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University of Kentucky

October 7, 2011

Professor Richard S. Levine has recently retired from teaching after 46 years at the School of Architecture at the University of Kentucky. From early in his architectural career, Prof. Levine has been a pioneer and advocate for sustainability-oriented architecture. He has over 200 publications on solar energy and sustainable cities and has done sustainable city research and projects in Italy, Austria, China, the Middle East as well as in Kentucky.

He is now devoting his energies to his architectural and urban design practice at the Center for Sustainable Cities Design Studio (CSC Design Studio). Dick Levine’s practice in design has encompassed such areas as structural systems, hospitals, design process, solar oriented architecture and sustainable cities. In the mid ‘70’s his widely published Raven Run Solar Home was the first to incorporate active and passive solar, super insulation, earth tubes, composting toilets, attached greenhouse, and many other integrated features in a single project. The patented active air collectors developed in that project are part of one of the most efficient and least expensive solar collection and storage systems ever devised.

The Hooker Building in Niagara Falls, NY (1978) for which Levine was energy and design consultant, was projected to consume 88% less energy than that of a conventional office building and received the Owens-Corning Energy Conservation Award. Thirteen years later, Norman Foster reproduced Hooker’s double glass wall with its computer operated aluminum louvers in an office building in Duisburg, Germany, sparking a transformation in Europe of energy efficient commercial buildings whose design strategies are now being emulated in the US.

In the mid 1980’s, Prof. Levine, along with his colleague Ernest J. Yanarella, started the Center for Sustainable Cities (CSC) at the University of Kentucky, to advance the theory and practice of sustainability. In 1994 Levine became the principal author of the European Charter of Cities and Towns Towards Sustainability (the Aalborg Charter), the main vehicle in Europe for carrying out the Local Agenda 21 provisions of the Rio Earth Charter (1992). He also gave the keynote address at the Charter ratification conference.

Partnering with Dr. Heidi Dumreicher, director of Oikodrom: the Vienna Institute for Urban Sustainability, the CSC focused on the city-region as the appropriate scale at which homeostatic relationships between social, environmental and economic issues could be realistically pursued to become the exemplar for the proliferation of sustainability throughout the globe. This was a pivotal determination that would lead to the formulation of the first Operational Definition of Sustainability. In the early 1990’s, the CSC and Oikodrom partnered to work on a series of three commissioned designs for a Sustainable City-as-a-Hill to be built over the Westbahnhof rail-yard in Vienna, Austria. Using Levine’s patented Coupled-Pan Space-Frame (CPSF) structural system as the city’s underlying structural framework a rich, diverse and sustainability driven urban fabric was developed.  Late in his life Lou Kahn had visited an early test of the CPSF and commented, “You should build a museum around it.” The City-as-a-Hill urban form, the Sustainable Urban Implantation, the Partnerland Principle, the Sustainable Area Budget, the Operational Definition of Sustainability, the Multiple, Participatory, Alternative Scenario-Building Process and other sustainable urban design principles were elaborated and integrated in the Westbahnhof project and continue to be studied and expanded upon today.

From 2002-2005, Prof. Levine worked on the European Commission sponsored SUCCESS project which developed sustainable future scenarios for rural villages in six Chinese provinces. This was followed by two successive EC projects focused on the renewal of the Islamic bath house (Hammam) tradition in six Mediterranean countries with the intention of developing and enhancing empowered, sustainable, civil society processes. In 2005, the CSC Design Studio (CSCDS) was formed as an extension of the CSC and Prof. Levine’s private architectural practice. In 2007, the CSCDS, headed by Prof. Levine, organized a system-dynamics modeling seminar in Fez, Morocco. This was part of the ongoing development of the “Sustainable City Game™”, the Sustainability Engine™, and the SCIM (Sustainable City Information Modeling) process.

As a recognition of his leadership and lifetime of work, in 2010 the American Solar Energy Society awarded Dick Levine its “Passive Solar Pioneer” award.  Levine is currently engaged in the design and construction of a number of low cost, zero net energy houses using the passive house standard.  His research and publications continue including his just published book with Ernest J. Yanarella titled, “The City as Fulcrum of Global Sustainability,” (Anthem Press, 2011). His web site is:

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