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The Institute for Smart Structures

Making a Difference: Institute for Smart Structures

The Mission

400x275-Living-Light-ExteriorBegun in 2009, The University of Tennessee Institute for Smart Structures (ISS) is a research center focused on integrating architecture and emerging technologies. It offers research and development for the building sector, and combines the areas of material science, engineering and architecture to solve immediate problems as well as provide revolutionary concepts for new applications. Over the last decade, the Institute has overseen the construction of three net-zero prototype buildings for use as research and education tools. The most recent projects, the Living Light Solar Decathlon house and the AMIE prototype engaged researchers, engineers, architects and industry to develop, design and build the home of the future. UT’s Solar Decathlon submission was selected as a finalist in an international competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and placed eighth in the world. During the Decathlon project, the Institute for Smart Structures involved eight faculty members and over 150 undergrad and graduate students from eight disciplines. Building on this success, the ISS is currently working with Governor’s Chair for Energy and Urbanism, Phil Enquist of Skidmore Owings and Merrill, on a series of project-based design studios. Run in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), these studios have explored such diverse design problems as whole-building retrofit and the construction implications of additive manufacturing. This partnership recently unveiled AMIE 1.0, the world’s first net-zero structure entirely made from additively manufactured polymer. AMIE stands for Additive Manufacturing / Integrated Energy and points to a future where buildings and automobiles may be 3D printed and share power production and storage.

The Partners

Academic, professional, and industry partners have included Metropolia University Helsinki, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), The Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, Blaine Construction, Alcoa Corporation, Powell Trucking, Clayton Homes and The Smithsonian Institution. University of Tennessee partners have included the College of Architecture and Design, College of Engineering–Departments of Mechanical, Aerospace & Biomedical Engineering (MABE), Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Art, UT Extension, UT Gardens, UT Martin,

Impact on UT

400x240-UTZero-from-aboveThe Institute for Smart Structures develops multidisciplinary projects such as the Living Light house and AMIE that provide vital educational and research opportunities for students, faculty, and professionals and brings international exposure to the University of Tennessee. Through the ISS, students and faculty members develop relationships with local and global partners for the betterment of the built environment.

Impact on Community

Through partnerships with industry and professional partners, the ISS provides a fast track for new technologies, and enables the transfer of new concepts to architectural applications. Interdisciplinary teams are able to address challenging local design projects with global implications. Projects like the Living Light house, AMIE and associated exhibits, tours, and speaking engagements provide the citizens of Tennessee with up to date information on energy efficiency and sustainable design.

Related Features:

Unique Collaboration + Student Input = AMIE 1.0 >>

Oct. 21 Panel Discussion: What if? The Role of Additive Manufacturing and Integrated Energy in our Energy Future >>


Contact: James Rose AIA, Director,, (865) 719-0743


Click here to read about more Partnerships that Make a Difference.