Alexandros Tsamis

Assistant Professor, School of Architecture; Graduate Program Director; Associate Director, Center for Architecture, Science, and Ecology (CASE)

  • Greene
  • School of Architecture

Architect focused on composite materials, building energy systems and advanced manufacturing technologies for the built environment.


Areas of Expertise

Composite Materials
Manufacturing Technologies for the Built Environment
Climate-Adaptive Energy Systems
Material and Energy-based Computational Design


Alexandros Tsamis is an Architect and Assistant Professor at the school of architecture, RPI. He currently serves as the Graduate Program Director of Built Ecologies MS & PhD and the Associate Director of CASE. He earned his PhD in Architecture, Design and Computation and Master of Science (SMArchS) in Design and Building Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Previously he served as the post professional graduate program director in Design at Adolfo Ibanez University in Chile, he has taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Knowlton School of Architecture, Ohio State University.

With a working definition for the Built Environment as the Effective Distribution of Material, Energy and Information in Space for Cultural Affect, Tsamis works at the intersection of Design and the Architectural Sciences. He focuses on next generation composite materials, climate adaptive - cyber physical - energy systems and advanced manufacturing technologies, as they relate to advances in Computation. He investigates issues associated with, Material, Energy and Information ecologies of the built environment at scales that range from that of the object to that of the territory.

Tsamis' research work has been published widely in peer reviewed Journals and conferences. He has design/technology patents for innovation in materials. His design work has received several awards in international architectural competitions, first prize at the International Architecture Competition "London Architecture Gallery, first prize in the international design competition" Gillette Landmark and in the "Design of Ephemeral Structures" for the Athens Olympics. His design and theoretical work has been published internationally including Architectural Design (AD), the Journal of Architectural Historians, Thresholds, Pidgin, 306090, Architecture in Formation and exhibited widely, including the Museum of Design in Barcelona, the biennale of Venice, the biennale of architecture in Chile, the biennale of architecture in China, RIBA London and the Byzantine Museum of Greece.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Tectonics and Digital Computation


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Architecture, Design and Technology


Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Diploma in Architecture with Honors


Media Appearances

RPI researchers developing hemp-based rebar as strong as steel

Albany Times Union  print


A pair of professors at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are working with researchers to develop hemp-based rebar, which is typically made as a steel reinforcement, that can be used for cement.

The latest research is part of the team’s overarching effort to make construction more sustainable and introduce hemp to the industry as a carbon footprint-reducing material.

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Hemp rebar could offer low-cost non-corroding alternative to steel

Dezeen  online


Researchers at the USA's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have invented an alternative to steel rebar made from hemp, which they claim avoids the problem of corrosion while cutting carbon emissions from construction. The hemp rebar could be used to support concrete structures in the same way as steel and other rebars are today, but with a reduced environmental impact due to both its material makeup and its lifespan.

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Hemp can be used to make rebar that's just as strong as steel

Fast Company  print


... “There are some natural fibers that have a similar strength to steel for the same weight,” says Alexandros Tsamis, a professor of architecture at RPI. Synthetic materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass have such strengths, and so does hemp. When combined with plant-based bioplastic, hemp rebar could be an all-natural alternative to steel rebar. “Instead of extracting it from the earth, you grow it,” Tsamis says. ...

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Modeling and Simulation of a Structurally Integrated Building Energy Module

ASHRAE Virtual Design and Construction Conference

Hwang Y., Vanfretti L., Borca T., Tsamis A.


A building envelope is a substantial contributor to heating and cooling energy use. To mitigate its undesirable thermal impacts, the predominant model for building thermoregulation requires technology that maximizes the building’s insulation, while all heating and cooling occurs internally through a thermo-electrical system. Recently, a radically different model has emerged that considers the envelope as a mediator that forms a dynamic relationship in real-time with the environment. It actively exchanges heat between the interior and exterior climates to reduce the reliance on conventional heating and cooling systems. Today, a few examples are under development that theoretically demonstrate concepts and associated technologies of thermally adaptive envelopes.

We are developing a modular building energy system prototype and Modelica-based simulation methodology simultaneously through a rethinking of the way we heat and cool buildings toward a carbon-negative future. From a design perspective, we show a structurally integrated heating and cooling module, which can be applied to various opaque building elements, including a slab, interior partition and envelope. This modular building structure consists of a unique double-sided hydronic heating and cooling layer embedded in a composite structural insulated panel. An integrated intelligent computer module regulates the dynamic thermal behavior of the double-sided heating and cooling layer according to the change of environments and available renewable energy sources. From a technical perspective, we show a digital twin module developed for the proposed system by using Modelica to overcome current limitations in modeling thermally adaptive building components. To illustrate the value of this model, EnergyPlus is used for establishing a building’s geometry and general building operations, while being coupled with a Modelica-based module that dynamically changes thermal resistance values. The Functional Mock-up Interface (FMI) standard for co-simulation is used in the coupling process.

An Ectothermic Approach to Heating and Cooling in Buildings

ACSA Intersections Research Conference

Tsamis A., Hwang Y., Borca Theodorian


Today, it is a well-known fact that the Built Environment (construction and operations) is responsible for nearly 40% of global energy use, significantly contributing to carbon emissions. Targeting a carbon negative future would require a rethinking of the way we heat and cool buildings, distancing ourselves from the predominant model for the building envelope as a boundary that excludes the weather and instead adopting alternatives that transform the building envelope to a mediator that actively regulates heat exchange. In this paper we explore the potential for a building boundary that actively heats and cools a building by forming dynamic relationships with its environment. Most de-carbonizing efforts today focus on realizing net-zero operational carbon either via the production and distribution – locally or through the grid – of renewable energy or via passive house strategies that target the reduction of the active energy demand. We propose a third alternative. Instead of an ENDOTHERMIC model for heating and cooling in which energy (renewable or not) is brought in the interior, transformed by an electro-mechanical system and then distributed, we propose an ECTOTHERMIC system that dynamically forms a relationship with its environment, by choosing to absorb or release heat directly from or to the environment. In this case the building skin does not act as an Insulator but instead it becomes an active heating and cooling system. From a design perspective, we will show a modular building energy system, comprised of a double hydronic heating and cooling layer. In essence, we are developing for a building, the equivalent to a vascular system that can move liquids at different locations in order to thermo-regulate.

Towards Functionally Graded Bio-ceramic Composites in Additive Manufacturing

ACSA108 Annual Meeting

Tsamis, A., Toledano, A., Alnagaar, M


Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions warming up the Earth’s atmosphere and triggering a climatic shift around the world evidence how the construction industry must provide a resilient built environment for an increasingly growing population, while at the same time reduce the use of cement and the demand for energy use from heating and cooling in an intensely urbanized world. Construction using Additive Manufacturing (AM) has gained traction in recent years, promising benefits such as: reduction in waste, building time, and need for formwork; customization and fabrication of complex geometries at no extra cost; and the reduction of human labor and on-site hazards. While most implementations of AM use cement as a primary material, development of alternative technologies that use earth-abundant, low-carbon renewable materials can be seen in projects such as Gaia by WASP, as well as efforts from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC). As a research framework, this project extends the efforts of building with renewable materials by developing a Functionally Graded Material (FGM) 3d Printing technology to create a bio-composite wall using lime, clay and hemp bast fiber. Unlike traditional, singular material deploying AM technologies, FGMs are a type of composite that use different materials according to where they are needed, with gradient transitioning between the materials to achieve non-discrete interphases. We work under the hypothesis that FGMs can achieve better strength-to-weight ratios than regular ceramics, and at the same time allow, through the 3d printing process, for an expression of the functional requirements of material change through form. While used in fields other than architecture, FGMs in AM have yet to be implemented in building construction.

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