Exploring the complex development of a mobile research lab for the design of built environments

Jeanblanc, Evan
Major Professor
Ulrike Passe
Committee Member
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The topic of this thesis is to outline the production of a mobile research and diagnostics lab (MDL) designed and constructed by Iowa State University student researchers with faculty guidance as an experiment in the development of research infrastructure. The development of the MDL was divided into five phases and took place over the course of twenty-five months. Concept, Research, Design, Construction Documents, and Construction were utilized in the creation of the MDL with each phase dealing with different aspects of the projects final form. This process is documented within this thesis by the lead designer, researcher, and construction manager of the project. By documenting and understanding how the projects multiple phases occurred, innovative solutions to new prototypes for materials and wall assemblies can be produced and further research infrastructure can be developed. The lab’s potential impacts on building sciences are discussed as they relate to university research infrastructure, attained research capacities, and interdisciplinary research opportunities. The MDL is a mobile facility which creates opportunities for research to occur through the assembly of systems and technologies which aid in research.

Enabling experimentation with environmental qualities, conditions and assemblies this experimental space can be utilized to develop solutions to building envelope design that respond to the approaching energy crisis brought on in part by traditional building methods. Providing an opportunity for cooperative research in building science provokes engagement of actors from disparate fields with issues of energy utilization in the built environment. By exposing multiple disciplines to issues of energy utilization in the built environments new approaches to old problems can be formed. Understanding how issues of energy utilization impact the building design process can lead to a reduction of unnecessary energy expenditures as well as environmental degradation. Disrupting existing patterns of design and construction in the form of new methods and thought processes requires a way of invoking change. A means of testing and measuring design solutions to energy issues requires a platform capable of both hosting experiments and relaying data for analysis.

The goal of this thesis to support future development of building science research infrastructure through the documentation and analysis of the production of this Iowa State University mobile research lab called Mobile Diagnostic Lab (MDL) and communicate the lessons learned. Analyzing the development of an interdisciplinary research platform known as the MDL, its potential impacts on the built environments are explored and discussed.