Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to document his journey to design 30 projects by the age of 30 (May 2020). His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

Planning my 2017 Architecture Projects

Planning my 2017 Architecture Projects

With the start of a new year, I took some time to set my 30x30 project goals and started brainstorming ideas for my architecture projects in 2017. While brainstorming, I chose an overall concept for all of this year’s projects which will be net zero and net plus energy residential and commercial buildings. I also decided to develop 6 new projects and a selection of projects from architecture school for my 30x30 goal.

Why focus on net zero and net plus energy architecture?

While reflecting on 2016 and my life as an architect, I remembered the first architecture project that I worked on as a high school student with the ACE Mentor Program of New York. In 2008, I joined this afterschool program and was in a team of many architects, construction managers, and engineers. Every week, we met and worked through brain teasers like holding a ream of paper with 3 sheets of paper.

Towards the middle of the semester, the architects wanted to explore a new building typology called the vertical farm. So we split into 3 different teams that would focus on the architecture, construction technologies, and engineering of our vertical farm proposal. As I learned more about this typology, I found myself daydreaming at school about the design of our skyscraper farm.

After two months of working on our proposal, we presented it at the finale of the ACE Mentor Program event and I went home with a scholarship from the program! Skipping ahead to my senior year of architecture school, we had an open program for a mixed use residential and commercial building with a site in Buffalo, NY. For my proposal, I focused on designing a social housing complex that allowed occupants to grow their own produce within a greenhouse. The building used passive design strategies for heating, cooling, and water retention to minimize impacts on the environment.

Passive Design Strategies for my senior year project in architecture school

During 2016, my friends and I pursued a design competition as a part of my 30x30 projects that was sited in Marzabotto, Italy that we called "AlgaEnergy". We proposed the renovation of a vacant paper factory into an algae production plant that would circulate the algae in tubes from the rooftop, through the walls and floors of the building, and to the refinery where it would be turned into biofuel and biomass. This would allow the building to be radiantly heated and cooled by the algae that is in constant motion. The biofuel and biomass would be researched in the labs and offices, sold to fuel companies, and displayed on a full tour of the building to the public.

Ultimately, I realized that all of my favorite projects focused on passive design strategies for residential and commercial buildings. For 2017, my six 30x30 projects will focus on designing architecture that is capable of producing more than enough energy to supply the needs of the building. This means a mixture of passive design strategies and energy production technologies will need to be researched and implemented into all of my designs.

Redefining project 2x30

With this year’s design goal in mind, I’ve decided to redefine project 2x30 that was going to be an architect’s house and studio to a net positive energy multifamily housing project. This decision was based on the fact that I spent most of 2016 designing large scale buildings and lost time to focus on project 2x30. This led to very little development and a change of heart.

As I start to brainstorm ideas for this new 2x30 multifamily housing project, I already know that the project will be heavily influenced by research in new technology and materials. For example, the multifamily house will have a highly insulated exterior envelope and foundation, which could be accomplished using a combination of insulated concrete forms (ICF) and structurally insulated panels (SIP).

Regarding the design of the project, I’m planning to scrap the current sketch that I came up with for the architect’s house and studio and develop three multifamily houses on that plot of land. I’m deciding whether or not it’ll be separated into different unique designs, replicated as 3 separate structures, or bundled into a multifamily housing complex.


Learning from my 30x30 progress last year, I’ve decided to focus on projects one at a time to increase my production. From my experiences last year, juggling more than two projects where I played a significant role in designing, modeling in Revit, and finalizing graphics led to a decrease in my focus on each project. Knowing my work habits, I work best and most efficiently when I can focus on one thing at a time.

With a few more weeks of planning, brainstorming, and refining some of my school and competition projects, I’ll start developing 2x30 – Net Plus Energy Multifamily Housing at the beginning of February. I’ll also think of a name for the project… Stay tuned for more!

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