After working for five years as an architect and environmental consultant in his hometown of Tehran, Mostapha enrolled at Penn in September 2010 as one of ten students in the new Master in Environmental Building Design (MEBD) program within the School of Design. He was recognized for the best national thesis in architecture and urban design and the best bachelor thesis in the field of energy conservation in buildings while earning his B.S. in Architecture from the University of Tehran before receiving his Master in Architecture from Shahid Beheshti University in 2008. Mostapha recently served as a Teaching Assistant in Mark Alan Hughes’ Sustainability in Action course, where he led a group of students in studies of Philadelphia’s LEED certified buildings and zoning code.
Mostapha’s current work as an MEBD candidate focuses on integration of building simulation in architectural design, the practice of analyzing how a building will interact with its surrounding environment in an effort to create the most efficient design possible. His architectural experiences in Tehran, combined with his building simulation studies at Penn, provide a unique perspective into environmental building design that connects the past, present, and future.
Read on for our interview with Mostapha:
Mostapha Sadeghipour Roudsari: I can’t point to a specific event, but I come from a country that has a really great history and traditions in its architecture, so I was able to appreciate architecture and design from an early age. I didn’t think right away that I wanted to be an architect when I was at high school, but I was always interested in the creative aspect of architecture. I have a background in mathematics and physics, so it was a big change for me, but the difference is that I never get tired of architecture since I can be creative with my work. There are always a lot of new open-ended questions in architecture waiting for you as a designer.
MR: I have a bunch of favorite buildings, but my favorite is a heritage citadel-village in Kharanaq, Iran. I wouldn’t say it’s the “best building ever”, but the memories I have of that place and the things I learned while working there make it really special to me. The Inland Revenue Center by Michael Hopkins and Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center by Renzo Piano are other favorites of mine since both of them introduced me to new aspects of design.
MR: After starting in architecture, I had a chance to go to the city of Yazd, which is known as the “City of Windcatchers”. Those traditional Persian houses with courtyards and wind-catchers really pushed me to think about architecture in a different way. The buildings are very old, so they don’t look like your typical “green” architecture, but they are designed to benefit from the wind and sun to form an environmental architecture. I really found it interesting. That trip happened at the right time when I was confused by conventional formal approach of architectural design of those years. It changed my life and led me to become an environmental designer.
MR: Usually people think that “green” design requires you to add things to a building in order to make it more environmentally friendly, but environmental design really begins with the “DNA” of the building. An environmental building is one that exists as a response to the environment. As environmental designers, we start by considering the environmental parameters such as daylighting, solar radiation and the natural ventilation in parallel with the design parameters and then ask questions like, ‘How we can create a building in a specific place that can be cooled by the wind and warmed by the sun?’ It’s not about adding something to the building. Yes, you can use renewable energies as an addition to a building, but using existing passive potentials such as appropriate building orientation, appropriate shading, wind and daylight harvesting, etc., should be the main focus.
MR: What I’m trying to do here is use building simulation to create a holistic, integrative approach to apply to the early stages of building design. Building simulation is used more and more these days, but there are still a lot of undergoing studies there, especially for integration the simulation in the very early stages of design to form the design rather than refinement.
MR: I haven’t had the chance to work on any projects with the Chan Center yet, but I will be working at the Center over the summer researching building design for various projects.
MR: I think one of the best things about the program is that while you learn the principles of environmental design in the core courses, there are so many other courses offered that it allows you to focus on your own desired area of environmental design. Plus, there are lots of resources here, including faculty with expertise in many different areas. It really feels good to know that there are a lot of people here to help you through this program.
MR: I covered “Green Building and Innovation”. We did two different projects for the course. One was profiling the LEED certified buildings in Philadelphia for the Delaware Valley Green Building Council, and then we worked on marketing the sustainable aspects of the new Philadelphia zoning code. Moreover, we had weekly discussions about lecture topics, green building design, green thinking, and more. I think the results were really good.
MR: What I’m probably going to do is work at the T.C. Chan Center as a researcher while continuing my studies of building simulation and work towards applying all of my research to new design projects down the line. It’s going to be fun to see all of the research and design work come together.
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