Author Q&A Session with Elizabeth J. Grant

Routledge is pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with Elizabeth J. Grant, author of the published title Integrating Building Performance with Design. Grant is an associate professor at the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. She is a registered architect and the Associate Director of the Center for High Performance Environments. Her interests include environmentally sensitive design, building enclosures, and building systems integration.

What audience did you have in mind while writing your book?

I was thinking about my architecture students, primarily, and the fact that many of them will face challenges in their early careers that will surprise them. They will be called, often sooner than they think, to design buildings that are both visually pleasing and sound, and they will typically be unprepared by their educations to deal with the soundness part of this obligation. This book was intended as a heads-up to these emerging professionals.

What makes your book stand out from its competitors?

There are many serious, competent books on the subject of building performance in all its facets, and I refer liberally to these experts' work in my own teaching. With my book, I took a more conversational tone to entice students to want to care about building performance in the first place.

What did you enjoy about writing the book?

I very much enjoyed going deeper into the case study projects and learning about the architects' design processes. It was important to me to be able to demonstrate how the theories I was describing played out in practice, in buildings with very real clients, contexts, and budget constraints. 

What is innovative about your research?

My research and teaching does not primarily aspire to novelty or innovation, rather I prefer to test popular assumptions and address the dangers of oversimplifications. For example, there are many generalizations made about building systems (my personal favorites involve claims about vegetated and reflective roofs) that many architecture students and licensed professionals aren't prepared to question. I endeavor to tackle that issue with my research work and teaching approach.

What first attracted you to your field of expertise?

When I graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1995, I was planning to practice architecture. I did not intend to wind up in academia focusing on the building envelope, but I found quickly in practice that I spent much of my time trying to learn what I didn't know about this area mainly to keep myself out of trouble. When I found myself working in a firm with a strong emphasis on roof consulting, it was a natural progression from that environment to entering master's and doctoral programs where I had the freedom to research these issues more deeply. From there, I closed the circle and moved into a teaching role where I could help students better prepare for the profession. 

Do you have plans for future books? What's next in the pipeline for you?

I am currently working on a book proposal with my colleague and fellow Routledge author, Peter Ozolins, about the disconnect between academia and the profession of architecture. We both have practice and teaching experience in varying proportions and in differing contexts, so I am excited about the opportunity to collaborate.

Anything else you would like to add?

I always wanted to be a writer, and with Integrating Building Performance with Design I was able to realize that dream without quitting my day job. This opportunity was made possible by the sympathetic and patient editorial staff at Routledge. Through this book, and future publications, I hope that I can inspire students and young professionals to design solid, functional, and graceful buildings that serve their clients and users for a good, long time.

Elizabeth J. Grant

Associate Professor
School of Architecture + Design, Virginia Tech


Elizabeth J. Grant teaches courses in architectural design, environmental design research, and environmental building systems. She holds a B. Arch., M.S. Arch., and Ph.D. in Architecture and Design Research from Virginia Tech. As a registered architect, her design experience includes healthcare, civic, and educational work. Her ongoing research, teaching, and outreach interests center on environmental design and building enclosures and systems, with a focus on green and reflective roofing.


Built Environment, Education, Environment and Sustainability

Learn More about Elizabeth

Featured Book

An Architecture Student's Guidebook

By  Elizabeth J. Grant

Paperback – 08-17-2017

Free Chapter 1 Access

Reviews of Integrating Building Performance with Design

"Finally, an effective book on fighting the marginalization of performance in architecture. The author makes her arguments through tales from the trenches, humor, and erudite comments, and then goes on to explain how to achieve high performing buildings." - Norbert Lechner, Professor Emeritus & Architect, Auburn University, USA

"Integrating Building Performance with Design gives us compelling building stories about process, performance, and perceptions through the lenses of teaching and practice. Grant dissects, observes, and matches architectural expression with narratives of numerous case studies about the functioning of buildings and their services throughout the U.S. and Europe." - Alison G. Kwok, Professor, Department of Architecture, University of Oregon, USA

"As a practicing architect, I’m relieved to see an architecture educator helping prepare students for the profession by addressing and integrating building performance early in the design process in order to help with the translation of design concepts into functioning built structures. Architectural graduates who arrive to practice with only their sometimes too precious design concepts are of little practical use to the profession and in fact are delayed in their own development into practicing architects. Professor Grant’s book, amply illustrated and written in an engaging, self-deprecating tone, provides such guidance to students in the evolution of their designs into buildings which is what our profession is all about." - Peter Ozolins, PhD RA LEED AP, Peter Ozolins Architect, P.C. Architecture & International Development, USA

"From the title I guessed that this book would be some sort of manual, but what I discovered was a compelling narrative with great illustrations. It offers rationale, methods, stories, and encouragement for teaching and learning integrated architectural design that does not ignore issues of performance. It's a must have selection for teachers, students, and practitioners alike." - Bruce Haglund, Professor of Architecture, University of Idaho, USA