Category Archives: Architectural Engineering Department

Increase speed to successfully complete your dissertation



Chicago Manual of Style and American Psychological Association Manual can help you complete your dissertation more quickly
You Chicago Manual of Style and American Psychological Association Manual can help you complete your dissertation more quickly


Featured in the Seminar

Contributing to the seminar and providing assistance with dissertation research will be Angela R. Davis, Engineering Library Liaison.

Angela R. Davis, Engineering Department Library Liaison
Angela R. Davis, Engineering Department Library Liaison

Advice on how to complete your doctoral dissertation more quickly

  1. Limit the scope of your work. The trouble with having a topic that fascinates you is you want to make it as complete and thoroughly researched as possible. The danger here can be found is the popular English expression: “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” The expression can refer to a hungry person ordering more food for lunch than can be eaten. This is relevant because doctoral themes in the Architectural Engineering Department at Penn State as elsewhere can take a lifetime to research and write following the strict rules for academic publication.
  2. Examine your project and consider your ambitions. Your dissertation begins a major effort. To successfully defend a dissertation, your committee does not require you to be an expert on everything related to the subject. The committee simply wants you to make a contribution to the knowledge base. “Knowledge base” may not be the best phrase, but in academia the concept is clear and definable. A successful dissertation is one that adds something new to a clearly defined subject. Instead of regarding your dissertation as making or breaking your career, think of the dissertation as creating a foundation. It is praiseworthy if completion (to continue with construction imagery) means you have designed a basement that will support the building that is in effect your career. A reexamination of your goals will make it easier to enjoy your work. It is easier to complete when you enjoy what you are doing. Enjoyment is easier to obtain when the subject is modest and you can envision as early in the process as possible what is required to COMPLETE.
  3. Believe in your talent at least as much as Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering believes in you.


Test question: What grammatical error did I make in the title of this post?


Helpful song


Rex Harrison sings about the various ways in which English is pronounced. Here we focus on the varieties of written expression. Most notable are the requirements for formal English . Hence, the usefulness of the Chicago Manual of Style as a widely-respected resource for providing the rules and explaining them.


What is a style guide?

How will a style guide help you with your dissertation?

Wikipedia on Style Guides: “A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication. To do that, it:


Let us take a look at how these two style manuals can help you with their dissertation.


The first manual is the Chicago Manual of Style

Wikipedia writes: “The Chicago Manual of Style….is a style guide for American English published since 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. Its sixteen editions have prescribed writing and citation styles widely used in publishing. It is “one of the most widely used and respected style guides in the United States.” The Chicago Manual of Style deals with editorial practice, from American English grammar and use to document preparation.”


Here is a Penn State Library link that gives you The Chicago Manual of style on line:

“This edition also features an introduction to Unicode, the international computing standard for letters and symbols. As in the past, the manual notes conventions and practices that are specific to American English, and points the reader to other guides such as The Oxford Manual of Style (Ritter, 2002) (RR 2003/428) for assistance with British English.”


A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.



Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

Using the Penn State Library's master search engine CAT to find this manual
Using the Penn State Library’s master search engine CAT to find this manual

Graduate students are best advised to have this manual close at hand when writing your dissertation. The rules require you to format citations within the document rather than using footnotes. The earlier you understand academic requirements for on-line citations, the easier your life will be. The American Psychological Association Manual is the best resource on on-line citations. Then, converting to the style requirements of academic publications such as the Journal of Architectural Engineering would be child’s play; in my case grandfather’s play.

Zotero GUI for accessing style manuals
Zotero GUI for accessing style manuals




The End



“Ain’t Nobody’s Business But My Own”–Health update with Taj Mahal, Physical Therapy & The Pennsylvania Housing Research Center

“Man I don’t care what in the world that you do
As long as you do what you say you going to”

Today is Sunday August 30, 2015. How it got to be 1 PM I do not know.

  1. I do know that this ambitious posting will be under construction for a while. Consider the host of categories above which includes everything from Health Crisis to the Department of Architectural Engineering at Penn State to Joy of Motion.
  2. Why I begin this full disclosure  [see footnote (1)] account with a lie: “Ain’t Nobody’s Business But My Own” can and cannot be explained.
  3.  Here the overriding intent is to disclosure my plan for the future which I grandiosely refer to as “my life’s work.”


This posting is under construction. Put on your hardhat and exercise caution.
This posting is under construction. Put on your hardhat and exercise caution.













Published today in Scotland: Detroit trendy city, covering Renzo Piano’s opening of the new Whitney in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, pain relief through radio waves, not outlandish walking again for the first time in 25 years through NYC technology

No fair. You can not read the entire article here because Isabelle Lomholt and Adrian Welch just published Joel’s Column in Scotland to an audience of nearly one million hits a day from architects and the building community.

Go to Scotland. Read Detroit Trendy City in Scotland where it was meant to be read first exclusively for

DetroitFutureCityExcerpt 1:

“In 10 years Detroit will be the trendy city and compared to San Francisco and Warsaw
“A 350 page master plan is guiding the new Detroit. The shape? Unclear but promising

“Today’s Detroit column begins in New York City with Detroit on my mind—always on my mind. I have a friend who had the opportunity to purchase a house in the Meatpacking District of New York City.

“The Meatpacking District, despite the off-putting sound of the now-anachronistic name, is the hottest neighborhood in Manhattan. This is the view of Brian Regan, Deputy Director of the Morgan Museum and Library, who was instrumental in obtaining the services of Renzo Piano to design the new Morgan. Regan believes Piano’s new Whitney may become the most popular museum in New York with more visitors than the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Because of fate (ill-health), I will be covering the May first opening of the Whitney for e-architect. I will also be attending the August 23rd press preview. As I write, the Whitney media page is giving me a countdown. “The New Whitney, Opens May 1, 2015, 19 days, 0 hours, 23 minutes, 15 seconds.’”

Excerpt 2:


“One remote but not outlandish treatment hope is that at Sloan Kettering, I can have inserted a Bioness Corporation device which beams shock waves to patients like me who have foot drop. Some patients walk again. Thus, twice implanted, I may be able to leave New York City walking for the first time in 25 years and pain-free.

All is contingent on securing funds. Forbes Magazine recommended a crowdfunding service that could be valuable to architects starting small projects. The service is called: Indiegogo.

“Architects might want to subscribe for free to the newsletter at [email protected] Here is a recent newsletter for one of many businesses requesting venture capital and using Indiegogo to get it.
“My campaign entitled Help restore my productivity from cancer and pain uses a venture capital approach equivalent to investing in me. See if you think it works:


Thank you. Or rather Best Wishes. I have been using the Edward R. Murrow signoff Goodnight and Good Luck.



How to write academic papers successfully. Let us start with a specific example. A chapter on renovating a bathroom for a mobility-disabled resident


How to write academic papers successfully

How to write academic papers successfully is the subject of today’s posting .

Today’s Volume 1, Number 1 inaugurates a series of step-by-step instructions for successfully defending a master’s or doctoral dissertation and having a peer-review publication accept your academic article.

Today, I focus on academic articles and technical reports. When writing a paper or report it is useful to understand the publisher’s editorial, reference, and style criteria. A good resource for the kind of criteria  required is available on the website of the peer-review publication: Journal of Architectural Engineering. 


Post-doctoral and  graduate students at the Department of Architectural Engineering at Penn State are the targeted audience for this series.

The series provides information on:

  • Narrowing down the focus of one’s research to a manageable topic
  • Significance of the following editorial advice from the definitive style manual for engineering publications: “Before preparing a manuscript, you should evaluate the research and judge that it is an important contribution to the field.”
  • Avoid the temptation to make macro-observations if your research cannot support it.
  • Be scrupulous about ensuring every factual statement is supported by a reputable reference.
  • Follow the ASCE Citation Style Guide in formatting references.
  • Helpful tip: Engineering guides are based on the authoritative Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition.


  • This 435 page manual provides in-depth explanations as well as the rules involved with citation of references as well as style.
  • Following the  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition will ensure you have complied with the standards required by the Journal of the Association of Architectural Engineering.
  • As long as you are in compliance with American Psychological Association standards, your editor at ASCE or related publications will be delighted. There may be slight changes required by one or another “official” engineering related manual.
  • However, as long as you follow Psychological Association standards you are on firm footing. Minimal changes may be required, but they will be easy. The changes are so minor the editor may decide to make the changes herself or himself.
  • It you follow the Psychological Association manual, you will save a lot of time because the standards are explained so clearly in the manual.
  • Helpful tip II: Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.


Today, I will be focusing on the draft of a chapter I have produced (see below) on retrofitting the bathroom so it is safe for disabled residents. The report is scheduled for publication on the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center (PHRC) website. It will be published here as a technical document:


The chapter requires revision. This posting explains what revisions I am required to make to comply with PHRC standards for utility, acceptable citation of sources, report appearance.


The Pennsylvania Housing Research Center

“The Pennsylvania Housing Research Center serves the home building industry and the residents of Pennsylvania by improving the quality and affordability of housing.”

The mission statement continues:

“We conduct applied research, foster the development and commercialization of innovative technologies, and transfer appropriate technologies to the housing community.”

This is the staff of the PHRC which will be publishing the report. Featured here is Pressor Ali Mumari, PHRC Director. I will come back and tag the names of all individuals in this photo.
The PHRC STAFF. Professor Ali Memari, PHRC Director with PHRC staff. I will return here to tag the people in this  photo.


Early in the research process for my technical report, I studied technical reports PHRC has published, e.g.:

Thermal Performance Testing Facilities

The BCERL now also features a guarded hot box facility. The purpose of the guarded hot box is to test steady state thermal performance of building components and building systems according to ASTM standards such as ASTM C 1199, C 1363 and E 1424.

The Guarded Hot Box consists of three chambers: a metering chamber, a guard chamber and a climatic chamber. The metering chamber and climatic chamber are both used to contain airflow baffles, electric heating elements, cooling coils, an air circulation system, and sensing equipment.

The metering chamber is used to simulate indoor conditions and the climatic chamber is used to simulate outdoor conditions. The guard chamber encapsulates the metering chamber to ensure that the conditions being monitored in the metering chamber are unaffected by room conditions.

High accuracy thermocouples, RTDs, and thermopiles are used to monitor surface and air temperatures, and additional sensors are used to measure specimen deflection and other air conditions.

The insulated box is capable of testing specimens up to 6 ft. 6 in. by 3 ft. 8 in. with a maximum thickness of 9 in. BCERL facilities can also be configured to conduct thermal performance investigations in accordance with NFRC standard methodologies, e.g., NFRC 100, 101, 102, 200 and 201. Facilities are also available to facilitate thermographic inspections.

Testing Capabilities

  • Thermal insulation efficiency for a number of different types of building insulation
  • Heat conductance, transmittance or resistance of specimens
  • Determination of thermal properties of built-up or composite building panel components

Thermal Performance Testing Facilities


Editorial note

When writing a report, it is very important to examine closely a technical document the PHRC has already published. A published document regardless of subject can be very helpful (as it has been) in determining the tone of the writing.


I begin with a rough draft of a chapter four. The Bathroom. on how to renovate a bathroom so it is wheel-chair accessible.

The paper requires additional work. I will be returning to this posting to describe what work is required to make the chapter worthy of academic publication.

I am working with Colleen Nelson, past President of Wyoming AIA. Colleen recently completed a nursing home in Fairmont County, Wyoming. This is a photograph Colleen sent showing the view from her architectural office window.

Optimized-March2015WyomingColleen J. Nelson, AIA LEED-APNELSON ARCHITECTS, LLC [email protected]

214 North Broadway Riverton, WY 82501


Below is a draft chapter on making the bathroom safe for the disabled.

  • NOTE: My highly-detailed chapter on the bathroom attempts to specify renovations to ensure the client’s bathroom is safe. “For individuals with mobility problems, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house.”
  • Draft of bathroom chapter
  • Details on how to produce a chapter academically publishable ; specifically,a technical report  for the PHRC

An Aging-in Place Residence

Early draft chapter four THE BATHROOM from forthcoming Pu


Note: The bathroom and bedroom are clearly the areas in the residence where accommodations are required for safety and other purposes. The cost of retrofitting a bathroom especially can involve major budget considerations. Therefore, the order of the chapters in this report is provided not on a room-by-room basis. Rather, the weighted organization of the chapters is based on the authors’ views of priories. The report chapters also include discussion of issues as well as rooms, hallways, windows, and walls to present concepts useful in understanding the renovation project of the residence in its entirety. One example of an issue worthy of attention (rather than simply an evaluation of an area of the residence) concerns the use of mobility devices which are useful for getting from room to room or whose function may affect the ability to make individual rooms accessible. The issue of a sling which an individual can use without assistance to lift oneself up from wheelchair to toilet seat or from bed to wheelchair has a significant effect on the process of renovation itself.

For individuals with mobility problems, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house. It can be wet leading to falls. Clients may be impatient to get in and out quickly thus lending to its danger. There may be inadequate rails. Depending upon when the residence was built, the entrance and exit may be uncomfortably narrow. This might be a good place to consider removing walls and widening the hallway.

Entrance and exit


Figure 4-1. Narrow bathroom entrance

In many older residences, the path leading to the bathroom is a narrow one.

Figure 4-2 shows the client coming from the bedroom [behind] in the direction of the refrigerator [ahead].


Figure 4-2. Hallway leading to the bathroom on the right

The width of the hallway with the bathroom door closed is 41 inches. ADA standards call for a width of 48 inches. The reader may not help but notice that because of a shortage of electrical outlets, the toaster is on the floor.


Figure 4-3. Conventional doors pose real problems

With the bathroom door open the width is only 38 ½ inches. Figure 4-4 shows what happens when a powerful power chair, driven by a client impatient to get to the bathroom, collides with the door. A door in a narrow hallway causes difficulties for an individual riding a mobility device including the problem of being able to close the door.

bathroom5Figure 4-4. Adapting a pocket door like the one shown here could make getting in the bathroom easier

One solution is a pocket-door once fashionable in the late 19th Century which is making a comeback especially for those modifying homes for greater mobility.


Figure 4-5.  A specially designed sink located on a bedroom shelf

  Bathroom sink


Figure 4-6. Bathroom sink photo taken from wheelchair

Clients using the bathroom sink above must go elsewhere, to the kitchen sink for example (or bring along their own mirror) to comb hair, apply makeup, shave, and perform other daily rituals.

A lower sink and mirror set are the most immediate solution. Two grab bars at the base of the sink would make it easier for the individual with a mobility disability to stand or maintain balance. A specially designed sink located elsewhere in the residence could save on remodeling costs. Figure 4-7 shows a sink installed at an appropriate height in a residence bedroom which can be modified for individual requirements.

Insertion of an additional sink (either in the bathroom or elsewhere in the residence) also is useful to minimize bathroom accidents can be cleaned up without becoming a major issue)

Other bathroom considerations include:

  • Where to put one’s cane, crutches, or park one’s mobility device
  • Storage of toiletries so they are accessible



Figure 4-8. Hand rails above and to right of toilet are well positioned

Going to the toilet requires more prudence than adults without disabilities require. A mobility disability, by its nature, means it takes more time to get from one place to another. Individuals used to going to the toilet on a schedule comfortable to them before they became disabled may be surprised at how much extra time they must factor.

If the individual does not allow enough time to position oneself at or on the toilet, accidents can occur just when they seemed most avoidable. Individuals who have not experienced an accident since childhood and who assumed such problems would not occur for decades find themselves discouraged when an accident occurs. For individuals who suddenly experience mobility problem, incontinence may be a temporary consequence and it is useful for the individual to understand that temporary means temporary.

The toilet shown in Figure 4-8 should be reassuring. The two grab bars are sturdy and well-positioned. However, it is always helpful to make sure that the toilet seat itself is securely fashioned and to check each time before using.

For individuals with transference issues, there are transfer boards for going from wheel chair to toilet:


Figure 4-9. Transfer board device for getting from wheel chair to toilet

Figure 4-9 shows a convenient way of transferring from a mobility device to the toilet. Less elaborate transfer boards are available. For those with more serious mobility problems, a sling attached to the ceiling is recommended or one might consider installing tracks on the ceiling so a device the individual can use by oneself can easily be moved from the bedroom where it lifted the individual from bed to wheelchair.


Figure 4-10. This is one of a wide variety of slings that an individual can use to get onto the toilet or into the bath 


NOTE Work-to-be-done:  Within the past five years, two developments have made it practical for individuals with severe mobility disabilities to live independently. The first is the development of a sling an individual can use oneself for transference. The above is not a good photograph and should be replaced with a better one. The second development is the use of the ceiling as a method for locomotion; namely, one puts oneself in a sling attached to the ceiling; tracks along the ceiling make it possible to move across the residence. and one can lower oneself to, for example, a bed or a wheelchair in the kitchen. The following photograph shows ceiling tracks:


Last year, I saw a trailer developed by Blueroof Technologies in McKeesport, PA for the use of veterans whose lower limbs had been amputated. The veteran was able to go by sling and ceiling device from bed to bathroom to kitchen for breakfast and then out into the world on a mobility device. Not all this information is relevant to the bathroom.


Figure 4-11. Absence of a hand rail above toilet roll may cause clients difficultly getting on to toilet, but most especially getting off

Roll-in shower


Figure 4-12. Roll-in shower head
14bathroomFigure 4-13. Roll-in shower with fixed seat
14bathroomFigure 4-14. Roll-in shower with separate chair


Figure 4-15. One of a number of shower seats available on the market.


Conventional bathtubs, such as the one below, provide problems involved with getting in and out. The market place, using slings and transfer boards, does make it possible for individuals with mobility difficulties to take baths. However, a roll-in shower, unless other considerations are involved (e.g. skin disorders, the requirement to soak limbs, and the like), the roll-in shower is probably the most cost effective.

16bathroomFigure 4-16. Bathtub. Notice the absence of rails. How do you get out?

Advanced safety procedures and imaging


Figure 4-17. Off-the shelf safety technology

Off the shelf technology gives residents an added level of protection. Figure 4-17 shows a motion detector in the bathroom. Motion detection makes it possible to alert caregivers (by a voice simulator automatically calling 911 or another number) if someone slips in the shower, for example, and does not get up according to a pre-programmed time schedule. The cost of this technology is relatively modest and has been falling steadily.


Figure 4-18. Virtual reality model helpful for the AEC community in designing accessible bathrooms

Imagine using this imaging technology displayed in Figure 4-19 for design and working out such issues as how to get from scooter to bath chair? One might:

  • Turn the scooter around so water does not fall on the controls
  • Back up to the shower chair
  • Swivel the scooter chair locking it into place.
  • A hand rail would be useful to go from scooter chair to shower chair.


–Joel Solkoff, Adjunct Research Assistant at Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering