Chandler Archbell
Cover Image BW.png



bringing resilience to a transient community

January 2015 - May 2015

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In Collaboration with Scott Holmes

First Prize, Richard M. Gensert Memorial Scolarship


The Homewood MakerCenter aims at creating a stronger, more resilient community in Homewood, one of Pittsburgh's most transient and neglected neighborhoods. This mission starts with Homewood’s youth in order to build a stronger community. The project features a large space for making (featuring woodshops, metalshops, and digital fabrication equipment), a K-12 STEAM education center, galleries, and presentation spaces.


A resilient community must evoke three qualities: it should be trusting, connected, and sustainable. In order to bring resiliency to Homewood, there is first a need for resilient architecture. This notion was brought into every step of the design process, with those three qualities being the main drivers.

Adjacent to the Makercenter site is the Susquehanna Building, a former Westinghouse production plant that has sat empty for years. It is currently under redevelopment, and once finished will be a collaborative and entrepreneurial resource for artists and makers in Pittsburgh and Homewood. In order to create a more connected community, the MakerCenter was thought of as a campus that constantly engages with the Susquehanna Building, providing opportunities for students to apply their technological skills in a professional setting. The center of this campus, called the HUB, is an elevated circulation core that connects all three wings of the MakerCenter and provides an informal space for meeting and socializing.


First Floor Plan


Second Floor Plan


North Elevation along Susquehanna St.


Building Sections


The structure of the MakerCenter, based off of 8’ modules, is repeatable and expandable. A constant 24’ bay system with clear spans keeps the interior space open, and an independent interior structure ensures maximum flexibility. This allows the building structure to remain resilient for years to come, even as the functions inside change.  Even the enclosure is a modular panel assembly, which allows any piece to be easily replaced if necessary.  With a roof R-Value of 52 and a wall R-value of 47.75, the assembly ensures a thermally tight enclosure that significantly reduces the building's conditioning loads.


Exploded Structural Bay Diagram


Enclosure Details


In order to reduce the building's energy and water loads as much as possible, three principal sustainable design strategies were integrated into the design of the Makercenter.  Firstly, the roof form includes a south-facing slope, perfect for installing PV arrays to generate renewable energy for powering the machines within the workshops.  By also borrowing the roof of the neighboring Westinghouse building for more PV arrays, the overall Makercampus is able to generate over 95% of its required energy loads.


Solar Energy Strategy


The sloping roof form also opens up north-facing clerestories which, when opened, use the heat stack effect to induce natural ventilation throughout the Makercenter.  In mild weather, this significantly reduces HVAC loads and saves energy in conditioning the building.


Natural Ventilation Strategy


A comprehensive campus sustainable water strategy ensures that the Makercenter can collect, process, and store rainwater for use within the building.  A rain garden landscape to the south also ensures that excess runoff can recharge the groundwater system rather than contribute to stormwater runoff entering Pittsburgh's combined sewer system.


Sustainable Water Strategy