Adding another dome

Author: School of Architecture

As part of her fourth-year design studio’s study of traditional methods of construction and principles of design, Professor Aimee Buccellato recently led students in a design-build exercise involving one of the earliest traditional building-envelope systems: the igloo.  The students experienced firsthand the influences of climate, thermal comfort, and the manipulation of local resources on traditional building design.

Despite its simple domed form, the igloo is actually quite a complex and durable structure: the building envelope contains natural insulation and surprising thermal mass.  Modern igloos and their Arctic predecessors can maintain indoor air temperatures above freezing with minimal active heat sources, something the students discovered themselves inside their completed, structurally sound igloo.

This spring the studio will travel to Bernalillo, New Mexico to assist in the reconstruction of an historic adobe flour mill and work with adobe brick - another traditional method of construction appropriate to a particular climate that also saves resources.

Professor Buccellato’s current research, “The Responsibility of Technology versus the Technology of Responsibility,” involves quantitative analysis of traditional construction materials, methods, and principles of design, including Life Cycle Analysis, Embodied Energy, and Embodied Water, and the development of analytic tools to assess the more qualitative aspects of traditional design and urbanism.