Giving By Design
Most people draw back when you bring up a problem. Not David Howryla. Mention a problem, and the 1997 graduate of UNLV’s School of Architecture and president of Marnell Architecture and Consulting leans in and lights up. “Problem-solving is energizing!” he exclaims, and when you get to know him, you know he means it.
Howryla is the driving force behind a new gift to the School of Architecture that brings students face to face with real life problems—and helps them find solutions with input from faculty, professionals, and each other. The Marnell Foundation has made a five-year commitment to fund a Building Technologies Lab and the David Howryla Design-Build Studio. The gift gives students the valuable experience of building what they design by covering “nuts and bolts” construction expenses such as materials, tools, building permits, research salaries, and consultants.
“As a student, you want to build massive works. The studio gives students a chance to manage and build an idea, not mass,”Howryla explains. “When you bring real life challenges into the architectural process at an early stage in a student’s education, the learning curve becomes easier. As architects, they can be successful sooner.”
The focus of the Design-Build Studio this year is to create an entry for the Solar Decathlon, an international competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy efficient, and attractive. The 20 finalists will have an opportunity to build the homes they design and display them in a central location during the next finals competition in 2013. (Since 2002, the Solar Decathlon has been held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For Solar Decathlon 2013, the Department of Energy will be choosing a new venue.) UNLV students are working in teams to prepare their entries, and the proposals are critiqued by students and faculty in UNLV’s Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering. “Each of us wants our idea to be prominent,” says fourth-year architecture student Jacob Rivard. “But in reality, when we work in teams we get better ideas.”
The collaboration between the School of Architecture and the Engineering College stretches creative thinking on both sides. “Engineers and architects have different philosophies,” explains instructor Eric Weber, who leads the Design-Build Studio. “This program is creating connections across campus.”
It is also helping students to connect the dots between imagination and reality. “Our students know how to design on a computer,” says David Baird, the School of Architecture’s director, “but they don’t necessarily understand the construction and fabrication implications of their designs. This studio helps them see their work from completely different viewpoints. It is life changing—light bulbs go off!”