a leading national specialty facade contractor. Jeffrey completed a Ph.D. in Architecture at the University of Southern California where he also studied innovation theory and leadership.

ATS
The Advanced Technology Studio of Enclos is a multi-disciplinary team that provides technical expertise and introduces design thinking into Enclos project pursuits, design processes, project executions and the industry as a whole to simplify the complexities that persist on the most challenging building enclosures.