College of Architecture and Planning

Net Zero Capitol District: Interdisciplinary Studio

As part of an interdisciplinary studio involving architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning students, under the professorship of Bruce Race, FAIA, FAICP, students spent the spring of 2012 exploring net-zero carbon, energy and water concepts for 15 blocks north Indiana’s statehouse in downtown Indianapolis. 

The Capitol District

The students set out to demonstrate how the Net-Zero Capitol District can provide Downtown Indianapolis with a model for sustainable urban living. The Net-Zero Capitol District could provide an additional 2,000 residential units in Downtown Indianapolis. 

Planning concepts included increasing ground floor activity along key walking streets, protection of view sheds of the Capitol Building and strengthening pedestrian movement between the IUPUI, Canal Walk, Downtown and the American Legions Mall.

In addition to creating a unified urban identity for the neighborhood, students prepared strategies demonstrating how Indianapolis could develop its first triple net-zero neighborhood. Planning reduced energy demands through increased efficiencies and utilizing renewable energy sources; water demand was reduced through passive and active management of storm water and domestic water; and low carbon design strategies that reduced business as usual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Eco-District Planning and Design Process

The Capitol Eco District sustainable design process included three steps:

1: Site Analysis

Working in teams, students prepared analysis boards of the Capitol District. Analysis included environmental factors, urban infrastructure, development suitability, urban form, land use, and access/circulation. Sustainability analysis included preparation baseline (existing) energy use, water use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Teams prepared analysis boards and slides summarizing their key findings and presented them to an interdisciplinary faculty jury. 

2: Urban Design Framework

The students developed an urban design framework for the district. Working in teams, the students identified overall organizational design concepts for the district. Sustainability strategies included preparation of business as usual calculations for energy use, water use and GHG emissions. Each team then developed net zero strategies and calculated the reduction in energy, water and GHG emissions. Teams prepared presentation boards summarizing urban form, land use and circulation concepts and net zero strategies.  Students presented their strategies to an interdisciplinary professional jury in Indianapolis.

3: Block Design and Net Zero Development Standards

The third step required architecture students to prepare a design for a block, planning students to prepare a net-zero development code for the district, and landscape students a net-zero water strategy for public streets and parks. 

Block Master Plans and Architectural Designs - - Architecture students selected a site and prepared a stacking plan and massing concept for a mixed-use block. This included a development program, stacking plan and massing model. Based on the block master plan students prepared a site context diagram, site plan, development program summary, typical floor plates/plans, building/block elevations, building/block section, typical wall sections and 3D representations. Students also calculated the buildings’ energy use, water use and GHG emissions.

Net Zero Development Codes - - Urban planning students prepared net zero development codes that balanced qualitative and quantitative standards for design and environmental impacts. This included design guidelines, development standards, energy efficiency, net zero water methods and other low carbon design requirements. 

Streetscape Guidelines and Net Zero Water Strategies - - Landscape architecture students prepared guidelines for landscape design and development of a net zero water district. This included public infrastructure design standards for streets and open spaces and storm water management methods.

Each student prepared a presentation board and slide show. They presented their final projects to an interdisciplinary faculty jury.

Site Analysis: Establishing a Baseline

Each interdisciplinary prepared an urban design analysis and calculated a baseline measurement of energy and water use and GHG emissions.

Below: Example analysis boards prepared by student teams

Urban Design Framework: Business as Usual and Sustainability Strategies

In preparing an urban design strategy for the Capitol Eco District the teams developed urban design concepts that responded to both placemaking and environmental objectives and targets. This included business as usual calculations and net zero strategies for energy, GHG emissions and water. 

Below: Example urban design and sustainable strategies presentation board

Block Design: Delivering Net Zero Buildings

Each architecture students developed a comprehensive building design for a block within their urban design plans. This included preparing a development program, preliminary concepts and final designs with plans, elevations and detailed wall sections.

Below: These net zero block designs by Arch 402 students Avi Patel, Tyler Schwede and Kristen Cochran includes strategy calculations and building orientation and massing concepts increasing the passive performance of buildings and site design.






Net Zero Development Codes: Qualitative Guidelines and Quantitative Standards

PLAN 404/504 students prepared net zero development standards for the district. These included quantitative standards and performance criteria for design, energy, GHG emissions and water. 

Below: These summary presentation boards were prepared by undergraduate planning student Kyle Van Klompenburg and graduate planning student Wenting Du.


College of Architecture and Planning
Architecture Building (AB), Room 104
Ball State University
Muncie, IN 47306

Phone: 765-285-5859
Fax: 765-285-3726
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