Category Archives: Staff News

2020/02/15 Remembering GZ Brown

Lived fearlessly, transformed lives, forever transforming architecture

Phillip H. Knight Professor of Architecture, G.Z. “Charlie” Brown passed away peacefully early Saturday morning (2/15/2020) at his home in Eugene, OR at the age of 77 years. He was surrounded by the love of his daughter April, partner Sue, and many friends. G.Z. was a singular and exceptional teacher, dry fly angler, and father. He spent the entirety of his adult life steadfastly pursuing his vision to leave the world a little better off than when he joined it, and he did.

G.Z. Charlie Brown joined the faculty at the University of Oregon Department of Architecture in 1977. Over his four decades at UO, Charlie created one of the most highly respected university-based architectural research labs in the world. Through the Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory (ESBL), Charlie envisioned transformational ideas and built a capable team dedicated to implementing them. ESBL is Charlie’s legacy, his greatest idea, and it will continue to champion his vision, his mission, and his spirit. Throughout his career, Charlie modeled intense dedication to and relentless pursuit of his ideals. He worked tirelessly to transform design—to innovate design technology, practice, and building operation—to combat climate change.[1]

Brown earned graduate degrees in industrial design (Michigan 1966), business (Akron 1971) and architecture (Yale, 1974), and was a registered architect in Oregon (AIA, 1977). He was a Fulbright scholar in Norway and in Nigeria and spent three years as an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis before joining the faculty at the University of Oregon.

Charlie first authored Sun, Wind, and Light: Architectural Design Strategies in 1985 which provided the foundation for modern passive design principles, including daylighting, natural ventilation, and night flush cooling. Charlie was among the first authors to describe the challenges that climate change places on architects to design buildings for greater resiliency. He was essential to the founding of what is now the Society of Building Science Educators, which has improved sustainable design education worldwide. In 2002, he helped developed a theory and practice of integrated design that has made possible recent advances in net-zero energy buildings. He was honored by the Architectural Research Center Consortium with the James Haecker Distinguished Leadership Award in Architectural Research (2000). He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 2006, and selected as a Fellow by the American Solar Energy Society in 2005. He received the U.S. Green Buildings Council 2005 Leadership Award, and the Cascadia Fellows Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 for his work on sustainable building practices. Brown received both the PLEA Award and the Philip H. Knight Professor of Architecture Award in 2009. He co-founded the Biology and the Built Environment Center in 2010 that has launched a new field of indoor air quality research.  In 2015, U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio read remarks into the Congressional Record recognizing Charlie and his accomplishments[2].  In his final years, Charlie developed pathways for peak-zero energy positive buildings and was working on a book focused on elegant design of windows. His legacy in teaching and research in energy use, thermal comfort, daylighting, indoor air quality, and related design tools for buildings is unparalleled and will persist.

Brown was principal investigator on more than $20 million of externally funded research, including grants with the US Department of Energy, US Environmental Protection Agency, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, US Department of Education, US Department of Commerce, Bonneville Power Administration, Energy Trust of Oregon, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. During his directorship of ESBL he supported more than 200 graduate research assistants, authored more than 100 research publications, gave more than 100 invited lectures, and provided design assistance in energy-conscious design on over 20 million square feet of buildings internationally, amassing more than 500 consulting reports. Additionally, he developed nine software licenses, including Energy Scheming, and two technology patents.

In his 2017 Festschrift book honoring Brown’s career, former dean of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts and current President at Pratt, Frances Bronet, described Charlie as “a generous and thoughtful colleague, dedicated to excellence and rigor, advising on difficult situations, from collegial interaction to curricular ambitions.”

Bronet continued, regarding Charlie’s commitment to the climate change challenge,

“…he made sure it was addressed and designed for by students and partners committed to precision, creativity, and persistence. He never backed down from these aspirational principles and has guided as a vigilant sage. I am reminded, especially in these times demanding leadership, political savvy and critical inquiry, of Harriet Tubman’s words:

“Be firm in your goals, make little noise . . .take the long way round, build strength quietly, strike swiftly, keep secrets, demand a new level of discipline and live fearlessly.”

Indeed, Charlie, living fearlessly.”

In the College of Design, we are honored to remember Charlie as an unmatchable colleague, mentor, teacher, and researcher. At ESBL, we will fearlessly pursue Charlie’s vision.

Condolences and remembrances can be submitted as a comment below.

Donations can be made to support Charlie’s legacy, vision, and cause here.

This page will be updated with more information about a memorial service in the near future.

Remembering GZ Brown:

Kent Duffy, FAIA and former AFO President, remembers GZ Brown with a heartfelt tribute.

A 2016 interview for a UO Research Award (

A 2009 interview about integrated design (

2016 UO Research Award for ESBL (

2017 Festschrift Book (

Other Links:

[1] Preface, Transforming Architecture: A Festschrift in Honor of Professor G.Z. “Charlie” Brown.

[2]  Remarks int he Congressional Record, 114th Congress, First Session, October 6, 2015.

Metropolis: Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg on Increasing Demands for Lighting Controls

Director Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg’s interview with Retrofit for Metropolis magazine is published! He is one of a series of experts sharing their insight on the importance of daylighting for human health and comfort.

Check out the article here:


Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg receives NEEA Award for Innovation

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) Board of Directors awarded Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg the Leadership in Energy Efficiency Award for Innovation. Kevin was nominated for his work in daylighting design research, education, and engagement—work that represents many collaborations over almost two decades, and for which Kevin extends his gratitude to many great colleagues.

“Our work in the field of daylight design is first and foremost about creating high quality indoor environments for people to live, work, and play within. The fact that the energy efficiency community, that is often focused on energy savings, has recognized this work as innovative is very rewarding. It is so important to balance energy priorities with human experiential priorities, and I believe there is value in exploring the synergy among these two goals.”

While accepting the award, Kevin acknowledged NEEA’s unique impact and global reach, attributing his own success in part to the organization’s generosity. NEEA supported Kevin during his graduate studies at the University of Washington, and he has worked alongside the organization for nearly two decades, while at the University of Idaho and University of Oregon. He expresses his deep gratitude for NEEA’s continuous support of students in this area of study in the ESBL at University of Oregon. Thank you to NEEA for this prestigious award, and congratulations to Kevin for his accomplishments!

For more information on the award, view the press release on

ESBL/BioBE welcome new Assistant Professor of Architecture!

ESBL and BioBE are thrilled to announce that Dr. Siobhan “Shevy” Rockcastle has joined the team as a new Assistant Professor of Architecture, and Chair of the Baker Lighting Lab, in the Department of Architecture on the main University of Oregon campus in Eugene. She will be adding her expertise in architectural design, human perception, environmental dynamics, and building performance with a focus on occupant well-being, particularly with lighting. Dr. Rockcastle’s current research uses virtual reality to map human responses to daylight and composition in immersive architectural environments.

In addition, she is studying the impacts of climate on perception, emotion, and comfort in architecture; the use of virtual reality to study subjective, behavioral, and physiological responses to space; the impacts of light exposure on human health through hormonal responses in the brain; and impacts of sunlight composition on perceptual evaluations of architecture. Students interested in any of these topics are encouraged to contact Dr. Rockcastle to learn about current research opportunities.

Shevy earned her professional BArch from Cornell University in 2008 and her SMArchS degree in Building Technology from MIT in 2011. She has taught design studio and seminar courses in environmental systems at Cornell University, Northeastern, MIT, and EPFL. Her professional work experience includes KVA matX, Snøhetta, MSR, Epiphyte lab, and Gensler. As a continuation of her thesis at MIT, Siobhan’s PhD dissertation used experiments to measure the impacts of daylight and spatial composition on perceptual responses to architecture and proposed simulation-based algorithms to predict these responses under varied climatic conditions. She has published numerous peer-reviewed journal and conference articles on this work and combines scientific publication with applied creative practice.

She is also a co-founder of OCULIGHT dynamics, a Swiss company offering daylight design support through custom simulation-based tools.

Welcome to the team!

ESBL + BioBE Welcome Mark Fretz as the new Associate Director of Outreach

ESBL and BioBE are thrilled to announce that Mark Fretz has joined the team as the new Associate Director of Outreach, based in Portland at the White Stag Block location.  Mark brings a unique combination of experience in architecture and public health service, and will help further our goal of promoting health in the built environment through research, outreach, and knowledge exchange.

Mark has a history of successful collaboration with the lab — several years ago he was a research assistant with ESBL. He helped to develop the idea and grant for our ongoing project on the effect of weatherization on indoor air quality, human health, and the indoor microbiome.  He was also involved developing field materials and pilot studies for our study on the effect of daylight on dust communities, currently in review.

In addition to developing future research and teaching, Mark will primarily be developing the Institute for Health & the Built Environment consortium that ESBL and BioBE initiated in May 2017 with their inaugural meeting.  The Consortium aims to dramatically reduce energy consumption and maximize human health by conducting research that transforms the design, construction and operation of built environments. Mark will help foster collaboration between innovative industry professionals and academic researchers in the disciplines of architecture, biology, chemistry, engineering, and urban design,  provide sharp focus to our research agenda, and accelerate the impact of our scientific discoveries.

We asked Mark what most inspires him about his new position. Mark responded, “We are at a pivotal time in architecture where we are beginning to understand the implications of the built environment on health and resource use. The solutions to reconcile this coexistence of health and resource use require unconventional thinking and cross-disciplinary collaborations. I am most excited about the opportunity to work together with industry and academia to drive transformative research that produces elegant design solutions capitalizing on synergies between human health and energy efficiency.”

Welcome, Mark!


Originally written by sueishaq for BioBE, amended by s.lim for ESBL.