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This paper describes an interdisciplinary project: the design and fabrication of temporary HVAC diffusers for the University of Louisiana Lafayette School of Architecture and Design to decrease and distribute air supply across the studio environment.

To begin the design process, we charged the students to record data measuring the air velocity around the existing diffusers using an anemometer, creating a grid of yarn to located points in space. In addition to collecting the numerical data, the student observed the movement of the lengths of yarn in response to the airflow. Once the students could visualize the movement of the air, they hypothesized on how best to control the air. Several designs provided variations on ductwork typology, featuring perforations or shaping flanges to distribute the air. By contrast, three designs employed rudders or fins and waterfall-like shelf structures to create spouts, conceiving of the air as a fluid. With a task to spread and slow the air, these solutions were destined to be most successful.

The project acts as a case study on data collection, research, and design for environmental factors. Students learned how to frame a research question, follow an organized practice of data collection and analysis, relate that data to industry-established standards, hypothesize about solutions through prototyping, test those solutions through digital analysis, and then verify hypotheses through empirical collection of data once their design was installed. This methodology allowed students to relate benchmarks established by ASHRAE’s standards for comfort to the qualitative experience of their own design. Additionally, this project serves as an example of cross-disciplinary research, and provides a model for college initiated grant development, specifically tailored to STEM.