Authored by Maureen Colburn, October 15, 2019

The LHB Research Studio is comprised of architects, engineers, planners, and researchers, some dedicated to the group and some with other homes within the Integrative Design Team (IDT). Our core team includes architect/researchers Maureen Colburn and Becky Alexander with support from Angie Martin, Neva Hubbert, and Stephen Farrell. Project contributors also include Rick Carter, Tom Fennessey, Mike Lamb, David Williams, and Nathan Wriedt.

Well-established as an industry leader in sustainable design, IDT’s aspirational vision guides our current and future practice beyond “sustainable” toward “regenerative”. This June, the AIA adopted a resolution for urgent and sustained climate action that reads, “Be it resolved that, commencing in 2019 and continuing until zero-net carbon practice is the accepted standard of its members, the AIA prioritize and support urgent climate action as a health, safety, and welfare issue, to exponentially accelerate the de-carbonization of buildings, the building sector, and the built environment.” The work of the Research Studio is in service to urgent climate action. We explore questions about how the built environment can improve human and ecological wellness and aim to support a culture of questioning within LHB.

We focus on a few areas where our work can create a positive impact. Our projects can be categorized in four “buckets” described briefly below.


Map showing effective statewide commercial energy codes as of November 2018. Photo credit: The Building Codes Assistance Project (http://bcapcodes.org/code-status/commercial/)

Energy savings in buildings (policy)
The Research Studio engages with community partners to inform policies, guidelines, and programs that promote a more sustainable built environment. Our current energy baseline study with partner Slipstream explores questions such as: What are the opportunities for improving compliance with the commercial energy code in Minnesota? Through our ongoing work with the State of Minnesota B3 program, one of our tasks is to maintain and analyze the Case Studies Database. We ask, what do the projects achieving their predicted energy savings during operations have in common?

Image credit: Phase Change Energy Solutions (https://phasechange.com/products/enrg-blanket/).

Energy savings in buildings (technologies)
Our research work includes several projects funded through the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program to study innovative energy saving technologies in Minnesota buildings. Past projects include Impacts of Office Plug Load Reduction Strategies with Seventhwave. Currently, we are partnering with CEE and the LHB electrical engineering group to design and study Power over Ethernet (PoE) systems and on a study of Phase Change Materials with Slipstream.

Regional Indicators Initiative wedge diagram tool.

Local government climate action
Cities have the potential to be leaders on climate action. LHB created and leads the Regional Indicators Initiative (RII), which provides MN local governments with planning tools and actual results to measure progress toward their energy and carbon reduction goals. We are now working with several communities to help them chart a pathway toward their goals by estimating the impact of various efficiency and decarbonization strategies on community-wide greenhouse gas emissions. Using the LHB-developed RII wedge diagram tool, we can quantify the reduction from a city’s business-as-usual forecast.

Solar photo voltaic panels on LHB’s Cooperage Apartments in Minneapolis.

Research-based practice
IDT defines “research-based” as a broad concept that includes the applied research, evidence-based design, and simulation used to inform its design process. A significant initiative toward this goal is the tracking and reporting of performance metrics for the IDT portfolio in support of LHB’s signing on to the AIA 2030 Commitment. At LHB, we believe that an informed design process and feedback loop will result in spaces that enhance human and ecological wellness. The Research Studio supports IDT’s design teams to integrate applied research into practice by providing tools and guidance.

For more information on the Research Studio, please see our brochure or contact studio leader Maureen Colburn.



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