Virginia Tech Teacher of the Week
The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Michael Ermann, associate professor of Architecture + Design, for his ability to have students draw on their intuition to conceptualize, design, and redesign, as well as take pride in the inspiration and product of their design.
Michael Ermann teaches design studio and building science to architecture students. He has taught every year of studio (first-year undergraduate through thesis-year graduate student) and taught the Environmental Building Systems course sequence for 24 of the last 28 semesters. He’s also taught Building Assemblies, Structures, Advanced Architectural Acoustics, and a graduate course for non-majors titled, “Design at Every Scale: a Walking Tour.”
Studio students are encouraged to incorporate urbanism, structure, building systems, materiality and methods of construction into their projects—and students are expected to maintain the fundamentals developed during the first (foundation) year of design education. Nearly every design assignment is iterated: completed, then started again and completed a second time. Professor Ermann does not avoid discussing beauty in design, even if it’s fuzzy to evaluate. He sees intuition as valid in design exploration, architectural precedent as the genesis of new work, and travel as integral to design education. To that end, he takes students on a five-day trip to another city each semester.
Environmental Building Systems is the study of energy in architecture: the techniques the field has developed to control building environments and make buildings more usable and comfortable. Professor Ermann’s building systems classes explore the overlap between technology and design: electric lighting and day-lighting, thermal transfer and thermal comfort, electrical systems and plumbing systems, active responses and passive responses, room acoustics and noise control. Despite the class’s large size at over 100 students, the semester is peppered with field trips, design competitions, and workshops. Empirical study, critical thought, and the iterative process all factor into building systems, as do the physical properties of energy flows.
Professor Ermann recognizes that the content of his courses is readily available in libraries, therefore it must be the manner in which they are presented that facilitates student ownership of concepts. To reach students beyond campus, last semester Michael published Architectural Acoustics Illustrated (Wiley, 2015) with more than 250 hand-drawn illustrations to translate the science of acoustics into the graphic language of architecture students. His YouTube video animations on the subjects of architectural acoustics, air conditioning, and electricity, are at or near the top of Google video searches for “How does [architectural acoustics/air conditioning/electricity] work.” His eight videos on those subjects draw 40,000 views per month and have more than three quarters of a million views in total. Professor Ermann earned the inaugural School of Architecture + Design large lecture class teaching award and has received “perfect” student evaluations in six different course titles. Twenty-five undergraduate students have won external awards for the work they’ve completed in his classes.