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Funded Research

Funded Faculty Research 

Collaborative Research on the Influence of Pavements on Rhizosphere Conditions for Tree Health

Principal Investigator – Paul Russell, Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
Co-Investigator – Brad Putman, Associate Professor, Glenn Department of Civil Engineering


The goal of this research initiative will be to create an experimental test apparatus calledRhizophere Test Model (RMT), which will be developed in four
sequential phases. Phase 1 will involve the design and construction of a prototype RMT that will consist of a containment box that will house a pavement cross-section and accommodate a planted tree. The RMT will be mobile to allow for placement in different locations and environments depending on the specific research needs. Phase 2 will consist of preliminary testing on pavement cross-sections to evaluate and tune the experimental set-up to ensure proper functionality of the design. After analysis of the preliminary testing, phase 3 will involve making necessary modifications to the design and then constructing additional RMTs. Finally, Phase 4 will involve the execution of an experimental study on the effects of different pavement surface and subsurface designs details on the conditions of the planting zone of a tree/pavement interface.                                                                                                                                     



Over the course of the summer Professors Brad Putman (Civil Engineering) and Paul Russell (Landscape Architecture) completed the Phase 1 Design of the prototype test bed of the Rhizosphere Performance Model (RPM). Additionally, construction has begun and is approximately 90% complete on the three above ground RPM test structures, which
and potentially to a larger, more permanent test bed located at the South Carolina Botanical located in the courtyard between Lee Hall II and Lee Hall III. Upon completion of construction (early November) each of the three structures will be ready for testing of various Rhizospheres conditions. Specifically, various paving surfaces, structural support, and soil profiles will be tested in a series of baseline performance experiments. Students from the Department of Landscape Architecture’s Design Implementation, LARC 3620, have been researching a series of design urban rhizosphere conditions that will contribute to future RPM testing and potentially to a larger, more permanent test bed located at the South Carolina Botanical Garden. 

Case Study Food Hubs

Principal Investigator – Sallie Hambright-Belue, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture


As a regional interest has grown in the many advantages of eating locally produced foods, the number of small- to medium-scale farmers is growing rapidly. But these producers face tremendous roadblocks when getting their food to market and to our tables – marketing and distribution is time-consuming and distribution channels are few. New initiatives to help solve this disconnect between farmer and consumer, know as food hubs, create networks that allow regional farmers too multi-farm community-support of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program. There are currently no food hubs in the Upstate region of South Carolina. However, an interdisciplinary group of farmers, health experts, educators, marketing experts and interested citizens have put together a coalition to explore the creation, understanding, building, and managing of a food hub in Greenville, SC.

This food hub would create a local network of farmers; provide the market outlet for local producers; connect schools, hospitals and the public to an outlet for healthy food choices; and explore the possibility of distribution of these foods into local “food deserts.”

The project has the ability to bring two fields the PI has been involved with together for the first time in a meaningful way. Not only is the PI an assistant professor in the School of Architecture she is also a co-owner/operator of Thicketty Mountain Farms, a small, sustainable family farm in Cowpens, SC. For the past year, the PI has been working to bring architecture and agriculture together in the work she are doing at Clemson University. In the spring of 2013, the PI led an interdisciplinary seminar called Drawing Sustainable Farms that studied sustainable farms and their design in the SC farm. Last semester the PI led a graduate design studio that designed a sustainable urban farm. This project has the ability to raise the level of research as this project stands to have a meaningful impact on the local economy and will be able cultivate a larger, external funding.


The Feed & Seed project is off to a great start! With the generosity of the Richard H. Pennell Sr. Center for Research in Design and Building, I have been able to complete a literature review as well as complete a three-day trip to Atlanta, GA. The trip to Atlanta was spent visiting many sites associated with the local food economy in the city. With the help of the School of Architecture, the students in my studio, Feed & Seed: Reconnecting Farms, Markets and Tables, were also able to participate. The first day included a visit to the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market and Serenbe. Serenbe is a New Urbanist community centered around an organic farm and land conservation. The second day included the Dekalb Farmer’s Market, Love is Love urban farm, Sweet Auburn market, Truly Living Well, and meals at Home Grown and Miller Union.

At the Dekalb Farmer’s Market we were able to receive a behind the scenes tour of the operation which is a working distribution hub including logistics, wholesale, retail, local sourcing, commissary, bakery, raw food, processed goods, prepared foods, and more. This case study visit was invaluable for me as well as the students.

The work done thus far due to the Pennell Center’s support has also led to an abstract submission to the International Making Cities Livable Conference taking place next June in Bristol, United Kingdom. I am planning to submit the work for a couple other conferences this year as well as visit at least one more food hub. 

feedseed  pigs  plants

Improving the HERS Index’s Model of Residential Miscellaneous Electrical Loads

Principal Investigator – Joe Burgett, Assistant Professor, Construction Science and Management
Co-Investigator – Julia Sharp, Associate Professor, Mathematical Sciences

The purpose of the research is to improve the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index. The HERS index created by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) is by far the most widely used method of measuring how energy efficient a home is. The Energy Star program and LEED for Homes are just two of the many users of the HERS index. The way the HERS currently estimates MELs needs significant modernization and improvement. In a previous study, the PI showed that in 24 test homes the HERS index miscalculated the actual load by 52%. In the proposed research, we will seek to improve the HERS rating system in two key ways. First, the current method of estimating MELs will be updated and improved. Electrical loads for engine block warmers, for example, will be made specific to only colder climate states. Modern electronics currently not addressed such as wireless routers and tablets will be included. Usage patterns of older technologies such as VCRs and answering machines will also be updated. This research will also serve as a pilot study to test the viability of completely unique way of predicting MELs. This new approach will use the characteristics of the occupant, such as age, income, and education to predict MELs instead of the only the size of the house. Initial testing from the PI’s previous research suggests that this new approach could improve the predictive power of the existing model by over 50%. The PI has already had informal discussion with RESNET and the U.S. Department of Energy which both expressed interest in the study.


With the support from the Pennell Center, Dr. Joe Burgett and Dr. Julia Sharp have been working to improve the way home energy use is predicted. Energy Star Homes, LEED for Homes and other residential green building programs use a system called the “HERS index” to estimate a home’s energy efficiency. The HERS index uses the home’s design as a means of calculating expected energy use. However, the actual energy use of an occupied home is as much about the home owner as it is about the design. The work the Pennell Center is supporting will create more advanced statistical models that more accurately predict actual energy use. 

Funded Student Research 

2014 PDBE Student Research Funding

Jorge Otera

Jorge Otera

Throughout the past three decades, a wide range of empirical studies under the so-called Environmental Justice (EJ) framework have attempted to provide evidence, through a variety of methods, that communities of color and low income populations suffer the disproportionate effects of environmental health risks (Pastor et al., 2005; Brulle & Pellow, 2006). That framework is increasingly being expanded as to include access to environmental quality besides its traditional focus on exposure to environmental risks (Jennings et al., 2012). According to Heckert (2013), there are researchers and local governments that are interested in answering questions related to the equitable distribution of urban green space. A number of scholars have already noted the importance of urban parks as a subject of EJ inquiry (Boone et al., 2009). Notwithstanding an abundance of studies that have suggested environmental injustice, both from the distributive and the procedural justice standpoints, there is a scarcity of research looking into alternative ways to promote EJ principles. This new direction is centered on one of the fundamental EJ premises that all people have the right to a healthy environment.

The field of EJ offers many examples of past research that has explored the spatial correlation between environmental hazards or disamenities and specific socio-economic or demographic characteristics of a community. A significant portion of that body of research has revealed, in many instances, that particular disadvantaged or marginalized races, ethnicities, or income groups disproportionately endure environmental risk (Pulido, 2000; Buzzelli et al., 2003). While these past studies provide insights regarding the spatial relationship between the distribution of disamenities and the proportions of population groups those disamenities may impact, questions of EJ need further investigation.

The proposed research seeks to fulfill that perceived gap, open up a new realm of research questions and stake out new terrain in the field of EJ. More specifically, this is an investigation that attempts to bridge both the EJ and land use planning fields. The research blends theoretical approaches drawing from the literatures pertaining to land amenities and affordable housing and grounded in EJ theory to help in the assessment of how EJ can be advanced across the US by better planning for the location of land and open space amenities in relation to the location of affordable housing. This is an attempt to analyze EJ from a perspective that may achieve positive results both in the diagnosis of problems and in the implementation of actions directed at necessary changes for the solution of identified problems. The ultimate objective will be the building of an expanded theoretical model of EJ; a model that will highlight key factors andrelationships that can turn into a new alternative way to pursue EJ through land use planning.

The aims for the research here proposed are to: a) build an expanded theoretical model of EJ that transcends traditional EJ research by including land and open space amenities as well as affordable housing components, b) formulate an analytical framework to test that model, and c) validate the spatial model empirically using data assembled from different sources and different geographical areas. More specifically, this study will develop a model of an alternative way EJ can be further advanced through land, open space and affordable housing planning. To that end, I intend to focus on four distinct counties: Mesa and Boulder in Colorado and Sacramento and Sonoma in California. An overarching goal of this study will be to examine the nature of land amenities in relation to socially valuable goals such as affordable housing and determine whether EJ goals are being pursued, and to what degree, by using spatial analyses. A literature review bridging the body of knowledge related to EJ with those related to affordable housing and open space planning helps to prefigure the theoretical framework that will inform the analytic strategy.

To attain the major objective, the methodology for this study comprises two phases. The first phase consists of spatially determining the location of both land and open space amenities and affordable housing throughout the period 1997-2007 and get descriptive statistics on that data.  As of now, four datasets have been put together with data acquired during the summer of 2014.  Those datasets will further be updated as more data is collected by following up with city and county offices in the areas of study. These spatial data will elicit information about the way land and open space and affordable housing locate and the kind of patterns that form throughout time.  The second phase comprises an examination of the spatial relationship between the land and open space amenities and affordable housing projects/units. The spatial and statistical findings will help refine a preliminary model of EJ hypothesized based on the intersection between the literatures of land use planning and affordable housing within an EJ context.

Shan Jiang

Shan Jiang

Encouraging Engagement with Therapeutic Landscapes: Using Transparent Spaces to Optimize Patient StressReduction in Urban Health Facilities

Urban megahospitals have been built in the way that divorced patients from the natural environments (i.e., daylight, natural ventilation and therapeutic landscapes) (Verderber & Fine, 2000). Empirical research on this subject suggests that patients experience physical environment-related stress in such settings due to lack of control and insufficient connectivity with the exterior world (Ulrich et al., 2004). Additionally, issues of the inadequate usability of healing gardens in general hospitals have emerged, majorly yield to twofold aspects: low visibility, and difficulties of accessibility (Pasha, 2010; Cooper-Marcus, 2007). In this context, this on-going doctoral study explores how therapeutic landscapes can be more integrated into urban health facilities, get patients more involved, hence optimize the reduction of their stress during hospitalization. The theory of transparency, initially presented by architecture theorists (Rowe & Slutzky, 1997; Hoesli, 1997), expressing a type of continuous space that blurs the boundaries between interiors and exteriors, is operationalized for the first time in this investigation to describe a unified continuum of landscape-architectural flow within healthcare environments. Twelve patterns of design considerations that can encourage such experience are derived and reshaped from the pattern language of town, buildings and construction (Alexander et al, 1977) and the typology study of hospital outdoor environments (Cooper-Marcus & Sachs, 2013). Then the stress-reducing effects of one selected patterns, transparent waiting area with framed views of nature is tested by a survey-embedded quasi-experiment.

This study aims to reappraise landscape and architectural design patterns that can be used to address the current disconnect existing between therapeutic landscapes and architectural interiors within urban healthcare environments. It tests the stress-reducing effects of images of hospital waiting areas that have different types of views, as defined by the architectural theory, transparency. The major research question yields to how can transparent spaces of urban health facilities, take the hospital waiting areas for instance, optimize patients’ stress-reduction compared with two other typical design patterns — (a) total exclusion of nature, and (b) with limited window views of natural features.

Paired groups of 90 healthy college students assess the stress-reducing effects of an array of sampled settings, consisted of three types of hospital waiting areas in urban health facilities. Images of three groups of hospital waiting areas, expressing (a)absolute exclusion of nature, (b) limited window views of nature, and (c) transparent waiting area that has maximum view of nature, are exposed to the subjects as treatments after their exposure to an acute stress stimuli (i.e., a clip of thrilling movie that can induce acute stress). Subjects’ stress levels are measured by continuous physiological readings of heart rate and blood pressure. The mood states of the subjects between groups are surveyed after treatments, using Profiles of Mood States Survey, and their preferences of the three groups of images are also surveyed.

Expected Results
A pilot study consisted of 17 subjects from the target population has been completed. Pilot results have shown that during the period of stressor exposure, subjects psychological readings of heart rate and blood pressure went up significantly.

During the treatment period, there is a strong potential that people’s stress levels decrease the most significantly in the third treatment group, transparent waiting area with maximum natural view, compared to the other two groups. Mood states survey indicating a strong potential that subjects in the “transparent” group have the lowest scores on the mood items of Anger, Depression, Tension, Vigor and Total Mood Disturbance. Transparent spaces with framed views of nature may have the “best” stress reducing effects in urban health facilities. It is expected that the images of transparent waiting area with maximum natural views perform the strongest ability to calm people down, using the amount of time that people recovery from the stress level as indicators. Transparent waiting area is also expected to change people’s mood the most positively, in comparison to the other two types of spatial design (i.e., waiting area with no natural view or limit natural view). For the preference study, it is expected that transparent waiting areas obtain the highest aesthetic preference scores, and meanwhile, people’s stress levels are expected to reduce the most when they are exposed to the environments that they favor the best.

Tao Guan

Tao Guan

Income Inequality, Soaring-up Housing Price and Housing Overdevelopment

When walking in many cities in China, we can see a great number of newly-developed condos, which have been sold but been vacant for several years. While the vacancy rate was high, housing price keeps climbing. The average housing price in 70 major cities in China has increased by over 10 times from 2000 to 2013, while the average rent in these cities increased by 136% during the same period. Responding to the soaring-up housing price, housing starts and housing completions also keep climbing. Surprisingly, newly-developed condominiums can always be sold very quickly. In each year during the period of 2003-2013, more than 93% of the condos which have been completed were sold.

It seems that there is an obvious bubble in the housing market of China. Then the following questions arise: “Is it really a housing bubble?”, “what are the reasons for the bubble if it is?”  Answering those questions through theoretical and empirical research work is the purpose of my research dissertation.

Obviously, my dissertation is an inter-disciplinary research project, which is involved with economics, finance and real estate development. There are mainly three explanations for housing bubbles: rational expectation, irrational or psychological factors and stimulating housing policies. Very few studies have connected housing bubbles with income inequality and examine the relation between them. My dissertation would try to uncover the inherent linkage from income inequality to housing bubble, further showing that the fair distribution of income is not only the national welfare goal but also the imperative condition that guarantees the healthy housing market, the stable finance market and the sustainable economic growth of a country.  This is a theoretical innovation in the field of economics, finance and real estate development and thus it has intellectual merit in those fields. In addition, my dissertation will try to reveal the consequences of housing bubbles for planning, design and built environment.  The consequences at least include: 1) Loss and misallocation of resources, including land, construction material, building equipment, labor and capital; 2) Low-quality properties, including improper planning, unsound design in functions and arts, high energy consumption and low construction quality; 3) Big harm to the environment when those buildings are removed. This is also an innovation in the field of PDBE and thus has intellectual merit.

Therefore, if this dissertation is completely successfully, it will deepen the understanding about income inequality and housing bubbles to the academic circle, and will also add some new thoughts about housing overdevelopment and other problems in PDBE to the profession circle.  Furthermore, it would also remind the policy-makers of taking the income distribution into account when they make policies to deal with low-quality construction, housing bubble and overdevelopment, finance market instability and unsustainable economic growth in China.  Since many countries including the U.S. also have been experiencing the increasing income inequality and real estate bubble, this research will also have an impact on policy-making process in other countries.