Michael Ellars


Michael Ellars, AIA, APX, CSI, CDT, LEED AP, ADAC, CASp

Building Science Education

In 2015, I started teaching undergraduate building science at the USC School of Architecture as part-time, adjunct faculty. At the undergraduate level, Building Science is a joint degree between the School of Architecture and the Viterbi School of Engineering, formally administered by the latter. It is a wonderful program that offers architectural education to what are technically civil engineering majors who are interested in structural engineering.

ARCH 418: Designing with Natural Forces

20181–20191: Investigation of natural force effects and their relationships to architecture; laboratory work includes drawing, photography, model building and tests on models. A look at the past, present, and (possible) future of buildings that respond to natural forces. Lecture and discussion classes will examine the history of designing with natural forces with an eye to adapting these techniques into current and future work. The semester project will apply the concepts discussed in class to a hypothetical construction in a location with extreme natural forces. Students will leave the class with a practical understanding of natural forces, as well as their impact on the design process and the built environment at large.

ARCH 305: Building Science II

20173: ARCH 305, Building Science II, is a lecture-and-studio course positioned as the transition from the conceptual design realm of ARCH 205 to the structurally focused ARCH 405. The course content is largely the same as when I taught ARCH 405, but the overall progression of the program is improved by moving this course to earlier in the studio sequence. The first semester covers basics of site analysis, conceptual design, and basic structural engineering from a design perspective. The second semester introduces other building systems, such as mechanical electrical systems and building envelope, while building upon the concepts of the first semester. The focus of both semesters is on a complete design project coupled with a research paper on a given building design topic.

ARCH 405: Building Science III

20153–20171: ARCH 405, Building Science III, is a lecture-and-studio course intended to be the capstone architectural studio for undergraduate building science. Focusing on advanced architectural concepts and how they relate back to structural engineering, the first semester establishes baseline building systems knowledge that is then applied in the second semester to a national design competition project. The final deliverable content for both semesters is a complete design project coupled with a research paper relevant to that project. (In past years, the paper subject has included materials of construction, tall wood buildings, and local museum case studies.)