The Constructed Environment’s Updates

Caryn Brause - Winner of the International Award for Excellence for The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 7

The Constructed Environment Research Network is pleased to announce the selection of “Strategic Additions: Reconsidering Architecture’s Stepchild,” Caryn Brause, as the winner of the International Award for Excellence for TheInternational Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 7.

This article was selected for the award from among the ten highest-ranked papers emerging from the peer-review process and according to the selection criteria outlined in the referee guidelines.

Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA 


In architectural circles the single-family house is a cherished commission: the renovation of or addition to an existing home, its poor step-child. There is reason to challenge this bias within the discipline. At present, there are almost 130 million dwellings in the United States; alterations to these dwellings constitute a $300 million annual industry. Neighborhoods formed by existing housing stock are frequently “location efficient.” Retrofitting the existing building stock presents an unprecedented opportunity to address embodied energy simultaneously with energy efficiency. The scale of the impending transformation suggests the need to enlarge the disciplinary discourse to consider these commissions both pragmatically and imaginatively. This paper documents a design research project that examines retrofit design vocabularies. A reference neighborhood with early 20th century building stock was studied using tax records to identify original construction dates, sizes of homes, and retrofit status. From this data, transformation patterns were extracted and a design investigation was pursued to investigate one optimization strategy within the context of four typical housing retrofits. In doing so, the study explores how viewing existing housing stock through the lens of embodied energy and location efficiency invigorate design, and alter the reception and implementation of these projects within the discipline.

Download the full article from the bookstore here.