Research Initiatives

In addition to individual faculty research endeavors, the School is home to several research initiatives. 

Architecture, Health and Sustainability (AHS-ND)

Until recently, “green building” efforts primarily focused on reducing energy use and carbon footprint. Human health, however, is also an important component of environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Physical, mental, and social health, as well as sustainability are affected by the design of the physical environment at multiple scales: from rooms and buildings, to communities and cities. Urban planners, architects, and policy makers, however, face a paucity of evidence and evidence-based design guidelines addressing health and sustainability.

School of Architecture Professor Kim Rollings and her interdisciplinary Architecture, Health, and Sustainability research group at Notre Dame (AHS-ND) are documenting effects of the physical environment on physical health, mental health, and health behaviors. Working within a social-ecological framework, AHS-ND systematically examines how various attributes of built and natural environments (e.g., floor plan arrangement, ceiling height, window size, building condition, street connectivity, land use mix, density, proximity to green space) interact to affect health outcomes such as dietary intake, physical activity, stress, anxiety, and depression, especially among vulnerable populations (low-income, children, aging, mentally and physically impaired). This work adds authority to professional design and planning practice, and has implications for policy.

Additionally, AHS-ND develops evidence-based environmental assessment tools for architects, researchers, and other practitioners to quantify attributes of the physical environment related to health outcomes and evaluate different architectural and urban design approaches. Results of this work contribute to the development of evidence-based design guidelines and recommendations with the goal of establishing healthy, socially responsible, and sustainable buildings and cities.

Digital Historical Architectural Research and Material Analysis (D.H.A.R.M.A)

Digital Historical Architectural Research and Material Analysis (D.H.A.R.M.A) is a research team founded in 2007 based at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. The team, under the direction of Prof. Krupali Krusche, works on documenting historic monuments and buildings around the world with the use of a Leica 3D laser scanner, a high-speed, long-range scanner ideal for projects that are difficult to document by traditional methods. The scanner provides researchers with the most field-efficient means of data collection. Recently the team has also used 3D scanning to determine and monitor seismic effects on historic buildings and reconstruction processes of buildings with historical value.

In partnership with CyArk, a non-profit organization that collects the most accurate 3D models of cultural heritage sites, stores them and provides them freely to the world, the University plans to further use the scanner to document endangered historic buildings such as those on UNESCO’s world heritage list or the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Few of these sites have been documented in much detail. Notre Dame currently joins only a handful of universities in the U.S. with such technology, including Columbia, Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley. The scanner is also used as part of the School’s Preservation and Restoration Concentration. In summer 2008, the D.H.A.R.M.A. team spent four weeks in India documenting some of the country's historic monuments including the Taj Mahal.

In July of 2010, a team of School of Architecture faculty and students traveled to the Roman Forum—the center of political, religious, commercial, and judicial life in ancient Rome—to measure, document, and draw large areas of the historic site. The team used conventional and innovative methods, including a Leica 3-D laser scanner, for measuring and understanding this World Heritage Site.

GreenScale Research

Today, prevailing discourse on “green” building practices centers on a presumed corollary between sustainability and advanced building technologies. As a result, research and discussions about achieving sustainability and greener building methods has generally focused on the capabilities of modern technology to generate “sustainable” design solutions. And yet, currently there exists no universally accepted method or tool capable of holistically measuring the broader impact of these advanced technologies on the built and natural environments. What are the true costs – the consequences, even – of these novel and often experimental building materials and methods of assembly? And how might they be measured in order to expand our ability to make informed design and material decisions, leading ultimately to the creation of truly sustainable buildings?

Launched in Fall 2009, the GSRP is examining these questions through quantitative analysis of construction methods, materials, and principles of design through a series of original case studies focused on measuring, evaluating, and comparing purportedly “green” materials and methods of assembly alongside their traditional predecessors. One goal of the GSRP is to generate specific, objective, quantifiable data capable of describing and comparing the broader implications of materials and methods used in the design and construction of buildings. The team is also developing a digital tool to carry out this quantifiable analysis dynamically throughout the entire design process, from concept to construction. This tool will give practitioners and students alike a greater awareness of the environmental impact of their buildings and encourage them to truly integrate sustainable principles into their designs. Finally, the Green Scale method is applied through the evaluation of new facilities, building materials, methods and technologies in studio and through interdepartmental collaboration on research projects such as the Green Cloud.

The research team, led by Prof. Aimee P.C. Buccellato, is composed of faculty, staff, and students from the School of Architecture, the College of Engineering, and the Center for Research and Computing at the University of Notre Dame.

Historic Urban Environments Lab (HUE/ND)

The Historic Urban Environments Lab (HUE) at Notre Dame is a new interdisciplinary team of architects, computer scientists, librarians, programmers, anthropologists and GIS specialists whose goal is to create new tools to study the built environment.   Building off of the success of two digital projects created by the Architecture Library, the Seaside Research Portal and SPQR-ND, the team is currently working on several web sites and applications to better study the built environment.  Efforts include expanding SPQR-ND, an application for the iPad and iPhone that combines early architectural publications with mapping tools, beyond its current focus of the Roman Forum to include the historic city center of Rome and creating a application to study lost architecture through historic records combined with 3D modeling. 

Current Projects

Seaside Research Portal
SPQR-ND – iPad – Available in the App Store
SPQR-ND – iPhone - Available in the App Store
Building South Bend: Past, Present, & Future 
Downtown SB - Available in the App Store


HUE/ND provides resources to Notre Dame faculty and approved student research and studio projects.   These tools are housed in the Architecture Library and the Center for Digital Scholarship and are available for circulation.