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2007 AIA RFP Program

To seed applied research projects that advance professional knowledge and practice, the AIA recently sought proposals. The projects must be completed within one year from May 4, 2007. The proposals could cover a range of areas, including education and practice; regulatory, business, and technical developments related to a particular building type or client group; evaluation of design and performance criteria for learning, healing, and work environments; evaluation of project delivery methods and tools; and miscellaneous topics relevant to the practice of architecture.

A panel of architecture professionals and educators evaluated the proposals and selected 10 of them to receive AIA grants of $7,000 each. The grants qualify the recipients to present their preliminary findings and outcomes at the 2008 AIA National Convention in addition to other venues and publications.


Schematic Energy Design Primer – Midwest Region

Principal Investigators
: Scott A. Johnston, associate professor, Department of Architecture and Interior Design (Miami University, Oxford, Ohio); Robert L. Knight, AIA (GBBN Architects, Cincinnati)

The Center for Building Science Research (CBSR) at Miami University has a 20-year history of developing design tools to help students and practicing architects better understand the thermal performance implications of the design decisions they make. Growing interest in sustainable design has put our department in the unique position of serving as consultants on real projects outside the university. The expertise we bring to these projects is the ability to analyze the thermal impact of design decision early in the schematic design phase. Though our primary focus is on the building envelope, we also have software to look at how the design of the building shell affects system design.

The AIA funding will be used to automate and recalibrate the data acquisition system for the department’s low-velocity wind tunnel. Over the summer and fall, a series of simple parametric studies will be performed to characterize visually and numerically how the shape and location of openings on a building influences air motion around and through it. These experiments will be used in a chapter of an energy design primer designed specifically to aid architects in this region as they attempt to shape the form of their buildings in ways that are more environmentally responsive. As an extension of this project, workshops will be offered at CBSR at Miami and at other sites around the state, emphasizing the importance of, and demonstrating the tools that can be used for, analyzing building thermal performance early in the design process.

To view the full published report, click here.

Greening North Knoxville: Visualizing Sustainability in Urban Conditions

Principal Investigator
: Ted Shelton, AIA, assistant professor, College of Architecture and Design (University of Tennessee)

When working in the urban context, it is difficult for even well-informed designers to understand how their decisions impact the environment. The urban condition is inherently complex: Many of the metrics of sustainability either have no visible manifestation or are composed of multiple layers, some of which are visible and some of which are not. This project will develop methods whereby the complex interactions of environmental concerns and the urban condition are made visible in order to inform the design process.

Investigators will collect information on the geospatial conditions of an existing urban neighborhood, North Knoxville, and use CartaVista™ Geographic Information Visualization (GIV) software to perform graphic analyses of aspects of urban sustainability. GIV technology uses a layered system of Digital Elevation Models (DEM). While these models typically correspond to elevation data, they can also represent other data types. In this project, DEMs will be manipulated to represent aspects of sustainability through the creation of thematically grouped Visual Analysis Layers. For example, individual parameters of the walkability layer might include the width of the sidewalk; shading of the sidewalk; distance to a commercial street, neighborhood center, or transit stop; and density of adjacent residences. Relating and quantifying each of the parameters, the DEM will be manipulated to create a Digital Data Model (DDM), which CartaVista™ in turn can display as points, lines, and surfaces colored with hypsometric tints to describe features of the dataset and drive visual investigation. Thus, from quantitative data comes qualitative readings—unlocking the visual processing abilities of the designer and informing integrated design decisions.

To view the full published report, click here.

Developing Architectural Lighting Designs to Improve the Health and Well-Being of Older Adults

Principal Investigator
: Mariana G. Figueiro, PhD, assistant professor, Lighting Research Center, School of Architecture (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

The research will develop, demonstrate, evaluate, and document architectural lighting designs that will help to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life of older adults living at home and in assisted lighting environments. As a person ages, several normal changes occur in the visual system resulting in difficulty seeing, sensitivity to glare, and difficulty performing visually-dependent tasks. Disturbed nighttime sleep is also common in older persons, leading to significant negative effects on the daytime function of the affected person and on the well-being of caregivers and family members. Disturbed sleep in older adults is virtually always accompanied by marked disturbances of the circadian system, and research has established that controlled bright-dark light cycles will synchronize that system to the 24-hour solar day, helping them be more awake during the day and to sleep better at night. To address these issues, Figueiro plans to develop and test a 24-hour lighting scheme specifically designed to meet the needs of older adults, including those with Alzheimer’s disease. This project will result in guidelines and recommendations that will help architects to design healthy and sustainable living environments for older adults that will support their visual needs, well-being, health, sleep quality, and independence.

To view the full published report, click here.

ReactiveVOID: Socializing Space through Responsive Technology

Principal Investigators
: Joshua G. Stein, assistant professor of architecture (Woodbury University); Rob Ley, professor (Southern California Institute of Architecture)

ReactiveVOID is a research project that capitalizes on new technologies to influence the public perception of the built environment through the activation of interior spaces. The research critically examines the possibilities of responsive space given recent developments in responsive material technology, namely that of Muscle Wire® shape memory alloys (SMAs)—metals that change shape according to temperature. This technology offers the possibility of fluid and subtle movement without the mechanized motion of earlier technologies. Operating at a molecular level, this motion parallels that of plants and lower-level organisms that could be called responsive but not conscious—for example, that of a field of sunflowers or a reef covered with sea anemones. Its practical application has been limited to the medical and aerospace fields and to novelty toys—the super exclusive vs. the trite. Despite the potential of this technology, there have been few serious attempts to test its effects at the scale of responsive environments.

ReactiveVOID imbues space with personality more than intelligence. The architecture profession’s earlier flirtations with motion and technology tended to emphasize justification of efficiency through intelligence. This research aims to shift the argument from intelligence and motion to responsiveness and personality. A faculty grant from Woodbury University allowed the initial phase of research into this technology, including proof-of-concept operational kinetic models. This AIA grant would be used in tandem with the IDEC Special Projects Grant to test this research in a full-scale installation.

To view the full published report, click here.

Guidelines for Spatial Regeneration in Iowa

Principal Investigator
: Marwan Ghandour, associate professor of architecture (Iowa State University); Collaborating Investigator: Peter Goché, AIA, (Goché inclusions llc and lecturer, Iowa State University)

Iowa and the Midwest have witnessed a major shift in landscape for the last three decades, characterized by the change of agricultural production practices from family farming to corporate farming and the consequent ecological and social transformation. The current Iowa landscape of towns, farms, and transportation networks is physically shaped in accordance with the family farming networks of material exchange.

The result of this network of exchange becoming obsolete is an accumulated building waste, which is in the form of abandoned farm structures and town businesses. This has yielded social frustration due to the limited future options for small town residents and former family farmers. Concurrently there is a lack of vision for the future of the built environment of Iowa for Iowans to work towards. We propose to address this deficit through design interventions on two interrelated scales, architectural and regional. On the architectural scale, the project will address the building waste through projects of reprogramming, refurbishment and material recycling. On the regional scale, the project will address the larger network of exchange in order to propose a vision for the future built environment of Iowa that is informed not only by production processes but also by social aspirations. Consequently, the project will include spatial analysis, design interventions and guidelines for regeneration of the social space of Iowa.

To view the full published report, click here.

Doing Good, Doing Well? The Impacts of Social Engagement and Design-Build Programs on Early Professional Development
Principal Investigator
: Peter Aeschbacher, assistant professor, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (The Pennsylvania State University)

University design-build programs emphasizing social responsibility are grounded in two claims: (a) that project-based design and construction experience builds professional capacity, and (b) that engagement with social issues and underserved populations is a transformative experience, producing “citizen-architects.” These efforts have generated a positive popular perception of the profession, supported universities’ outreach missions, and addressed the recommendations for student social engagement in the widely cited 1996 Boyer-Mitgang Report. Descriptions and evaluations of programs-in-action are common in the literature, but little or no postprogram evaluations have been undertaken.

This research will evaluate the impact of such programs on graduates’ early professional development. The study will track graduates of four representative programs: Auburn University’s Rural Studio (1992+); University of Detroit Mercy’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center (1995+); University of Washington’s Howard S. Wright Design/Build Studio (1994+); and the University of Kansas’s Studio 804 (1995+). Each program has the maturity to provide a sufficient time frame and pool of respondents for the study. Surveys and selected interviews will consider prior skills and motivations; student tenure within the programs; decisions for professional practice; and graduates’ capacity to maintain design-build and/or social engagement in their early professional careers.

Findings will directly benefit educators and professionals engaged with such initiatives; help to define an important link between education and practice to the benefit of programs such as IDP; contribute to the scholarly literature in the field; and provide insight into the current state of practice and the experiences of emerging professionals.

* Full report was unavailable during the time of publication.

Neonatal Intensive Care Units: Family Interaction

Principal Investigators
: Mardelle McCuskey Shepley, DArch, AIA, ACHA, design researcher (ART+Science); Debra D. Harris, PhD (IDR Studio); Robert White, MD, director, Regional Newborn Program (Memorial Hospital of South Bend); Annie Coull, AIA, ACHA, director of planning (Anshen+Allen Architects); Uma Ramanathan, AIA, principal, and Sue Ellen Donahoe, interior designer (Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott)

Patients and families in intensive-care hospital settings are extremely vulnerable to the physical environment. Neonatal intensive-care settings are particularly significant in their impact due to the frailty of the infants and feelings of loss and fear experienced by their families. While recent design research focuses on patients and staff, the trauma experienced by family members is profound and long-lasting. The purpose of this research study, therefore, is to focus on the impact of neonatal intensive care environments on family members.

Recent technological advancements have resulted in an increase in the NICU population. Many hospitals are expanding or adding neonatal services, resulting in new construction and experimentation with innovative facility design. One of the most significant innovations has been to provide private single-family rooms (SFRs) rather than multibed bays. While SFRs have been found to control noise and light and to increase privacy, their impact on family social interaction is uncertain. Therefore, this research project explores the impact of both SFR and open units on social interaction. The following questions are addressed in this proposal:

1. Are there differences in family-infant interaction in the two settings (open bay and SFR)?
2. Are there differences in family-staff interaction in the two settings?
3. Are there differences in family-family interaction in the two settings?

This study is the second phase of an ongoing research initiative originally sponsored by the Coalition for Health Environments Research (Harris, Shepley, White, et al. 2006), which focused on the impact of SFRs on staff and infants.

To view the full published report, click here.

Exploring Public Realm—Understanding Multiple Ways of Publicness in Urban America: Learning from the College Towns

Principal Investigator
: Anirban Adhya, assistant professor, College of Architecture and Design (Lawrence Technological University)

This research will undertake a critical study of public places—the public realm of any society—in the American urban context. Current theories of public space represent a notion of “public” that is homogeneous and offers universal access. Current practices in the public realm are devoid of contextual understanding of human diversity, human behavior, and evolving technology and instead are founded in romanticism of certain historically conceived typologies of streets, squares, parks, and plazas, and markets, or in singular dimension such as ownership. This investigation will contest such universal understanding by examining closely a group of public places in four college towns: Ann Arbor, Mich., Athens, Ga.; Madison, Wis.; and Tallahassee, Fla. The study will focus on college towns because these towns represent a distinct urban condition. Each place considered in this research illustrates different representations of public space and reveals various formal and informal ways of appropriating publicness. The study will explore different ways in which public places are understood, various processes by which public places are used, and multiple forms in which public places are manifested.

(1) I will apply a multiple sorting task coupled with open-ended interviews (Canter et al. 1985, Groat, 1985) to investigate the nature and organization of people’s conceptual constructs related to publicness.

(2) I will observe people’s activities in exemplar public places (four per case study) to reveal how people, individually and in groups, appropriate these spaces.

(3) The study will analyze the historic-morphological evolution of public places in the college towns using space syntax methods. The dynamic interaction between urban configuration, human behavior, and common understanding continually shapes the growth of a city through time (Habraken 2000). I will replicate this integrative model in the four case-study college towns.

To view the full published report, click here.

Skin Deep: Breathing Life into the Layer between Man and Nature

Principal Investigator
: Doris Kim Sung, MArch, lecturer (University of Southern California)

This proposal requests funds to transform the surface of an Airstream trailer into a kinetic “skin” that performs from both the outside-in and the inside-out. In the past, the exterior surface of a building passively protected, shielded, and separated man from nature. Thick walls, small openings, and heavy roofs ensured this security. In the early 1930s, the modern movement and industrialization rejected the segregation and encouraged the use of glass walls as a means to visually bring the garden indoors. But even though the glass was thin and transparent, the window wall remained impenetrable. This design-build project revisits the ongoing discussion of the “primitive hut” with a new position on balancing man with nature: Skins of buildings can be designed to be porous, animated, and sensitive—performing as a tool rather than an object.

By making a skin that is responsive on the outside to changes in the climate and environment and on the inside to the movements of the body, it can connect man and nature harmoniously despite its material, physical, and technological presence. The manifestations would occur on the opposing surface of the skin: The outside skin’s reaction would appear on the inside and vice versa. Selected for its ideal grafting medium, the Airstream trailer is an independent, inhabitable unit, continuous on all sides (including the roof and the belly), and easily transportable. Imagine this contemporary “primitive hut” with a new kinetic skin. Ironically, this new skin, although tangible and technological, would be conceptually invisible, giving a whole new meaning to the words “organic” and “sustainable.”

To view the full published report, click here.

Pilot Project to Aid in the Development of a Preservation Plan for Old Acoma Village

Principal Investigators
: Dennis G. Playdon; Kate Wingert-Playdon, MArch, Professor, Architecture Program (Temple University) and consultant (Pueblo of Acoma Historic Preservation Office)

A pilot project will aid in the development of a preservation plan for Old Acoma Village, Pueblo of Acoma. The village is the spiritual and cultural center of the Native American settlement of Acoma in New Mexico. The Acoma tribe has undertaken the task of preserving its historic structures and is considered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) to be a leader in implementing preservation among culturally sensitive Native American settlements. The principal investigators for this proposed pilot project were instrumental in the preservation process for San Esteban del Rey Mission and the Acoma Meetinghouse, two significant public structures at Acoma (Kate Wingert-Playdon coordinated and wrote the 2001 preservation plan; Dennis Playdon initiated and carried out assessment and initial projects). The preservation plan for the San Esteban del Rey Mission was innovative and in the forefront of preservation planning for Native American settlements. It favors cultural needs in conjunction with preservation needs. The preservation model couples project phases and planning decisions as the work proceeds, allowing the work to be visible to the community, allowing culturally and spiritually sensitive site areas to be cared for according to Acoma’s guiding principles and demonstrating best practices for building as a cultural priority.

This pilot project is a next phase in preservation at Acoma. Whereas the first phase focused on public buildings, the next phase focuses on houses of individual families in the tribe. This phase has many of the same priorities but also must consider the needs of individuals together with the needs of the tribe. Acoma’s ancient village is best known for its defensible position on a 350-foot-high mesa and its massing as a stepped pueblo structure that is organized in relation to its environment, taking full advantage of a balance between passive solar heating and shading for cooling. The village profile and layout remained intact for approximately 300 years, and there has been expansion in the village for about a 70-year period. In spite of the growth, the underlying structure of the village is still dominant.

Preservation planning for the village comes at a crucial time. A National Historic Landmark, the village was named an endangered cultural landscape by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (2004), and NTHP recently named it a National Trust Partner Site (2006). A number of houses in the village are in dire need of repair. The village dating from 1629 to 1644 is made of earthen materials and, until 20 years ago, was maintained using traditional building practices learned through oral history. More recently, materials thought to be time saving have been used for repairs. They include portland cement, adobe amended with petroleum products, plywood, and other materials incompatible with the soft earthen materials used for 300+ years. The use of “new” materials in itself is not a problem, but the manner in which they are used must be better directed so that deterioration between harder and softer materials does not undermine the structures. Best building practices for earthen buildings are well known at Acoma and are part of the traditional form of building maintenance. However, these traditions are in jeopardy of being lost to the average citizen because of a change in social structure and the loss of the oral tradition that has guided building practices. A preservation plan requires some teaching about the architecture and traditional building practices at Acoma and will be innovative inasmuch as it can reinvigorate the need for knowledge about the practice of building in the settlement.

Success in preservation planning of the public structures at Acoma is in part due to a two-pronged approach to planning. While a written plan is essential, the demonstration of the process, showing that the plan is based on the existing environment and not imposed from the outside, is a key factor for acceptance by the Acoma community. This pilot project will start with demonstration of building practices in the private structures and result in a handbook for building and preliminary plan for implementation in anticipation of later phases. It will include youth training, a key component to community involvement at Acoma. The initial phase is the measurement and survey of two structures. A plan for repair and long-term maintenance will be drawn from this. The plan will be worked out in conjunction with the needs of homeowners along with a range of techniques and materials that consider the preservation of the old structures.

To view the full published report, click here.

For further information on the AIA research program, please see the AIA 2007 Research Summit Web site.


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