Department: Architecture School: Architecture and Design Campus: Manhattan
Member of NYIT Since: 2008
Architecture that improves the world is the mission of Jason Van Nest, whose latest project, upcycling plastic bottles into roofs using his SodaBIB technique (Soda Bottle-Interface-Bracket), aims to improve housing in communities underserved or catastrophe-stricken. It also turns plastic – a material with a negative environmental impact – into a positive alternative.
"What is really attractive about SodaBIB is you're helping people who, in a worst-case scenario, have nothing," Van Nest says. "The psychological benefit is the ability to take what would be garbage in a refugee setting and empower people to shelter and protect themselves."
Van Nest first experienced the power of architecture helping others when he volunteered for Habitat for Humanity nearly every Saturday for two years while studying at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Now he runs Mobilis in Mobili, a small architecture firm with a Latin name that roughly translates to "change within change." Its projects emphasize physical beauty and include The Ductile Conservatory, a library and performance space inspired by reinterpretations of gothic architecture.
At NYIT, Van Nest teaches classes that emphasize building information modeling (BIM), a software program for streamlining the architecture design process. During the 2010-2011 academic year, he taught seven BIM-related classes from Construction Documents to Thesis Design Studio, and is using this momentum to work BIM software into NYIT's structural architecture curriculum. He also is collaborating with Wei Ding, assistant professor of computer science, to write software for designing skyscrapers, a research project funded by an Institutional Support for Research and Creativity (ISRC) grant.
"BIM helps students produce construction documents more quickly than architects have in the past 50 years," he says.
Van Nest encourages his students to debate best practices for using BIM, from saving time and money to creating environmentally conscious designs.
"I have some rather fearless students who are more than happy to take the software five steps further," Van Nest says. "As long as they can support their reasons for using it, I don't care how they argue it. I just want them to take responsibility for their decisions."