Institute for Smart Structures Material Science + Engineering + Architecture

The Institute for Smart Structures is a research center where academia, government research and industry meet.

It offers research and development in architecture and engineering for the building sector by combining the areas of material science, engineering and architecture to solve immediate problems as well as provide revolutionary concepts for new applications.



Enabling technology for developing smart structures and materials

Directed by Distinguished Lecturer James Rose, the center provides a platform for collaboration for faculty and researchers from our college, the College of Engineering and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It emphasizes technologies that improve the quality of architecture and the building envelope in the 21st Century focusing on sustainability, energy, health and safety and economy.

The team stands in front of the house wearing orange shirts.




Through the college’s Governor’s Chair for Energy + Urbanism and in partnership with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Building Technologies Research and Integration Center, our Institute for Smart Structures has focused its research on emerging materials and their impact on energy-efficient and energy-harvesting building envelopes. In this context, the Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) can be seen as the most recent in a series of three full-scale prototypes that each build upon their predecessor’s innovations. AMIE also demonstrates design and innovation of our students and faculty, who worked collaboratively with Governor’s Chair professional designers at SOM and science researchers at ORNL to develop AMIE.


Living Light

In the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, the Institute for Smart Structure focused on the integration of aesthetics, technology, and energy efficient construction through the idea of Living Light. This concept not only relates to the sun, daylight and energy; it is a way of life that actively engages each participant in a learning experience to promote sustainable living.

More than 200 UT students and faculty across nine academic disciplines designed the house for the Solar Decathlon. UT placed eighth overall in the decathlon and claimed high-standing marks in several categories, including first in energy production, third in engineering, third in hot-water production, third in energy-efficient appliances, and fifth in architecture.

After the Decathlon, the house transformed into a mobile exhibition known as the Tennessee Tour. Living Light traveled more than 4,000 miles to five cities: Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Washington, D.C., and Chattanooga. During the Tennessee Tour, the home was personally toured by more than 50,000 visitors. It was also a featured exhibit at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, as one of only seventeen projects chosen to represent the nation’s land-grant universities during the festival, which commemorated the 150th anniversary of the founding of land-grant universities and the US Department of Agriculture. During its time on the National Mall, the house was seen by an estimated 1 million people.

Living Light House now can be toured at the Oak Ridge Children’s Museum in Oak Ridge, Tenn.


UT Zero

UT Zero is a multidisciplinary project that seeks to develop new technologies for zero-energy building for UT and Tennessee. We promote net-zero energy consumption and zero carbon emission technology, and our mission is to bring students and faculty from various programs together to collaborate on UT Zero Energy projects.