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AIA Report on University Research – volume 5

Advancing the Preservation of Good (not Great) Garages

Mark Kessler
University of California, Davis
This essay documents the application and dissemination of research conducted under the auspices of the 2008 AIA Research Program. A paper describing the research, Educate, Preserve, Reuse: The Good (Not Great) Garage Buildings of San Francisco, appears in “The AIA Report on University Research, Vol. 4.” The research award funded the implementation of an undergraduate studio class devoted to the historicist garage buildings in San Francisco. Built in the 1910’s and 1920’s, these buildings combine historically derived facades with industrial sheds. These are good-but-not-great buildings that contribute to urban character, yet are vulnerable to demolition. Researchers collected baseline data on 150 buildings and organized them into types. The typology serves as a standard against which the present state of the building type can be assessed. Comparisons between the original garages and the current structures reveal that the building type possesses architectural significance that is incrementally eroded through demolition and neglect. After amassing information on the buildings, the research supports advocacy for their preservation.

Vehicles of Exchange and Change: The Role of the Student in Promoting a Culture of Research in the Profession

Meredith Banasiak
University of Colorado
In 2008, under a Research for Practice (RFP) grant from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the researcher developed and evaluated a model for incorporating research into architectural education intended to prepare students and practitioners for the growing trend in evidence-based design. Through the design of a “preceptorship program” and a semester-long pilot study, the researcher addressed the question: “How can academic research performed by undergraduates benefit both the undergraduate student and a practitioner?” As a result of this RFP opportunity and the preceptorship pilot study, two parallel strands of research have emerged, one developing and testing a more robust model for integrating research into the undergraduate curriculum, and the other addressing how to facilitate access to, and management of, research evidence by practitioners. This essay discusses how results gleaned in the original RFP project have been shared with architectural practitioners and educators, and how those interactions have informed current and future research trajectories in the undergraduate education and research visualization arenas.

Green Classroom Toolbox: Applications in Architectural Research, Teaching, and Practice

Ihab M.K. Elzeyadi, Ph.D., FEIA, LEED AP
University of Oregon
This research project focuses on developing evidence-based design guidelines for retrofitting existing educational spaces through the Green Classroom Toolbox (GCRT) project. The objective of the GCRT project is to develop green design guidelines for retrofitting existing educational spaces based on carbon neutrality metrics and student achievement outcomes. This paper gives a synopsis of the project and its application in research and practice.

24-hr Lighting Scheme for Older Adults

Mariana G. Figueiro, PhD
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
The Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed a 24-hr lighting scheme for older adults that compensates for the changes in the aging eye and that can positively impact the aging visual, circadian and perceptual systems. The 24-hr lighting scheme proposed here may be adopted by architects, lighting specifiers and engineers to improve the quality of sleep and quality of life of older adults living at home, in assisted living facilities, or in more controlled senior environments.

Reflections on the Impact of the RFP Research Grant for “Guideline for Spatial Regeneration in Iowa” Project

Marwan Ghandour
Iowa State University
This research proposes strategies for spatial regeneration in Iowa in order to address the infrastructural inefficiencies and social instability in the contemporary landscape. In the twenty first century, Iowa is experiencing significant challenges on social, economic and environmental levels that accentuate the tension between the modern cycles of production and the sustainability of the social and natural environment. This research is an attempt to negotiate this tension by proposing a spatial regeneration scheme for Iowa that is developed through interdisciplinary research and cartographic analysis and production.

The Active Thermal Manifold Skin: Feasibility, Prototyping, and Performance Studies of a Wall System Integrating Distributed Solid State, Solar Powered Cooling and Heating Technology

Michael D. Gibson
Ball State University
Proposing a thermoelectric-based cooling and heating system integrated in a double skin wall system, this research has thus far designed and mocked up a system at large scale for testing in real-life conditions. Deploying one actively cooled and heated prototype with another ‘control’ prototype of identical construction, experiments are under way to measure the capabilities of the system. Experiments have partially confirmed the qualitative performance of the system as it was originally hypothesized, but more experiments are needed to accumulate the data necessary to describe the capabilities (and shortcomings) of the system as it currently stands. The near-future outcome of the work will be an improved design for the system that will be directly informed by observations of the current system.

Thermally Active Surfaces in Architecture: 2008 RFP & 2009 Upjohn Research Grants

Kiel Moe
Northeastern University
This body of research focuses on the new role of thermally active surfaces in architecture in our work towards low-to-no energy consumption buildings. The Upjohn grant has significantly accelerated the production of the first book manuscript that combines parallel strains of research related to thermally active surfaces: the documentation and illustration of the physiological and thermodynamic basis of thermally active surfaces, the elucidation of changes and amendments to professional practice and the building industry implied with this technique, ten case studies that focus on the illustration / documentation on the systems, performance, and constructability of each project of these case studies. This report summarizes the book and its organization that documents the multi-faceted strains of research on thermally active surfaces.

Research in Professional Practice: How a Seed Grant from the AIA Eventually Enabled the Creation of a Research Entity

Debajyoti Pati, PhD, FIIA, LEED AP
HKS Architects, Dallas, TX
In 2006, the HKS Research team developed a study proposal to understand what flexibility means to end-users in inpatient care units, and to identify domains of design decision-making that impact operational flexibility. Funded by the AIA 2006 RFP and a grant from Herman Miller, the study examined the issue at six acute care hospitals across the U.S. Data analysis identified nine domains of design decision-making that impact operational flexibility on hospital bed units. The study created a foundation for two follow-up research projects.

A Smarter Helping Hand: The Value of Shared Strangeness, Objects of Knowledge and Radical Reconstructions within Informal Settlements

Scott Gerald Shall, RA
Temple University
In the summer of 2008, a forty-person team representing two countries, eight universities and six disciplines traveled to Mumbai, India to help develop new architectural strategies for an Indian nonprofit that provides education and health programs for children living on the construction sites of Mumbai. The resulting effort challenged not only the architecture produced, but also the manner in which it was created, a reframing of the practice based upon the unique conditions found within the informal settlements that represent the fastest growing urban condition in the world. Three findings of the research have emerged as key principles that have begun to furnish baseline information for practitioners and educators: 1) the series of educational initiatives created through this program to help the students move from the position of tourist to that of collaborator, 2) the development of a design methodology based upon the creation of what Claude-Levi Strauss terms “objects of knowledge”, and 3) the articulation of an architectural response that functions as an act of “radial reconstruction”, as described by Lebbeus Woods.

The Highway and the American City: Rethinking a Troubled Relationship

Ted Shelton, AIA
University of Tennessee
This project investigates the impacts that highways have had on the American city. The thesis of this research is that the intrusion of the highway into the urban fabric of many American cities significantly compromises inhabitants’ abilities to live socially connected lives of low environmental impact. This project proposes to investigate this thesis in three ways: by examining the cultural history of the relationship between the highway and the city in America, by analyzing the environmental, social, and structural impacts of highways in selected American cities, and by proposing alternate urban designs in which selected portions of urban highways are removed and replaced with infrastructures vital to the greening of the American city. In this way, the urban segments of the interstate system are seen as having played an unexpected role in the development of the American city – that of placeholder within the urban fabric for infrastructures unimaginable at the time of their construction.

Family Behavior in a Single-Family Room NICU

Mardelle McCuskey Shepley
This research involved the use of handheld computer behavioral observation in two neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), one providing single family room (SFR) care and the other caring for infants in an open bay setting (OBS). The primary outcome of this study was the finding that family members in single family rooms spend more time talking with other family members than they do in OBSs, but that family members in OBSs interact more frequently with other family members than those in SFRs. The researchers concluded that an effort should be made to provide spaces that help ameliorate the negative effects of each of these options. The study was conducted at a time when dozens of hospitals were engaged in design decisions regarding the development of new NICUs and trying to decide which spatial configuration to implement.

Prototyping a Self-Ventilating Building Skin with Smart Thermobimetals

Doris Kim Sung
University of Southern California
Challenging the traditional presumption that a building skin should be static and inanimate, this investigation examines the replacement of this convention with a responsive system that is a prosthetic extension of man and a mediator for the environment. With the emergence of smart materials, an elevated interest in utilizing unconventional building systems and an urgent need to build sustainable structures, our buildings can be more sensitive to the environment and the human body, raising the level of effectiveness while altering our perception of enclosure. To test this thesis, an 8’ tall portable prototype with a responsive, self-ventilating building skin using sheet thermobimetal, a smart material never before used in building skins, was built. By laminating two metal alloys with different coefficients of expansion together, the result is a thermobimetal that curls when heated and flattens when cooled. As the temperature rises, this deformation will allow the building skin to breathe much like the pores in human skin.

Building Literacy: A Simulated Environment to Learn Building Technology

Shahin Vassigh
Florida International University
This paper reports on the development of two consecutive projects which have benefitted from the AIA award. The initial project, “A Comprehensive Approach to Teaching Structures through Advanced Media,” was completed in 2005 and the second project, “Building Literacy: The Integration of Building Technology and Design in Architectural Education,” is in its final year of completion. Both projects aim at improving technology curricula in architecture programs by harnessing the interactive capabilities of digital technologies including dynamic modeling, simulation programs, interactive images, animations, and audio narration to help students. Building Literacy intends to improve student knowledge of how the integration of various building systems can enhance energy efficiency and sustainability of the built environment.

Advanced Ceramic Composite Envelope Systems

Jason Oliver Vollen, RA
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Modern building techniques require an efficient and resilient construction system with a streamlined design and manufacturing process. Research into composite ceramic components at Rensselaer Polytechnic has the intended outcome of integrating advanced technologies to modify temperature gradients and minimize diurnal swings into a full-scale demonstration for limited testing. This report describes the continuing development of ceramic prototyping processes and digital simulation studies intended to further second-generation composite wall components towards completion.

College Towns as a Model of Sustainable Placemaking: Learning From Two Successful College Towns in Small Metropolitan Regions

Anirban Adhya
Lawrence Technological University
The author is conducting a multi-year research project to study examples of successful small towns toward developing a model of sustainable places. This pursuit of successful models is rooted in the author’s dissertation The Public Realm as a Place of Everyday Urbanism (2008), supported by the 2007 AIA RFP grant. This original research involved the study of four college towns: Ann Arbor, MI; Athens, GA; Tallahassee, FL; and Lansing, MI, the results of which are published in the AIA Report on University Research Volume 3. In the present study, two exemplary college towns (Asheville, NC and Savannah, GA) are examined to learn from their success and generate sustainable models for the shrinking small-metro towns. Specifically, the research objective is to find out how the spatial configuration of a place (spatial variable) and people’s activities in these places (action variable) correspond to perceptions of a place (perception variable) — to what extent does the spatial organization (campus-downtown configuration) relate to experience and perception of place quality?

Convergence of Intensity [Ci] or How to Purposely Shrink a City

Constance C. Bodurow
Lawrence Technological University
Calvin Creech
Lawrence Technological University
Alan Hoback
University of Detroit Mercy
Jordan R.M. Martin
Lawrence Technological University
Aaron Olko
Lawrence Technological University
Since completing the AIA RFP grant in 2008, the researchers have continued the value densification design research with the community and expanded the urban design initiatives to envision a more equitable and sustainable city. The researchers have focused their continued applied design research both practically and theoretically, asking, “What form would the post industrial city take if shrinkage were purposeful?” The research team defines this purposeful phenomenon of “resizing” the city based upon broadly defined density metrics as intensive convergence or a convergence of intensity [Ci]. This essay provides an update on the other applications of their value densification interface, a brief background on their expanded theoretical approach, and a description of further work, which constitutes an initial application of the Ci theory via formal urban design recommendations. Detroit serves as the context for the first application of Ci, but the research team believes that the design methodology is replicable and widely applicable to empower the purposeful shrinkage of cities across the globe.

Advancing the Dialogue on Collaborative Models for Green Building Design

Keith E. Hedges
Drury University
Christopher Livingston
Montana State University
The researchers explored the connections of nearly one hundred architecture and engineering students from three institutions. The purpose was to examine the nature of how distance students collaborated with other disciplines on a common comprehensive architectural design problem. The findings are described in the article, “Socially Responsible Collaborative Models for Green Building Design,” located in the AIA Report on University Research, Volume 4. The results indicated why groups either chose the more difficult and unknown journey of completing a single architectural design with their distance partners, or returned to their local comfort zones and developed separate design responses. In this explanatory paper, the researchers reveal the significance of the broader research idea, its position in the schema of their collaborative research with BIM and the integrated practice design process, and subsequent applications in academic and industry settings for advancing the dialogue on distance collaboration.

Narratives from Practice: Toward Carbon Neutrality

Alison G. Kwok, PhD, AIA, LEED AP
University of Oregon
Nicholas Rajkovich, AIA, LEED AP
University of Michigan
The 2007-2009 AIA Upjohn Research Initiative project, entitled Case Studies of Carbon Neutrality, addressed the impact of buildings on climate change, the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) adoption of the 2030 Challenge, and the AIA’s Case Study Initiative. The project, led by the University of Oregon, developed narratives from project teams on the design and delivery process for carbon neutral buildings of six west coast projects: Orinda City Hall, Chartwell School, Tillamook Forest Center, Stephen Epler Hall, The Gerding Theater, and East Portland Community Center. Each narrative described the design intent, construction, and processes to operate the building. This paper describes the themes and lessons learned from the social interactions and communications between design team members, specifically investigating the relationship between architect and engineer. It is anticipated that practitioners will be able to apply lessons learned from these narratives to develop and improve successful integrated practices. At the University of Oregon, lessons learned from the narratives will be used in classes to frame new constructs of integrated practice.

Evidence-based Research for Architectural Design: Residential Site Plans and Older Adults Walking

Zhe Wang, Ph.D., RA, LEED AP
Mike Pukszta, AIA
Cannon Design
Mardelle Shepley, D. Arch, AIA, LEED AP
Evidence-based research for architectural design is conducted in universities and in firms. The methodologies used in the AIA project have been applied in two university-based projects and one firm-based project to establish baseline information for architectural research, with an emphasis on design for health. These projects involve both primary research and secondary research. To further examine findings from the AIA project, an environment-behavior research project was completed at Texas A&M University to examine both neighborhood environments and site-level environments and their roles in promoting walking behaviors in older adults. To refine the methodologies for firm-based research, a proposal has been created for a Post-Occupancy Evaluation project at Cannon Design, with an emphasis on developing and using reliable research tools to support design practices. In summary, the research supported by the funds provided for the initial project, ‘Residential Site Plans and Older Adult Walking,’ has significantly influenced the research agendas of the recipients. Their research works help to establish the baseline information and effective standards of evidence-based research for architectural design.

Contexts Speaking: the Earthen Architecture of Two Villages

Kate Wingert-Playdon and Dennis G. Playdon
Temple University
The 2007 AIA RFP grant awarded for “Pilot Project to Aid in the Development of a Preservation Plan for Old Acoma Village” was directed at the particular context of Old Acoma, but also addressed facets of cultural heritage preservation that are important in the global context of the 21st century. Old Acoma, located about 50 miles west of Albuquerque in New Mexico, is the cultural center of the Acoma Tribe. With availability of materials mass-produced and meant for mass-distribution, houses at Old Acoma have started to look like houses in urban and suburban settings across the southwest. This is a direct reversal from the past when Acoma was a prime model for southwestern style of building. The researchers’ work in 2007 was to find ways to pass on knowledge about building in a society where the oral tradition is the primary means of communicating information of this sort. Central in the researchers’ conclusions about cultural heritage preservation of the Old Acoma Village was the connection between the use of materials and methods of construction with cultural identity. Making and maintaining the architecture of a place is a form of cultural identity.

Sabin+Jones LabStudio: Nonlinear Systems Biology and Design

Jenny E. Sabin, M.ARCH
Sabin+Jones LabStudio
Peter Lloyd Jones, PhD
Sabin+Jones LabStudio
Within LabStudio, architects, scientists, engineers and mathematicians collaborate in a reciprocal and direct fashion to develop, analyze and abstract dynamic, biological systems through the generation and design of new tools and material constructions. These approaches for modeling complexity and visualizing large datasets are subsequently applied to architectural and biomedical research and design. In the first phase, the researchers chose to focus their projects that examined Surface Design, Motility and Networking behaviors in living systems, based upon the unique research potential of each towards application in architecture and biomedicine. The funded work for the awarded AIA Upjohn grant focused solely upon the Surface Design research trajectory. This article, however, features architectural projects and outcomes from all three research tracks.


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