Martin Summers

Martin Summers

Lexington, KY, US


Point of Departure: Sustainable Transit Shelter

This project began as a simple idea: Develop sustainable bus shelters on the University of Kentucky campus as a means to explore ideas of architecture, engineering, sustainable strategies and interdisciplinary collaboration.  While these goals are at the heart of the research, it is clear that to see it within these limited terms represents a huge missed opportunity.   This is our Point of Departure.

We need to reimagine the urban scale of campus through strategic acupuncture; a series of interactive, networked, didactic, and iconic structures, each bringing a unique identity to the spaces and sites where they are located.  Our goal is to further situate the University of Kentucky as an infrastructural leader in the Commonwealth while integrating solar power, thus expanding the university’s energy portfolio and addressing issues germane to meeting the needs of a “Sustainable Campus Exemplar” [1] that positions the University of Kentucky as a standard bearer for the Commonwealth’s energy infrastructure and sustainability programs. The structure and site link master planning concepts of programmed green space with sustainable transit and energy production creating destinations and event spaces for students that are not often associated with a transit shelter.  Each shelter is designed to maximize the opportunities latent at each site and to outwardly express this integrated identity to students, visitors and to the city of Lexington.

Over the last decade there is a renewed interest in public transit. In fact, several cities and numerous campuses, have invested in public transit as a core element of a sustainable city that conveniently moves people between destinations and improves their quality of life [2]. This offers our team a unique opportunity to reimagine transit-related shelter, investigate ridership, and improve the transportation experience. In parallel, there is a growing public consciousness of sustainable thinking’s value and how it is presented to an increasingly “conscious consumer” [3]. This renewed interest and growing consumer consciousness has challenged communities around the world to rethink public transit, prompting several cities to hold design competitions, seeking novel, innovative solutions. Our core research question driving the project can be summed up this way, “what is a contemporary transit shelter?”

 LexTran (The Transit Authority of Lexington, KY) has partnered with Arts-In-Motion to produce a series of site specific, arts oriented shelters across the city. Their goal is to increase ridership and thereby, have a sustainable impact [4]. The LexArts shelters tend to be highly visible, one-off designs with an arts-centered focus—a single stop in the larger network. In contrast, our proposed project would put greater emphasis on the sustainability of the design and demonstrate its impact on the larger network by incorporating integrated dashboard systems. The shelters would not only be a convenient away station, but a valuable outward expression of applied sustainable research and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Further, it would illustrate UK’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact.

 Other campuses have implemented similar solar projects—Virginia Tech installed a solar shelter in 2013 [5]. While our shelters will generate solar power, it will also be used to provide an opportunity for deeper-learning, literally bring the classroom beyond the building. In this context, our designs will both provide educational and interactive opportunities that increase rider comfort, provide integrated lighting solutions, and increase mobility via alternate transportation.

 One issue, often overlooked in sustainability is safety. Campus safety is an issue that affects our community and while our incidents are low compared to other universities, any incident is one too many. Robberies and assaults occur too frequently at the edges of the campus where bus shelters are typically located. Studies have shown that incidents of crime are dramatically reduced in areas that are well lit. A critical design feature for our shelter is to create a safe, well-lit, zone for students, faculty, and staff. Our solution will be studied as both “off-grid” and “grid-tied” solutions. As such, we are proposing to use solar power that could generate power locally and reduce the campus carbon footprint.

Martin Summers and Michael Wilson

  1. Presidents Advisory Committee, “Statement on Sustainability Policy and Principles”, Jan. 2009

  2. "Transportation: Public Transit." Baltimore Office of Sustainability Web. 2013. < >.

  3. “New Partnership Allows UK Students, Faculty, Staff to Ride Lextran Buses for Free with Wildcard ID.” Lextran website. June 16, 2015. < >

  4. Schlecht, Kathy. "Conscious Consumers and public transit." Insights into the Conscious Consumer Web. 13 Mar. 2014. < >. 

  5. Goodwin, Neva. “Economic Vitality in a Transition to Sustainability.” Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.

Read more

Status: Unbuilt
Location: Lexington, KY, US
My Role: Design Director, Research Co-Prime Investigator, Studio Professor
Additional Credits: Design Director | Co-Principal Investigator:
Martin Summers

Project Designers:
Thompson Burry & Owen Duross

Phase I - Architecture Research Team:
Thompson Burry, Owen Duross, Hans Koesters & Ari Sogin

Electrical Engineering Research | Co-Principal Investigator:
Michael Wilson, UK Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER)

Electrical Engineering Design (PV System):
Ben Ragusa

Phase I - Electrical Engineering Research Team:
Ian Gibson, Stephen Hardy, Robert Hieronymus, Robert Royalty, Donnie Spence & Philip White

Local Architect:
Eric Zabilka, Vice President and Partner - Omni Architects

University of Kentucky

Matthew Herman
Chicago Office Director - Buro Happold Engineering

Peyman Jahed PE, SECB
Senior Vice President – BFMJ Engineering

Heather Libonati
Founder – Luminesce Design (Lighting)

Greg Romine
Managing Director - Axis Facades

Campus Stakeholders:
David Biagi
Director (at time of project) – School of Architecture

Lance Broeking
Director – UK Parking and Transportation Services

Melody Flowers
Director of Strategic Analysis – UK Office of the EVPFA and Campus Lead on Transportation Master Plan

Stuart Kearns
Associate Director – UK Parking and Transportation Services

Shane Tedder
Sustainability Coordinator –University of Kentucky

Britney Thompson
Energy Engineer – Physical Plant Division

This is a sponsored research project supported through The University of Kentucky Sustainability Challenge Grants, a joint effort of the Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment, UK Office of Sustainability and the President’s Sustainability Advisory Council. Funding provided by the Student Sustainability Council, the Office of the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Awarded two separate grants, 2014 & 2015.