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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.

BioBE/ESBL Welcomes Mira to the Team!



My name is Mira Zimmerman, and I am the new BioBE/ESBL blogger and web designer! I will be helping with social media and BioBE/ESBL website management.



I am currently an undergrad at the University of Oregon, working towards a Humanities major with minors in Computer Science, Computer Tech, and Multimedia. I have a million different interests, everything from environmental philosophy to surrealist art! I love to hike and I spend a lot of time outdoors, appreciating the beauty of Oregon.

I am very excited to be joining BioBE and ESBL and to have the chance to incorporate myself in the intersections between science and design.

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.


The Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory is proud to announce the release of Transforming Architecture: A Festchrift in Honor of Professor G.Z. “Charlie” Brown. The German term Festschrift translates as “festival of writing” and celebrates Charlie’s career and the ideas that he has put forth to transform design and combat climate change. The book includes chapters by Charlie’s friends and colleagues.

To find out more, visit the Festschrift page.

To buy the book, click here to order online!

Click here to order online!


HERC Recap: TallWood Design Institute

Judith Sheine, University of Oregon Professor and Head of the Department of Architecture, and Iain Macdonald, Associate Director of the TallWood Design Institute, introduced their approach to healthy and efficient mass timber buildings: the TallWood Design Institute.  This joint initiative of OSU’s Colleges of Forestry and Engineering and UO’s School of Architecture & Allied Arts seeks to promote the use of innovative wood products and building components produced in the state of Oregon.

The Institute’s mission is to increase the ability of Oregon’s manufactured wood products industries to compete in emerging markets for the high value wood products that are perfectly suited to the timber we grow and the stewardship ethic of our State and to support Oregon’s growing reputation as a center of expertise for sustainable building design. We are working to grow the mass timber manufacturing base in Oregon and to eliminate barriers and stimulate demand for buildings utilizing mass timber products and building systems.

With funding from the state and federal governments, we have currently underway $1.9 million in mass timber research projects on seismic and fire resistant performance, vibration, acoustic and energy characteristics, as well as life cycle and biome analysis. We are performing testing and peer review of mass timber structural components and systems to prototype and refine new products and partnering with product manufacturers and state building officials to allow these products and systems to be permitted for construction. The Institute is also providing educational programs at the two universities as well as workforce training and engaging in the design of demonstration projects in Oregon.


Twitter: @TallWoodDesign


This post is part of a blog series sharing information covered at the Health Energy Research Consortium in Portland, OR May 4-5, 2017.