Research + Discovery

CAUS Research + Discovery

Robert Schubert
Professor and Associate Dean for Research


It is my distinct pleasure to present the highlights of faculty and student work that occurred in the Research/Discovery Domain during 2016-2017.  This year has been a busy one, with our faculty focused on the emerging Destination Areas put forth by the Provost.  This effort is largely directed at building transdisciplinary teams to tackle the world’s pressing problems through research, education, and engagement.  To help with understanding the evolutionary trajectory of the Destination Areas, a section has been added to this annual report providing a summary of where things are headed.  Since this is a very dynamic and rapidly changing process, we would like to provide you with this reference as a way to keep up-to-date.  The detailed description of the Destination Areas can be found at

The CAUS Annual Report is an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the research contributions made by our faculty and students. While not representing a comprehensive inventory, we’ve selected a cross-disciplinary sample of their excellent work to share with you.

While this section highlights many outstanding research endeavors from around the college, I invite you to go the school director’s reports linked below for full information about the projects within their schools:

School of Architecture + Design

Myers-Lawson School of Construction

School of Public and International Affairs

School of Visual Arts

I also wanted to bring to your attention that in February of this coming year, CAUS will be celebrating its 7th biennial Research Symposium with presentations by faculty and graduate students. This will be another opportunity to more comprehensively highlight all their excellent work.



Eco-Park Learning Center


The Prince William County Solid Waste Division is on a mission to refine and expand waste management services into a larger community service through educational, social, and recreational opportunities.  As a technology leader, the landfill supports the development and production of alternative energy and other innovative lifecycle issues of consumer products and related waste.  Throughout the Eco-Park Learning Center visitors gain knowledge of a range of alternative energy sources including solar, wind, and methane.


The Eco-Park Learning Center will be a keystone experience with programs linking the overall site through education, research, and outreach.  The Center seeks to optimize existing staff capability while providing educational opportunities for K-12 students and citizens-at-large in areas of science, the environment, architecture, design and engineering.  The EPLC is envisioned as a flexible center accommodating a range of activities.  From small classes to large gatherings, the EPLC is dynamic in offering space for a variety of community programs.  The courtyard and outside spaces welcome formal and spontaneous gatherings.  Inside, a large gathering and exhibition area adapts to a range of occupancy types, three classroom spaces change to accommodate program needs, and open offices and conference rooms support staff operations.



Center for High Performance Environments

The Center for High Performance Environments (CHPE) and the National Center for Building and Construction Technology at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia have established a collaborative agreement to explore and develop solutions to the growing demand for housing in Saudi Arabia. The focus of the explorations will be on adopting mass customization processes and modular building techniques to the Saudi Arabian context. The effort will be holistic by considering design quality, performance and sustainability, manufacturing process and efficiency, transportation, site preparation, on-site assembly, education and post occupancy evaluation. The collaboration agreement is for an initial two-year period with possible extension beyond the initial period and funds the CHPE at $270,000.



Student Research Awards

Drew Hulva, architecture Ph.D. student, was awarded the ARCC King Student Medal for Excellence in Architectural + Environmental Design Research for his work in architectural acoustics. Drew was awarded the Beranek Scholarship last year. Only one is awarded per year for a student studying noise or architectural acoustics nationally and this was the first year of the prize. The scholarship award is $30,000. At 23, Drew’s already earned a Newman Medal, an NCAC grant, and second place in the Royster Prize last year.

Terry Clements with Lauren Delbridge, Olmsted Scholar

1st Place – Lauren Delbridge

“Coal Ash Wastescape: Designed Remediation of Chesterfield Power Station’s Coal Ash Ponds”

2nd Place – Abdulmueen Bogis

“The Cultural-Social Benefits of Developing Green Open Channels: Case Studies and Demonstration in Jeddah City, Saudi Arabia”

3rd Place – Hamad Alsaiari

“Multifamily Housing at Transit-oriented Developments: A Stated Preference Study in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia”



Paul Kelsch and his students presented and published a paper (VT News story here) based on the Rosslyn waterfront studio the previous spring semester, 2016.



Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech


The mission of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech’s (VCHR) mission is to serve as an interdisciplinary study, research, and information resource on housing. In carrying out its mission, VCHR serves as a resource to policy makers, communities, and businesses for research, information, and technical assistance to create affordable, sustainable communities and strives to improve the affordability, sustainability, and quality of housing by creating knowledge through research. 

Projects in FY 2017

Recent grants and contracts received or conducted in year ending June 30, 2017:

1) Fairfax County Housing Strategy $95,622.00. VCHR is working with Fairfax County Housing and Community Development staff to develop a countywide housing strategy. VCHR will develop numeric targets for housing development and strategies for meeting those targets. In addition to these recommendations, VCHR is leading a communications effort to familiarize county residents with housing affordability issues and hear feedback regarding County efforts to provide and incentivize the development of affordable housing. The communications effort includes focus groups and survey.   

2) Prince George’s County, MD Housing Strategy $91,800. VCHR is partnering with RTI to conduct a housing needs survey of Prince George’s County, MD residents. RTI will deliver a 1,000 record general population survey. VCHR Research Scientist, Mel Jones, is providing expert guidance for the survey’s development and the housing needs assessment being conducted by Enterprise Community Partners. Mel will advise regarding study methodology and will help the Enterprise team to analyze data and synthesize analysis generated by RTI, UMD, and GMU.

3) Strategies for Promoting Innovation in Housing- US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) $119,943.00.  As leading scholars and policy analysts of residential technology innovation in the U.S., Urban Institute and Virginia Tech have partnered to revisit HUD’s innovation pipeline, confirming past findings, and setting new foundations. Bringing together original members of PATH’s strategic and research cadre, the team continues a tradition of study on housing innovation through four analytical strategies: 1) a systematic review of scholarly productions and media coverage over the last decade using rigorous coding techniques developed from past research projects; 2) policy and industrial analyses honed from tracking the regulatory, litigation, and ideological contexts at national and state levels; 3) the latest in decision analysis tools that integrate resource scenarios and policy process maps, building off of PATH’s groundbreaking “technology roadmaps;” and 4) outreach and reflection through a core group of housing innovation specialists and a wider stakeholder pool from industry and academia. Like PATH in its day, these techniques build on a strong foundation to yield a neutral but accurate and substantive final report to guide federal interventions in future housing innovation in the U.S.

Projects in FY 2016

Recent grants and contracts received or conducted in year ending June 30, 2016:

1) Addressing the Impact of Housing Affordability for Virginia’s Economy $615,664.00.  This is a 2-year study of housing, the economic infrastructure of local communities and how housing is intertwined with other key economic components of this infrastructure: construction, finance, property management, legal services, and professional services, to name some. Virginia Tech is leading a coalition of researchers to demonstrate linkages between housing and economic development opportunities, including how housing developments are serving as direct economic catalysts for the Commonwealth.  Further, the goal is to demonstrate how community vitality and household well-being perspectives are critical aspects of community and economic development.

The multidisciplinary research coalition is led by Mel Jones, research scientist for Virginia Tech’s Center for Housing Research (VCHR), and Andrew McCoy, associate professor in the Department of Building Construction and director of VCHR.  The coalition has been awarded the grant from the Virginia Housing Development Authority in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Secretary of Commerce in the Governor’s Office.  Research coalition members include faculty from Virginia Tech, George Mason University, The College of William and Mary, and Virginia Commonwealth University.  Results will provide a basis for decisions made by Virginia legislators, state policy makers and local officials.

2) City of Virginia Beach Housing Study $99,945.00.  VCHR is conducting a data driven housing needs assessment and market analysis. VCHR is compiling and analyzing publicly available data (ACS and CHAS) as well as City administrative data and MLS data. VCHR will ensure that the City can update the data annually and replicate basic analysis. VCHR’s work will inform czb, LLC’s efforts to develop a housing reinvestment plan. czb, LLC will a subcontractor on this project, leading a policy and best practices driven housing reinvestment study and the development of a housing reinvestment plan with VCHR’s support.

3) Resident Energy Education as the Next Step for Affordable Housing $55,141.00.  Since 2006, firms and local policy have increasingly emphasized green building certification, training and construction processes and committed to sustainable principles.  At the same time, the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) implemented some of the most aggressive green building standards in the nation within the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. VHDA has done this by providing a significant scoring incentive for applicants who choose to develop in compliance with green certification standards.  Housing Virginia, EarthCraft and The Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR) at Virginia Tech recently collected, mapped and modeled correlates across 320 energy efficient LIHTC Virginia units based on variables for: 1) estimated energy usage, 2) actual energy usage, 3) incorporated construction technologies and 4) resident behavior.  Actual energy usage for developments in the study was 16.6% less than estimated and approximately 30% less than new standard construction.  Resident behavior among units was striking in its variability, leading some to conclude that education of residents is the next step in reducing energy usage variability.

What next?  The researchers would now like to further study variability in the green building stock, including costs and energy usage, and implications for educating residents and construction and property managers of Virginia’s affordable housing stock.  The work will expand on three recent studies with Housing Virginia and Southface, two were Oak Hill sponsored programs, and rely on the efficiencies of recent data collection.  We will begin by collecting and appending our recent data with financial information on the cost variability of green versus non-green housing, setting a basis to motivations for an energy efficient property portfolio.  We will then focus on energy efficient building resident behavior variability.  Both sides of the equation will benefit through education from the resulting information.  



Center for Design Research

A compendium of current projects, research efforts, and outreach is below.

International Exhibition: ICFF 2017, Jacob Javits Convention Center, New York, May 17 – 21

The 2017 exhibition by the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech entitled, Technology and Tradition: Explorations at Intersection of High Tech and High Craft, presents demonstrable prototypes spanning product, furniture, and architectural interventions. These works explore the opportunities presented by the merger computational design, digital fabrication—including Design Robotics and Additive Manufacturing—and contextual, locally appropriate, user centric interventions in a range of materials including wood, glass, metal, clay-based ceramics, etc. The pieces presented here represent global student engagement with partners from industry, academia, and design practice from venues in Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Australia, Austria, and the United States.  (Dunay/King/Leach/Rugh)

National Conference: The Practice of Impact Design, National Building Museum, Washington D.C., April 21, 22

The symposium addresses the who, what, and how, regarding social impact design.Through a series of lectures and panel discussions, this summit will address five interrelated aspects of this question: how to staff a social impact practice; how to achieve financial sustainability; how to communicate value; how to create accountability; and how to integrate impact into everyday practice. (King/Dunay)

International Research and Outreach: Folkets House-Refugee Relocation Center Malmo Sweden, Spring 2017

In collaboration with Walter P. Moore Engineering (An international structural and facades engineering firm; Skansaka (Swedish Office); ARExA Architects (NYC-Based Design Office); and Milou Group (Swedish Design Office), Nathan King was part of the winning competition entry for the Opportunity Space sponsored by Van Allen Institute. $25,000 of the construction budget will be used to support the research and development of a large deployable glass-fiber and fabric structure. During the Spring of 2017 Nathan and a small group of students will construct the superstructure and ship to Malmo Sweden for installation on site. The project will host 3 months of summer programming to support refugee relocation. (King)

Prince William County Research Project, Spring 2017  

We are concluding the second phase of this $100K sponsored project. The first phase was concluded last summer with the publication, Waste Not : Generate – The Prince William County Eco-Park Learning Center. Due to the loss of one of the primary investigators (David Clark), the final submission has been delayed, and in the midst of new projects, work is progressing. The project should close at the end of the semester. (Dunay/King)

Mzuzu Library Initiative, Malawi, Africa, Summer/Fall 2017

There are many aspirations for a new Mzuzu University Library since a fire engulfed the previous structure in December of 2015. The entire collection, including computer stations and an irreplaceable collection of Malawi heritage artifacts were lost.

The plan is to organize a small team of faculty and students to help Mzuzu University realize a new library. The project will proceed from programming through design development toward collaboration with local architects and the construction of the building. A small team will travel to Malawi during the summer and schematics and design development will be initiated fall semester. (King/Dunay/Davis)

Mzuzu University Architecture Curriculum, Mzuzu, Malawi, Africa, Spring 2017-Fall 2017

As part of the emerging partnership with Mzuzu University, Professors King and Dunay will be advising on the development of the new undergraduate architecture curriculum. This program will admit students starting in September 2018 within the Department of Land Management at Mzuzu University with the goal of a full faculty of Architecture + Design by 2020. (King/Dunay)

African Design Center – Rwandan Craft, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa, Summer 2016-Summer 2017

A continuation of ongoing efforts several students from Architecture and Industrial Design along with Mark Leach and Jon Rugh will continue to develop Kigali-Specific furniture making techniques leading to the design and construction of a suite of Elementary School Furniture for the m2 foundation primary school expansion in Kigali Rwanda. The results of this research will be a detailed white paper developed in collaboration with the Rwanda Government on the state of the wood industry in Rwanda; design of the elementary school suite (student thesis); international engagement with the African Design Center and further collaboration with MASS Design group. (King/Leach/Rugh)

Malama, Kaua’i Farm Workers’ Housing, Master Planning and Site Analysis, Kaua’i, Hawaii, Spring 2017-Summer 2018

As part of the new course “Global Design and Construction” developed by Nathan King and Ashley Johnson (Building construction) the team has established a partnership with the Malama Kaua’i group that will lead to student outreach and engagement through educational programs and buildings developed in support of regional agriculture in Kaua’i. The pilot design/build effort is ongoing this semester with students from Arch, ID, CEM, and BC who will travel to Kaua’i to construct a shelter and greenhouse with elementary school students. During this time the students will also be conducting site analysis and stakeholder engagement for the larger campus and prototypical farmworker housing. (King/Johnson(BC))

New Jersey “Tiny Home” Community for the Homeless, Summer 2017-Summer 2018

Currently in negotiation is the master planning, design, and potential construction of 100 small free standing housing units for a 10-acre homeless encampment in New Jersey. This development is based on rigorous research into community organization for homeless population and is being funded by the local townships. This project is led by Nathan King but could also serve as a good outlet for Design/Build interests of other faculty as things develop. (King)

Additive Manufacturing and Automation in Building Design and Construction Group, Ongoing

A funded collaboration between A+D, Civil Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering launched by King in 2015 the group has developed a novel large format robotic 3D printing process that is driving partnerships with several industry collaborators. This semester the outcome of the work will be demonstrable building-scale prototypical components made of 3D –Robotically printed concrete and polymers. (King)

Digital Glass: Enveloping complex surface structures, Blacksburg, Providence, Boston, New York, Spring and Summer 2017

The goal of this work is to combine functional demands of building systems (structure and envelope), formal requirements imposed by design (often double curvature), and the realities of material behavior with advanced computational analysis and digital fabrication. This phase will make use of the expertise offered by the Building Enclosures group of Walter P Moore Engineering, research partner in the present bid and a globally recognized expert in glass analysis and the performance criteria associated with the design and engineering of complex façade systems. The result of this phase of research will be a building scale prototypical envelope for a structural surface produced using computation design and digital fabrication and large format glass slumping facilities at the Autodesk BUILD Space and the Glass Robotics Laboratories at Virginia Tech and Rhode Island School of Design.  (King)

International Archive of Women in Architecture Center

The International Archive of Women in Architecture Center is directed by an elected board of advisors, representatives from around the world, dedicated to the IAWA Center mission to:

  • Find and preserve the records of the pioneer generation of women architects, interior and industrial designers, landscape architects, and urban designers and planners, whose papers may be lost or dispersed if not collected immediately;
  • Appeal to retired women from these professions who have played a part in the history of the professions to donate their papers to the IAWA;
  • Appeal to active women architects, designers, and planners to save their papers and to consider donating them to the IAWA at a later date;
  • Serve as a clearinghouse of information on all women architects, designers, and planners, past and present, and to encourage research on the history of women in these professions through seminars, exhibits, and publications;
  • Foster cooperation between all libraries or archives containing data on, or collecting material on, women in architecture, design, and planning.
  • The growing archive consists of sketches, manuscripts, books, individual projects, and the works of an entire career. Primary research materials (unique or original works) preserved in the Archive include architectural drawings, photographs and slides, manuscripts, models, and job files. As a clearinghouse of information about all women in architecture, past and present, the IAWA also collects secondary materials such as biographical information in addition to books and other publications and exhibitions. Through many significant and diverse donations the Archive is growing into a tremendous historical resource. Now housing more than 400 collections, the Archive continues to grow in significance through donations from around the world and contributes to the urgency of the mission.


IAWA Center Symposium, Annual Meeting, and Workshop

The IAWA Center Symposium, Annual Meeting, and Workshop scheduled together in March in support of Women’s Month began with the keynote Red Yellow Orange from architect, Dr. Leslie Lokko received sponsorship from the CAUS Diversity Committee, The International Archive of Women in Architecture, and Inclusive VT. Professor Leslie Lokko, heads the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg. Her contribution was woven throughout with many contributing events.

The International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) held its annual symposium on March 23rd and 24th. Speakers/Presentations included:

Anna P. Sokolina, Ph.D., IAWA Honorary Board Advisor: “We Can Do It! The Mission of Milka Bliznakov”

Alice Finnerup Møller, Architect MAA, Denmark: “Architecture in Relation to the Book Arkitekten Viggo Norn”

Fire in the library

Launched in Fall 2016, the Fire in the Library series organized by the IAWA Group, a special study initiative led by Professor Paola Zellner, furthered the mission and goals of the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA). Fire in the Library hosted discussion with the university community with four Fire in the Library conversations over the academic year.

In September, two 2016 Milka Bliznakov Research Prize recipients, Dr. Tanja Poppelreuter, German historian, and Florencia Marciani, Argentine architect, presented their plans for research from their winning proposals.

In October, the IAWA Group, supporting the research work of the 2016 Milka Bliznakov Research Prize recipients, presented material uncovered during initial stages of the research.

In January, Prof. Sharóne Tomer and Prof. Joseph Bedford, having explored material in the IAWA collections, addressed from their distinct perspectives questions about the role of gender in architecture.

In March, Prof. Lesley Lokko, architect, Head, Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg; and novelist of Scottish and Ghanean descent, read samples of her work and discussed racial and gender issues in her experience as an author and architect. Other presenters included: Sharóne L. Tomer, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech, “The Bind: Architecture And Gendered Aspiration;” Meral Ekincioglu, Ph.D., MIT Visiting Scholar 2014-2016: “Historical Construction of Turkish Women Architects in Postwar U.S.: A Missing Chapter in Feminist Architecture History;” UD/UA: Un Día / Una Arquitecta: “Making Women Architects Visible;” Kristine K. Fallon, FAIA, President KFA, Chicago “Improving Communication on Large, Complex Projects;” and The “Lusus Naturae | Lusus Culturae” Workshop with Prof. Lesley Lokko.

In addition, The IAWA @ Special Collections in Newman Library Exhibition was designed and  mounted by IAWA manuscripts curator Samantha Winn along with others, through March 20-27. Newman Library, Special Collections displayed selected original items and papers from women of the IAWA archives.

IAWA Symposium 

The fall of this year saw the IAWA Group, as a first course, instituted by Professor Paola Zellner Bassett, to focus upon materials held in the IAWA in Special Collections at the University Library.  As part of the course, students researched collections and heard from visiting researchers while adding to the projects of the Bliznakov Research Prize Award recipients. All investigations contributed to the this compelling dialog presented to the university and to the colleagues from around the world who follow the IAWA with the Fire in the Library seminars.

IAWA Liaisons

The IAWA Group continued involvement through the year with participation in the IAWA Annual Meeting of the Board of Advisors and the IAWA Symposium and Workshop. Participants in the group were officially recognized and designated IAWA Liaisons by the Board during the annual meeting.

The IAWA Instagram-blog

The IAWA Instagram-blog presented weekly postings, all designed by the Group to further the fascinating accomplishments of women in architecture represented by work from the collection. As a result, this resource is being shared broadly expanding the interest in the IAWA to new regions around the world.

Milka Bliznakov Research Prize 2016

Each year, the IAWA Center issues the Milka Bliznakov Research Prize call for a proposal to conduct research in the IAWA collection on women in architecture and related design fields from architects, scholars, professionals, students, and researchers to honor IAWA founder Milka Bliznakov. The prize bestows a $3,000 award. With this award, the archive encourages the preservation of archival materials related to the work of women who shaped the designed environment to secure for posterity a record of their achievements. This research, in concert with the preservation efforts of the IAWA Center, helps to fill the current void in historical knowledge. Recipients contribute to building the historical record of women in architecture while sharing the research process and conclusions with the university and the ever-attentive worldwide learning community.

This year the IAWA awarded the Milka Bliznakov Research Prize to two projects, with $3,000 awarded to each:

  • Refugee and émigré female architects before 1940 – Dr. Tanja Poppelreuter, Belfast School of Architecture, Ulster University, Belfast, UK, and
  • A synergy between the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) and the Un día | una arquitecta [A women architect | a day] webpageby Dr. Ines Moisset, Architect, Cordoba, Argentina and Floriencia Marciani, Architect, Cordoba, Argentina along with collaborators – Maria Cecilia Kesmann, Gueni Ojeda, Silvina Barraud, Marcela Roitman, and Lorena Fernandez, all of Argentina. This group is made up of architects who edit the Un día | una arquitecta webpage. The team is composed of professionals within the field of academic and mass media publishing from several countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Mexico, Peru, Spain, Uruguay). The group has cooperated with other organizations such as Wikimedia and Col.lectiu Punt6 (Barcelona, Spain). In this particular project, copywriters from Argentina will construct on the project.

This year, an individual project designated the Milka Bliznakov Research Special Project Award 2016 was awarded to Anna P. Sokolina, PhD, Connecticut, USA for her proposal Life to Architecture.

The Milka Bliznakov Research Prize Award 2017 issued through the IAWA website, Instagram, blog, and across multiple international platforms will be presented in July 2017.

Exhibition Design – IAWA 30X30 Exhibition at the AIA National Headquarters – American Institute of Architects Women in Leadership Summit, Washington, DC, and the University of Maryland, Fall 2017

The 30X30 Exhibition will be mounted at two venues in August for the American Institute of Architects Women in Leadership Summit. One installation will open the summit venue in Washington, D.C. at AIA national headquarters. In tandem, another design is being created for the Kibel Gallery at the University of Maryland. Both exhibitions will be on view through October.

University Library Grant – Women of Design: Revealing Women’s Hidden Contributions to the built Environment 

This year University Library proposal – Women of Design: Revealing Women’s Hidden Contributions to the built Environment received $232,356 from the University Libraries Grant Council on Library and Informational Resources. In co-operating together on the IAWA, the Library recognized “the IAWA Center was most instrumental in demonstrating the scholarly breadth and significance of the IAWA. Our partnership demonstrates long-term sustainability to reviewers.” The Library also noted, “we also received outstanding letters of recommendation from scholars who had previously worked with the materials.” 



Center for High Performance Environments

The CHPE partnered with NRB Inc., Wythe County Public Schools and Wytheville Community College for the purpose of designing and prototyping a next-generation Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classroom. Integrating modular construction strategies with a clustered classroom design approach that includes scalable learning and lab spaces with advanced technologies and daylighting, this new classroom meets the needs for emerging technology-based curricula. The Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission of Virginia has expressed a strong interest in supporting this project.

The CHPE, along with Masters of Science affiliate Christoph Optiz, received $3,000 for a SEAD Grant from the Institute from Creativity, Art and Technology to support the project Natural Rhythms and Temporal Perception – visualization of sunlight patterns in the Sandbox. For this, technologies such as LED lighting and building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) panels have the potential to reintroduce aspects of natural rhythms, such as variations in sunlight, into built environments. In addition to collecting renewable energy, a BIPV panel can be considered a recorder of variations in solar radiation. This presents an opportunity to use BIPV with LED lighting to create spatial conditions that stimulate the occupants while connecting inside to out. By using the BIPV to record variations in solar radiation during the day and play them back at night through intensity and color variations of the LED lighting, a connection to these natural rhythms might be reestablished. This proposal merges architectural design, lighting technology and BIPV for the purpose of demonstrating proof-of-concept for meeting this goal. The demonstration space will be the ICAT sandbox, which lacks direct daylight and often has occupants working deep into the night. The effort is collaborative between faculty from architecture and building construction to support the implementation of the technology for the sandbox.



Community Design Assistance Center

The Community Design Assistance Center (CDAC), an outreach center in the CAUS, assists communities in the areas of landscape architecture, architecture, interior design, and planning.  Students are hired on sponsored projects to assist communities, thus providing communities with assistance they otherwise could not afford and students with valuable transdisciplinary real-life work experience.  The conceptual designs provide a cohesive vision for communities and can be instrumental in helping communities leverage additional funding for next steps in design and for implementation.   

CDAC’s “Lost Communities of Virginia” brochure.

CDAC continues to be an innovative example of community engagement and public design assistance while utilizing creative strategies to fund the Center’s work. CDAC is proud to add the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Assessment Grant as a funding partner alongside the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Urban and Community Forestry Program (VA DOF U&CF). The VA DOF and EPA grants enable CDAC to provide outreach services unique to Virginia Tech. They are both strong examples of inter-agency collaboration and regional innovation for the betterment of communities.

The Virginia Department of Forestry’s U&CF program has partnered with CDAC for 18 years to help underserved communities develop greenspace plans that conserve, enhance, connect, and protect community natural resources and encourage forest-based recreation and eco-tourism.  To date, DOF grants to communities through CDAC totaled over $638,000 with over 70 projects and to date leveraged over $8,675,000.  That means for every dollar granted through the VA DOF, an average of $14 in additional funding was leveraged.

In addition to projects throughout the Commonwealth, CDAC and VA DOF partnered with the NC Forest Service and the KY Division of Forestry to help restore environmental quality and economic vitality in the Appalachian regions of these states through conceptual design work.  Projects in the NC and KY communities are currently wrapping up due to the end of the three year grant cycle.

The EPA’s $400,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant provides CDAC with the opportunity to help communities in southwest Virginia create conceptual designs for the redevelopment of potentially contaminated sites.  The decrease in coal production and associated jobs across the targeted area has taken a significant toll on the economy of the region.  The goal of the Brownfields Assessment Grant is to foster economic development through the redevelopment of the brownfield sites into retail, businesses, or tourism and recreation opportunities in the targeted communities.  CDAC will be working with approximately 9 communities through the course of the 3 year grant.  

CDAC’s final conceptual perspective of a mixed-use building proposed where a former gas station once operated in Damascus, VA. Redevelopment efforts had previously stalled due to environmental concerns of the site’s previous use. CDAC’s Brownfields Assessment Grant has reinvigorated redevelopment conversations.

Other projects through the year included improvements and expansion of the Russell County Fairgrounds main building, a sports complex and park for the town of Pearisburg, a trail for Prestonsburg, KY, a park design in Olive Hill, KY, and a sports complex conceptual master plan for Greenbrier County, WV. This work not only aided many communities, but provided over 12 student jobs.

In the spirit of the award-winning Lost Communities of Virginia book, CDAC developed two driving tour brochures for 4-5 county regions in the Commonwealth. The routes follow backroads, passing through small, once-thriving communities with suggested stops at places that tell stories of the places, provide unique cultural experiences, and patronize local businesses that exemplify the ideals of the tour through their buildings, landscapes, or history.

Covering the counties of Appomattox, Campbell, Charlotte, Halifax, and Pittsylvania, the Lost Communities of Virginia Southern Driving Tour brochure is now available on the CDAC website for download ( and in print. The Lost Communities of Virginia Backroads of Southwest Virginia Driving Tour brochure covering Carroll, Montgomery, Pulaski, and Wythe Counties will be available on the CDAC website and in print summer 2017.