Carnegie Mellon University
2021 MSSD_Christina Brown_Get Out of Your Comfort Zone.pdf (123.62 MB)

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone: Externalization in Architecture to Increase Social and Environmental Connectivity

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posted on 2024-03-07, 16:13 authored by Christina Xingyizhen Brown

 As global warming accelerates, buildings currently account for 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions annually (UN Environment Programme 2018). Despite  this fact, architecture is increasingly designed to be fully internalized, requiring increased conditioning, which in turn further contributes to the greenhouse gas  emissions warming up our planet. Technology has evolved where we can now disassociate ourselves from the natural environment and isolate our spaces completely.  This has also created spaces where people begin to disassociate from their community, and live within boxes both physically and socially. Though current research  addresses many environmental and human health concerns that arise from internalized architecture, it does not address the social disconnection nor is there any  specific terminology and research that focus on externalizing programming as a strategy. To fill this gap, this synthesis establishes important terminology and research  to support ‘externalization’, and explores the environmental and social impacts of externalizing programs through both design evaluation and morphology by  reimaging what a boundary would mean within architecture.  

This synthesis first establish key terminology, literature review, case studies and research to highlight the importance and impacts of externalization both in terms of  social and environmental connectivity. Then an externalization taxonomy is introduced to support designers in two ways – first as a design evaluation tool that can  aid in evaluating architectural design through its environmental and social connectivity, and second as a design support for building morphology and evaluation that  would better demonstrate how externalization can create integrated designs that provide layers of environmental, social, and health benefits while reducing the total  building energy demands. This morphology process is conducted on the Environmental Charter School in Garfield through the support of four externalization  taxonomy strategies to demonstrate the impact of externalization on architectural design while also displaying how externalization could be integrated into  architectural design practice. A synthesized design demonstrates the potential of externalization with the support of the taxonomy strategies, and highlights the  qualitative and performative benefits of externalization for students and staff compared to the existing baseline. Lastly this synthesis will discuss the potential role of  externalization in terms of the pandemic (COVID-19) and social inequity within architecture.   

This synthesis will provide foundational research and frameworks in regards to building program externalization, and provide preliminary research and example of  how to evaluate architecture based on externalization criteria and how to integrate it into architectural design. The synthesis provides the necessary groundwork to  allow externalization to be researched further, and provide architects and designers with convincing arguments to adopt this approach into their own design work.  




Degree Type

  • Master's Thesis


  • Architecture

Degree Name

  • Master of Science in Sustainable Design (MSSD)


Erica Cochran Dana Cupkova Vivian Loftness Azadeh Omidfar Sawyer Marantha Dawkins Herbert Dreiseitl

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