Research Based Design Initiative Spring Symposium at PSU! Eike Roswag-Klinge - Keynote Speaker! by CPID

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Research Based Design Initiative Spring Symposium

Friday, May 25, 2018 - 9:30am to Friday, May 25, 2018 - 1:30pm

Portland State University School of Architecture Presents
Research Based Design Initiative Spring Symposium: Designing for Performance: High-Tech Meets Low-Tech

In this symposium, architecture firms participating in the School of Architecture's Research Based Design Initiative, with their student research teams, present collaborative research projects and discuss the role of computer-aided research in design.

Register here.

Morning Workshop, 9:30 to 11:45am

Focus on the Occupant: Pre- and Post-Occupancy Evaluation
Heather DeGrella of Opsis Architecture, with student presenters Gwen Ward, Jenny Rodriguez, and Wayny Le, Master of Architecture candidates 2019

Tightening the Feedback Loop: How Parametric Modeling Tied to Performance Analytics Can Inform Design Decisions
Scott Mooney and Stan Barter of SRG Partnership, with Matt Sedor, PSU Master of Architecture alumnus (2013)

Designing with Data: Intelligence and Evolutionary Based Design
Sean Wittmeyer and Jonah Hawk of ZGF Architects, with student presenter Amy Peterson, Master of Architecture candidate 2018

Keynote Lecture, 12 noon to 1:30pm

Eike Roswag-Klinge, Technical University of Berlin
"Natural Building Lab: Constructive Design and Climate Adaptive Architecture"

Eike Roswag-Klinge is the founder of the Natural Building Lab at the Technical University of Berlin and co-initiator of ZRS Architecture and Engineering (2003). With his teams he undertakes research, planning and realization projects in diverse global contexts with a focus on holistic, climate adaptive design solutions that allow the reduction of technology. The focus of current research is the development of healthy low-tech building shells that can control humidity levels through the use of natural building materials such as earth and timber, as well as the development circular construction elements.

As co-founder of the DieNachwachsenseStadt Network, he pursues the resource positive development and densification of urban contexts with a focus on Berlin. Eike Roswag-Klinge and ZRS have been recognized by a number of international prizes and awards including the Aga Kahn Award for Architecture 2007, the KAIROS European Kulturpreis 2015, the Holcim Award in Gold 2011 Asia-Pacific and the BDA-Preis Berlin.

Portland State University School of Architecture’s Research Based Design Initiative is made possible by a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation and participating firms, SRG Partnership, ZGF Architects, Opsis Architecture, Bassetti Architects, Bora Architects, and Hacker Architects.

Register here.

Free and open to the public.

Shattuck Hall Annex
1914 SW Park Avenue
SW Broadway at Hall Street
School of Architecture
Portland State University

Architecture students and faculty help plan and create a village of sleeping pods by CPID


HOMELESSNESS in Portland is at a crisis point. At last count, an estimated 3,800 people in Multnomah County were homeless and thousands more were living in unsafe or unstable conditions. For women, being homeless comes with greater risks of sexual assault or other violence.

Soon 14 previously homeless women in the Kenton neighborhood of North Portland will begin to rebuild their lives after months or years of living on the street. Their new home is the Kenton Women’s Village, a community made up of tiny “sleeping pods.” When they lay their heads down at night, they will do so in their own beds, in their own cozy little homes, complete with locking front doors, bathroom facilities and a kitchen nearby, and a community of peers surrounding them.

The Kenton Women’s Village is the product of nearly a year’s worth of efforts by community groups under the organizing force of PSU’s Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) in the School of Architecture.

In 2016, Village Coalition, a group of homeless advocates, local activists and people who have experienced homelessness, came together with CPID in response to the state of emergency on homelessness declared by the city of Portland. They asked themselves, “How can architecture and design help?” The Partners on Dwelling (POD) Initiative was born.

“We knew what we didn’t want: impersonal, warehouse-style shelters that treated houseless people like cattle. Instead, our goal was to create personal, well-designed, safe structures that would be welcomed by neighbors and residents alike,” says Todd Ferry, a CPID research associate who helped spearhead the project.

He says the group was inspired by the recent successes of homeless communities such as Portland’s Hazelnut Grove and Dignity Village, where residents worked together to build small structures to help them transition out of tents and create a shared community.

FOR THE POD Initiative, the first major step was to hold a brainstorming session to generate design solutions. More than 100 architects, designers and community members, including dozens of PSU architecture alumni, showed up. They listened to the needs of homeless individuals and housing advocates, and spent the day generating a plethora of “sleeping pod” designs, which they presented to the group.

The architects embraced the project, and a majority signed up to form professional design-build teams, many of which were sponsored by their architecture firms, including SERA, LRS, Holst, S|EA, Mackenzie, Communitecture and others. Under Ferry’s leadership, a PSU senior undergraduate architecture studio class formed one of the 14 teams, and CPID students and faculty fellows formed another.

The POD Initiative challenged each team to thoughtfully design and build a full-scale, maximum 8-by-12-foot prototype of a sleeping pod that would be safe, warm and structurally sound. Each pod had to include a lockable door and at least one operable window, and meet specifications to make them portable and replicable. The designs also needed to help change the prevailing public perception of homeless populations—ideally shifting the image of a homeless person to that of a valued, competent, human being deserving of the same comforts and dignity that the rest of us expect.

Charlie Hales, then mayor of Portland, threw his support and funding behind the project. The city donated $2,000 per pod to cover the cost of materials and other logistics, and agreed to take custody of the pods in order to ensure that they would be put to use when completed.

By December 2016, the pods were ready. The result was a full-scale exhibition of all 14 unique tiny dwelling units in the Pacific Northwest College of Art parking lot in Northwest Portland. This gave the public, as well as homeless community members, a chance to view the structures and provide feedback.

MEANWHILE, the biggest challenge loomed: Where would the pods be used? Could they form a village for people in need of shelter?

Eventually, an empty lot in the Kenton neighborhood was identified as a possibility. Owned by the Portland Development Commission, close to public transportation and near a park, the spot seemed ideal.

A focus group of women residents of the Hazelnut Grove community was formed to provide guidance on the design of the village—from the policies (Should overnight guests be allowed? The group said no, due to security concerns) to the layout of the site (a community garden was favored), to how to make the site safe.

As part of a graduate architecture studio class led by CPID Director Sergio Palleroni with Ferry’s support, student Alesha Hase attended these meetings so she could absorb the group’s wishes and translate them back to her fellow students, who were working on design proposals for the village site.

“One of the main topics we talked about was safety, and how (homeless women) stay safe at night. They had lots of stories about getting attacked, and lots of ideas for policies to try to keep everyone safe,” says Hase.

“It was really powerful to hear how important having a house is, not only for safety, but for being able to build social connections with other people.”

UNLIKE HAZELNUT Grove and Dignity Village, which formed organically and later entered into agreements with city agencies, this tiny community’s infrastructure, policies and social services will be set up from the start, including a vote of support by the Kenton neighbors. Getting the structures in place has been a true community effort, with critical commitments of expertise, services and funding coming from both public and private entities.

CPID students and faculty designed the kitchen, storage and bathing facilities, expertly fitting appliances and fixtures into shipping containers, with adjacent communal dining areas. The city is paying for the installation of electricity on-site to power cooking, bathing and exterior lighting. Catlin Gabel high school students created portable solar-powered electrical outlets (the “JuiceBox”), so each resident can plug in a phone, light or laptop in her pod.

Catholic Charities is the village’s on-site service provider, providing a full-time staff person to address emergencies, make sure the facilities are running properly, and help coordinate the residents’ connections to case workers. The Kenton Neighborhood Association will coordinate with local residents to help with the community garden and organizing donations of needed items. The Joint Office of Homeless Services, operated by the city and Multnomah County, is helping to tie all of these elements together, working to ensure that the village isn’t a dead end for the residents, but provides a realistic path out of homelessness.

Marc Jolin, director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, spoke about how the success of the endeavor will be measured. “Is it a welcoming and safe and supportive environment for people while they are there? Does it give them the stability that they need to work toward getting out of homelessness altogether and back into housing?”

Jolin says he expects it will work well and that the women who are staying there will benefit from the community that’s created.

“I think the sense of ownership that they have over the space will translate into whatever work they need to do to move back into more permanent housing,” he says.

“It’s been exciting to get to know some of the work that’s going on at Portland State and to see how students can contribute to solutions for people experiencing homelessness,” he adds. “It is the best of what you can do when you pull people together around a shared goal.” 

Author: Karen O’Donnell Stein is communications, marketing and recruitment administrator in the PSU School of Architecture.


Fourteen unique tiny dwelling units for the homeless were designed and built by Portland teams. Two of those teams were from Portland State and included (left to right) architecture graduate Tomasz Low, faculty member Todd Ferry and current student Olivia Snell.

This story is featured in the Summer 2017 edition of the Portland State University Magazine


Sergio Palleroni recognized by Curry Stone Design Prize's 2017 Social Design Circle by CPID


The Curry Stone Design Prize has named Center for Public Interest Design director Sergio Palleroni a member of its 2017 Social Design Circle.

The Curry Stone Design Prize is awarded annually by the Curry Stone Foundation to recognize innovative designers, practitioners, and projects using design to address critical social justice issues and improve the daily living conditions in communities around the world. To celebrate the prize’s 10th anniversary, the Curry Stone Design Prize has formed the Social Design Circle, made up of global “visionaries, activists, and game changers” who are at the forefront of social design. The practices and projects of these Circle members will be highlighted on the Curry Stone Design Prize website throughout the year.

Palleroni is among 100 luminaries being recognized over the course of the year for their innovative work in social design, including Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman of Estudio Cruz + Forman, Mark Lakeman of City Repair, El Equipo Mazzanti, Project H, the Rural Studio, and dozens of groundbreaking international practices. The Curry Stone Design Prize highlights Palleroni’s career as a designer and educator at

In conjunction with the formation of the Social Design Circle, the Curry Stone Design Prize has launched a weekly podcast, “Social Design Insights,” featuring interviews with leaders in the field of social and public interest design, including Sergio Palleroni. The podcast, which airs every Thursday, is co-hosted by Prize Director Emiliano Gandolfi and author, architect, and disaster-recovery expert Eric Cesal and delves into a series of 12 provocative, urgent questions on the subject of public interest design. The interview with Sergio Palleroni explores the question “Can we design community engagement?” and discusses his 30-year career in public interest design over the course of two podcasts (episodes 19 and 20).

Palleroni is a professor in the PSU School of Architecture and is the founder and director of its Center for Public Interest Design, which was created in 2013 and is the first of its kind in the nation. He is recognized by the Curry Stone Design Prize for his work in helping to found the field of public interest design, educating and inspiring generations of future socially engaged architects through design-build projects serving communities in India, Haiti, Mexico, Montana, Oregon, and other international locations. In addition to leading the nonprofit BASIC Initiative, Palleroni has also established the first Graduate Certificate in Public Interest Design, offered through the PSU School of Architecture and Center for Public Interest Design, the United States’ first academic certification in this burgeoning field.

Palleroni is “one of the pioneers of the practice,” says Emiliano Gandolfi, and “one of the initiators of the new wave of interest in how design can be more inclusive and just. And actually we mention him frequently as the ‘godfather of social impact design in the U.S.’ for his direct engagement in seeing design as a tool to promote social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and economic accessibility, not only as an architect but also making it a priority for universities . . . taking students directly to the field to learn by doing while building with marginalized communities.”

About the School of Architecture at Portland State University
The School of Architecture’s four-year bachelor’s degree, two-year accredited professional Master of Architecture and three-year track of the Master of Architecture emphasize focused study in architectural design, the humanities, tectonics and the profession, in a rich, design-based curriculum, as they prepare students for a career as a licensed architect. The Master of Architecture program concludes with the completion of a major design thesis study of individually inspired questions concerning architecture, culture and technology. The first of its kind in the United States, the Graduate Certificate in Public Interest Design is now offered through the School of Architecture’s Center for Public Interest Design.

About Portland State University (PSU)
Oregon's urban research university, recognized for excellence in sustainability and community engagement, is located in the heart of downtown Portland. PSU's motto is "Let Knowledge Serve the City," and it offers more than 200 degrees with opportunities to work with businesses, schools and organizations on real-world projects.

Media Contact: Karen O’Donnell Stein,, 503.725.8422 

Call For Entries - POD designs by CPID

Call For Entries

The POD Initiative is seeking inspiring designs that utilize plywood to address homelessness parallel to the upcoming exhibit at the Portland Art Museum from May 13th - September 3rd, Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and Collections of John Yeon. Yeon’s incredible life and work included investigations into affordable housing in Portland through pioneering uses of plywood, a product with origins in Portland. Today, similar visionary thinking is needed to address the homeless crisis in Portland and around the country. The POD Initiative organizers, led by the Center for Public Interest Design and Communitecture, are partnering with the UO John Yeon Center and Portland Art Museum to: generate innovative pod designs that can benefit houseless Portlanders; advance a dialogue aimed at changing public perceptions of homelessness in Portland; and discuss architecture’s critical role in shaping thoughtful, elegant designs for shelter to benefit Portland’s most vulnerable citizens. This effort aims to build on significant steps made by the architecture community in the POD Initiative’s inaugural project in the fall of 2016. This initiative brought together designers and stakeholders in the houseless community to design and build fourteen micro-housing units called “sleeping pods” through a collaborative process that has resulted in new initiatives on homelessness by the City of Portland.

How It Will Work

The (Plywood) POD Initiative is seeking design proposals from architects and designers located in Portland and the Pacific Northwest that explore innovative new strategies which take advantage of plywood’s inherent properties toward beautiful and dignified transitional housing for the houseless. Designers are also welcome to investigate materials similar to “plywood” such as cross-laminated timber if they see a meaningful application. The designs will fit the parameters of a “sleeping pod” (provided below), which are designed to form a village in their aggregation with shared amenities like kitchens and showers.

Participating individuals/teams will be provided with a template for a 24”x48” design board on which to place their designs and offer a brief narrative of design concepts, and will submit digital copies of their final proposal by end of day on May 1st, 2017. POD Initiative organizers will work with museum staff to print and display the work at the Portland Art Museum. Submissions will be reviewed by the exhibit curator, POD Initiative organizers, and representatives from the houseless community, and we hope to include most or all of the designs in the exhibit as appropriate. Following the exhibit, all submitted drawings will become an open resource for the public and houseless advocates like the Village Coalition, a group of advocates, activists, and houseless individuals in Portland committed to combatting homelessness from many sides of the issue. 

In addition to the exhibit of the design boards, at least one pod design will be chosen to be constructed at the Portland Art Museum this summer (August date TBD) on their Miller Family Free Day, which is visited by thousands. Where possible, the pod construction will be led by Maslow CNC with the help of volunteers, including the design teams if they choose to participate. Currently based at ADX, staff of Maslow CNC will be available for consultation during the design process and to share technical capabilities of their CNC technology. Following the display of the built pod, the Village Coalition will work with the City of Portland and other partners to ensure that the pod and/or its components benefit a houseless community.

Interested designers should email POD Initiative organizers at in order to receive more information, including sample design boards and opportunities to visit a houseless village to discuss design ideas with residents. 

Design Parameters

Designs will inevitably include a range of materials beyond plywood, but special emphasis for potential uses of plywood and related engineered wood products like cross-laminated timber are encouraged.

Pods: “Sleeping pods” are loosely defined as micro-dwelling structures with a footprint between 6’x8’ and 8’x12’, with a maximum height of 10’6”. Design dimensions are largely based on the ability for pods to be lifted by forklift and moved on a flatbed truck under power lines and bridges. The weight of pods and base (treated 4x4 skids recommended) should be considered early in the design process, as the structures may need to be moved to multiple sites by forklift unless units are designed for disassembly and reassembly. Pods also need to be fully insulated, provide adequate light (including at least one operable window), and have a lockable door.

These parameters were developed with the City and are intended to ensure comfort and security for future residents. That said, designers are welcome to challenge these parameters with their proposals if good reason is provided. Designers are also encouraged to explore any areas where they see potential contributions to the discussion of pod designs from environmental sustainable and water collection to panelized systems of construction or ornamentation. For example, one team may choose to focus on ease of buildability by, say, a person seeking to build their own housing with limited tools, while another design team may propose a kit of parts created in a woodshop/factory using CNC technology. We are excited to see a range of proposals, as responses to homelessness will require an array of strategies.  

Pods are the primary focus of this call for entries, but designers interested in exploring plywood’s potential for creating the shared village facilities (kitchen, bathrooms, storage, showers, gathering, etc.) are welcome to submit those designs for consideration for inclusion in the exhibit as well.


-We are seeking involvement from architects and architecture firms, but will consider the inclusion of proposals from anyone with the creative spirit and desire to contribute to this important issue.

-If you have participated in the previous POD Initiative, we particularly welcome your participation in this next step, which may build upon your previous efforts or explore entirely new possibilities.

-A firm is welcome to submit more than one entry

-Architecture students made incredible contributions to the previous POD Initiative effort and are welcome to submit designs as teams, under the guidance of professors, or as individuals (current students should name their university on their submission boards). 


For more on the POD Initiative, please visit:

To express your interest in submitting designs to this exhibit and initiative, please email (Note: Please be patient with email questions, as responses may not be immediate).

Call for Papers! by CPID

Building on the Common Ground

Portland State University School of Architecture and Center for Public Interest Design                                            

January 20, 2017



Structures for Inclusion Conference 2017

Portland State University, Portland, Oregon

April 6 - 9, 2017

For seventeen years, the purpose of the Structures for Inclusion conference has been to bring together and share the best ideas and practices that are reaching those currently un-served by the design professions. Continuing that tradition, Design Corps, the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED), DesignBuildXchange, and Live Projects Network, in collaboration with the Center for Public Interest Design at the Portland State University School of Architecture, are pleased to announce the call for papers for BUILDING ON THE COMMON GROUND: Structures for Inclusion conference, taking place in April, 2017.

For the first time, these three international networks are combining efforts to support and promote systemic change in the practices of design with the intent of building on the common ground they share. The conference will explore this common ground both through the example provided by the award-winning projects that will be recognized and discussed, and by insights provided by papers exploring the possible benefits of collaboration. So while each network has a unique focus, the call for papers, like the project submissions, acknowledges their common ground: supporting the growth of excellence in public interest design projects and processes and their social, economic, environmental and pedagogic impacts. To that end, we invite submissions for paper presentations that explore the issues facing all participants in DesignBuild, Public Interest Design, and Live Projects. The paper presentations are meant to stimulate a shared conversation amongst all attendees (within networks or working independently) on parallel issues faced in reaching those un- or under-served by design. The goal is to stimulate dialogue by evaluating and disseminating best practices, methods and critical problems faced by the network hosts and conference attendees. The conference welcomes a diversity of contributions from established and early career researchers; teachers; students; practitioners; co-professionals; collaborators and experts from other fields. Inter-disciplinary contributions from related fields are also welcome.

Please share this call for papers with your faculty, students, and associates.


3 February 2017

 – Deadline for abstract submission for Paper proposals.

13 February 2017

 – Notification of acceptance for Papers and Workshops.

7 April 2017

 – Paper Presentations at Conference

21 April  2017

 – Deadline for submission of Full Papers (note that this date is after the conference and reflects the conference organizers desire that each contributor have an opportunity to benefit from the discussions and input at the paper sessions and conference)

Learn more about the dates, criteria, and submission requirements.

Center for Public Interest Design
Portland State University School of Architecture

Three Weeks to SEED Award Deadline! by CPID

SEED + dbXchange + Live Projects Network Awards

Applications are made directly to each network:

SEED NetworkCriteria and Application

dbXchange NetworkCriteria and Application 

Live ProjectsNetwork Criteria and Application 

Recognizing design projects with exceptional social, economic, environmental and pedagogic impact, this year the SEED + dbXchange + Live Projects Network Awards will represent the greater scale and growing relationships needed to create truly sustainable projects and positive change in all communities globally. While each network has a unique focus, sharing the awards acknowledges their common ground: supporting the growth of excellence in public interest design.

A total of six projects will be selected for awards through a competitive juried process. Two winners will be selected by each of the three host networks that represent their public interest design principles and selection criteria.

Winning projects receive a $2,000 honorarium for a trip for one team representative to present their work at an international conference, taking place at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon from April 6-7, 2017. Built on the framework of the annual Structures for Inclusion Conference, this joint conference will focus on sharing built works, research, and discussions which can inform the future collaborations and efforts by these networks, and others, to promote access to design as a basic human right.

The deadline for each application on all three network platforms is January 6, 2017, 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time. The Award Winners will be announced on the networks’ websites on January 26, 2017.

Call For Entries! by CPID

Design Corps, the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED)dbXchange, and Live Projects Network in collaboration with the Center for Public Interest Design, are pleased to announce the 2017 Awards competition to recognize excellence in public interest design.

For the first time, these three international networks are combining efforts to support and promote systemic change in the practices of design with the intent of building on the common ground they share. Recognizing design projects with exceptional social, economic, environmental, and pedagogic impact, this year the SEED + dbXchange + Live Projects Network Awards will represent the greater scale and growing relationships needed to create truly sustainable projects and positive change in all communities globally. While each network has a unique focus, sharing the awards acknowledges their common ground: supporting the growth of excellence in public interest design.

A total of six projects will be selected for awards through a competitive juried process. Two winners will be selected from each of the three networks that represent their public interest design principles and selection criteria.

Winning projects receive a $2,000 honorarium for a trip for one team representative to present their work at an international conference, taking place at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon from April 7-8, 2017. Built on the framework of the annual Structures for Inclusion Conference, this joint conference will focus on sharing built works, research, and discussions which can inform the future collaborations and efforts by these networks, and others, to promote access to design as a basic human right.

Deadline for each application on all three network platforms is Friday, January 3, 2017, 11:59 pm EST. Award Winners will be announced on the networks’ websites Thursday, January 26, 2017.


The Awards jury will represent the three combined networks:
Sergio Palleroni, Chair, Co-founder of the BaSiC Initiative and Director, Center for Public Interest, Portland State University
Bryan Bell, Executive Director, Design Corps, and Associate Professor, NC State University
Sue Thering, Programs Director, Design Corps
Ursula Hartig, Director CoCoon-Studio and Co-founder of, Technische Universität Berlin
Peter Fattinger, Director of and Co-founder of, Technische Universität Wien
Jane Anderson, Co-founder of the Live Projects Network, Oxford Brookes University
Colin Priest, Co-founder of the Live Projects Network, Chelsea College of Arts


Projects in the field of the built environment that have been designed or redesigned for the public good will be considered. Projects in progress or completed in the past three years are eligible. Any design Projects can be at any stage, done by student, professional, or DIY (do-it-yourself) will be considered. Work may be undertaken anywhere in the world. The entry criteria vary according to the network in which the application is made, this reflects the different foci of the individual networks. Please take a closer look at the eligibility criteria for each network before applying.


The projects for this award will be judged on:
Participation: How and to what extent have community members and stakeholders been involved in the design and planning processes?
Effectiveness: How and to what extent does the project address the community’s critical needs and challenges?
Excellence: How and to what extent does the project achieve the highest possible design quality, relate with its context, and dignify the experiences of those it touches?
Inclusiveness: How and to what extent does the project promote social equity as well as reflect a diversity of social identities and values.
Impact: How and to what extent are the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the project known and being measured?
Systemic: How and to what extent might the project or process be scaled up to have a broader impact?

Application via SEED Network here.


The projects for this award need to:
-Be based in higher education
-Have a brief, budget and timeframe
-Have a client/user
-Allow students to be physically involved in the materialization of their designs
-Be of architectural, social, cultural, scientific, technical or artistic relevance

Application via dbXchange Network here.


Participation: what expertise did different participants bring that is relevant to this project?
Excellence: how and to what extent does the project achieve the highest possible design quality, relate to its context and its users?
Impact: what sustainable social, economic and / or environmental benefits did the project bring to the local community?
Dissemination: how will the various forms of knowledge created by this project be applied and communicated to others by participants in future.
Projects eligible for this award must fulfill this definition of a live project: “A live project comprises the negotiation of a brief, timescale, budget and product between an educational organization and an external collaborator for their mutual benefit. The project must be structured to ensure that students gain learning that is relevant to their educational development.” (Anderson and Priest, 2012). Projects must be in the field of the built environment.

Application via Live Projects Network here.

SAGE Classrooms installed at Portland's Lincoln High by CPID

Healthy, portable classrooms designed by PSU Architecture students and faculty open at Lincoln High School

Author: Karen O'Donnell Stein

School may have gotten underway a few weeks ago, but students at Lincoln High School still have something new to look forward to. On September 26, four brand-new, sustainable, healthy educational spaces, known as SAGE (“Smart Academic Green Environment”) classrooms, opened their doors on the campus, providing new spaces for academic classes, club meetings, and lectures by community business leaders.  

In 2015, Portland Public Schools selected the SAGE classrooms as the solution for replacing the former portable buildings at Lincoln High School that had been damaged in a fire in July. Seeking an option that would be economical, as well as moveable to another site when the entire campus undergoes a major renovation in the coming years, district leaders met with City of Portland officials and determined that the sustainable SAGE classrooms would best meet the needs of the school and its students.

The SAGE classrooms were designed by Portland State University School of Architecture students and professors Margarette Leite and Sergio Palleroni, as a healthier alternative to the ubiquitous portable classrooms installed at schools across the country. SAGE classrooms feature efficient energy-recovery ventilators that provide fresh air, large windows that allow students a view of the outdoors and plenty of ambient natural light, nontoxic materials, VOC-free paints, vaulted ceilings, and a structural design that gives the classrooms a spacious feel. The structures are designed for both sustainability and affordability.

The project was designated an Oregon Solution by the state’s governor in 2011, which resulted in the formation of a multi-partner team of public agencies and commercial entities that supported the development of the product. The SAGE prototype was introduced in 2012 at the National Green Building Conference in San Francisco. The SAGE classroom received a 2013 SEED award for Social, Economic and Environmental Design.

A total of 59 SAGE classrooms have been installed at 32 schools around the Pacific Northwest, ranging from the Seattle area to Corvallis. 

“We’re so proud that PPS chose the SAGE classrooms for Lincoln High School, especially since the school is less than a mile away from Portland State University, where the idea for SAGE was conceived and where so much of the design work took place,” said Leite.

The SAGE classrooms at Lincoln will hold classes in finance, business management, marketing, and social entrepreneurship classes, as well as theory, government, economics, and IB anthropology courses. Student-run clubs will meet in the classrooms at lunchtime, and teachers will host guest speakers from the business community, according to Lincoln’s principal, Peyton Chapman.

The four-classroom structure’s open-air corridor is covered by a canopy so that students can stay dry from rain as they walk between classes. Restrooms have been added as well, providing some relief from recent overcrowding issues at the school.

A team of Pacific Northwest companies came together to bring SAGE classrooms to Lincoln High School. Contractor Pacific Mobile Structures, manufacturer Blazer Industries, Mahlum Architects, and construction firm Ross Builders NW collaborated with Portland Public Schools to purchase and install the structures at Lincoln. 

Leite said she expects that future architecture classes at PSU will visit the SAGE classrooms to learn more about healthy, environmentally friendly building methods up close.

“We are so glad that PPS is moving toward healthier and happier learning environments with the SAGE classroom. We are hopeful that we will be able to collaborate with this amazing team again at other Portland schools,” said Leite.


The Oregonian: PSU architecture grad Nada Maani pioneers public-interest design with plans for Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp by CPID

Read the original article in The Oregonian here.

Nada Maani aims to challenge the notion that architects work mainly for wealthy homeowners and for corporations that build office towers.

Maani, 23, is among the first four students to complete the requirements for Portland State University's Graduate Certificate in Public Interest Design, a unique credential nationally. At PSU's commencement ceremonies Sunday, she'll receive a master of architecture degree from the School of Architecture.

Public-interest design is a relatively new concept that strongly attracts Maani. The striking young woman with flowing, curly hair was born in Jordan to a family with two faiths and two nationalities: Christian and Muslim, Jordanian and Palestinian. She speaks fluent English and Arabic, often mixing the languages into a unique blend at home.

"Public-interest design is designing for under-served communities," Maani said. "It's designing for everyone who can't afford the designer's time."

That paradox presents a conundrum for practitioners of the art. But Maani, who has a PSU bachelor's degree in architecture, is confident she'll find a path to design in the public interest while earning a living. She says her passion lies at the intersection of architecture and politics.

"It's not the easiest track," Maani said. "But you can make it work."

Maani will soon start a summer architectural internship at Estudio Teddy Cruz, a La Jolla, Calif., firm where she'll work on a community-design project along the San Diego-Tijuana border. This fall, she'll receive her graduate certificate in public-interest design, and seek a Portland job in that field so she can earn her architect's license.

"Public-interest design is first community engagement, and then making sure you're empowering the community rather than telling them what their space would be," Maani said. "It's also about the triple bottom line: environmental, economic and social."

A prime example is the project that Maani chose for her thesis. Last year she visitedZaatari, a sprawling refugee camp opened in 2012 where about 85,000 Syrian refugees live in the Jordanian desert after fleeing civil war.

Maani observed how resourceful Syrians have transformed parts of the camp to resemble living areas back home – moving mobile-home units called caravans into U-shaped formations, for instance, to create courtyards that often include small fountains or other water features. Entrepreneurs have converted caravans into shops, many of which line a dusty main road whimsically named the Champs Elysees after the grand boulevard in Paris.

"I noticed the street was very male, adult dominated," Maani said. "I wanted to focus on the women and children in the camp."

Children, especially girls, face particular challenges at Zaatari. While 58 percent of boys between 5 and 17 attend school, only 42 percent of girls do so. Parents often consider a walk between home and classrooms unsafe and unseemly for a girl unless a male escort is available.

Zaatari is an strange, temporary place that lacks established communities, regular school buildings and solid employment. Many children work as laborers. Forty-six percent of Zaatari females marry by 18, Maani said, compared to 13 percent in pre-war Syria. Poverty and crime are rife.

As Maani began sketches for her thesis, she drew her ideas from refugees' existing improvisations.

Maani wanted to include features such as street lighting to establish safe zones. She also wanted to create women's spaces, such as courtyards, along or near the Champs Elysees, to enable women to get outside of cramped tents or caravans. If more women felt more comfortable frequenting the public street, she said, it could be the safest place in the camp for them.

"That street is the most public place," Maani said. "Eyes are on them all the time. They're safest there."

Maani got the idea of building a second level above the caravans along the shopping street. She color-coded as she drew, using red for child spaces, purple for women's areas, pink for routes connecting to dwellings and green for family spaces.

Maani listed verbs describing activities in the camp: chatting, reading, napping, crying and drawing. Then she designed second-story spaces with these activities in mind, making them flexible enough for other uses.

She admires what Mercy Corps has done at Zaatari, building playgrounds, digging wells and arranging water delivery. She especially likes programs that the Portland-based humanitarian organization has operated to bring benefits such as water and sewer service to both displaced Syrians and Jordanian city dwellers, helping to reduce tensions.

But she considers Mercy Corps playgrounds at Zaatari to be inflexible, noticing that kids using play areas are often highly programmed with structured activities.

Therefore in one area between elevated structures, she drew a flexible "dangling space," with ropes for climbing. She drew screens several feet in front of shops, so customers of, say, a hookah lounge could have an area in front to smoke, as they had in Syria.

"My thesis is about how to build a new camp as the refugees build their own grassroots urban spaces," Maani said. "The physical needs to catch up with the social networks."

As a Jordanian working toward American citizenship, Maani sees her thesis project is a way of contributing from afar to a country under great strain. Jordan, an island of relative peace and security in the strife-torn Middle East, copes with a continuing influx of refugees that taxes the country's limited resources such as water and electricity.

A counter-example to her approach is embodied another refugee camp in the Jordanian desert: rigid, sterile Al Azraq. Architects actually conceived Al Azraq as an improvement over Zaatari, designing it to build cohesive communities.

But a year after Al Azraq opened, the camp built with tens of millions of dollars of international donations sits largely empty. Row after symmetrical row of white steel shelters are uninhabited.

Well-meaning architects designed the newer camp with "villages," where people from the same Syrian towns and cities could cluster near shared schools and playgrounds. The New York Times reported recently that of the more than 35,000 refugees brought to Al Azraq, around 19,000 have left, starving the camp of the thriving street life that was supposed to entice people to stay.

Aid workers say that most refuges who left settled illegally in the very cities and towns the camp was built to relieve. Only about 100,000 of the 625,000 Syrians who have fled to Jordan since the war began in 2011 inhabit camps, according to the United Nations.

The Times described life in Al Azraq as routinely harsh, with limited electricity and with scorpions and snakes that residents fear will be attracted by mice that have overrun the camp.

"Perhaps the biggest complaint is the lack of bustle that would naturally accompany a larger population," The Times reported March 15. The article said that by contrast, Zaatari's bustling Champs Elysees street market, "created and run by the refugees, has contributed to what aid officials and refugees call a sense of 'dignity.'"

It's Al Azraq's mistakes, and the inspiration of Zaatari, that Maani will take as lessons while beginning her career.

"Al Azraq is a product of the United Nations losing control of Zaatari and saying, 'We don't want this again,'" Maani said. "But with 85,000 people, they're going to have their own rules, and they're going to live the way they want to live."

Maani's dream job would be to work for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, bringing her public-interest approach to help change lives. Meanwhile, as she gets time, she'd like to interest a U.N. agency or a relief-and-development organization in her design concepts for Zaatari.

Maani plans to apply for design jobs, earning her architectural license and becoming a U.S. citizen, both of which she'd like to see happen in four years -- while retaining her Jordanian citizenship. She already has a green card.

Maani's father suggests that she apply to architectural companies with Middle Eastern offices, and consider working in Dubai. But Maani, who considers his advice with affection, has a rebellious streak.

"I would never work in Dubai," Maani said. "I want to work at refugee camps all over the world."

(Photo of Nada Maani, above, by Richard Read, The Oregonian)

SAGE Classroom Wins National Modular Building Institute Awards by CPID

The Modular Building Institute (MBI), the national organization advancing the work of the modular construction industry, bestowed an important honor on Portland State University’s groundbreaking SAGE (Smart Academic Green Environment) Classroom project on March 15 at the MBI’s 2015 Awards of Distinction in Las Vegas. The SAGE Classroom was recognized for its installations in the Edmonds, Wash., school district, winning First Prize in the Relocatable Education under 10,000 Square Feet category, and the SAGE Classroom that is now part of the Corvallis Waldorf School earned Honorable Mention in the highly competitive Green Building category. Building entries were judged on architectural excellence, technical innovation and sustainability, cost effectiveness, energy efficiency, and calendar days to complete. A panel of industry and non-industry construction and code experts, architects and engineers, and marketing professionals evaluated the entries.

The project was presented at MBI by Pacific Mobile Structures, whose CEO Garth Hakkenson accepted the awards on behalf of the team.

The SAGE Classroom, designed by PSU architecture and engineering students and faculty, is an ongoing project led by Margarette Leite, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Fellow with the Center for Public Interest Design, and Sergio Palleroni, Professor of Architecture and Director of the Center for Public Interest Design. SAGE offers a healthy, sustainable, affordable alternative to the ubiquitous dark, poorly ventilated portable classrooms in our schools.

“To receive such recognition from the leaders in the modular building field is a huge honor for us and for our whole team. We are so proud to work with this team of professionals, who join us in this effort to create a healthy learning environment for all school children,” commented Leite.

The product of years of research, design and collaboration between Portland State University’s Schools of Architecture and Engineering, Oregon Solutions, manufacturing partner Blazer Industries and distributor Pacific Mobile Structures, with support from PSU's Institute for Sustainable Solutions, the SAGE Classroom continues to attract interest from school districts across the country. In addition to the 15 SAGE Classrooms already installed at schools in Oregon and Washington, negotiations are currently underway to distribute SAGE Classrooms to several new schools. By September 2015 approximately 40 SAGE Classrooms will be in use at Pacific Northwest schools.

To learn more about the SAGE Classroom’s history and design innovations and how to get a SAGE Classroom for your school, go to More information about the awards is available at the Module Building Institute's Awards of Distinction website.

Pictured: SAGE Classroom at Corvallis Waldorf School

Photo by Kelly James