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2008 RFP Research Program

Description: The AIA seeks proposals for research projects to be completed in a seven-month period beginning May 2008. The AIA will award up to 10 grants of $7,000 each for selected projects. This grant qualifies recipients to have their findings and outcomes published both electronically in the Architect’s Knowledge Resource online database and in a nationally distributed publication, The American Institute of Architects Report on University Research, volume 4. Preference will be given to PhD candidates and junior faculty members focusing on completion or distribution of research or on initial explorations of a particular concept.

Congratulations to the ten recipients of the 2008 program!

Selected Proposals:

Thermally Active Surfaces
Principal investigator: Kiel Moe (Northeastern University)

: This research focuses on the new role of thermally active surfaces in architecture in our work toward low-to-no-energy-consumption buildings. In this transformation of energy and building practices, the thermal conditioning of a building is decoupled from the ventilation system, using the mass of the building itself as the thermal system rather than air. This approach reinvests the fabric of the building itself with a more poignant role: the structure is also the primary mechanical system. This yields a cascading set of advantages for the building design and construction industry: radically lower energy consumption, more durable buildings, healthier buildings, and more highly integrated building systems and design teams.

An important aspect of thermally active surfaces is that they are low-tech yet high performance and are thus equally applicable in the developed and developing worlds. As such, thermally active surfaces are central to multiple aspects of sustainability. This grant funding will sponsor 10 case studies that elucidate the few recently constructed projects based upon thermally active surfaces in architecture. The case studies will be published in the first major book on thermally active surfaces in architecture (the full 250-page manuscript will be complete at the end of 2008). The book is practice-driven, aiming to elucidate principles and practices for direct implementation. 

Read the full report.

Socially Responsible Collaborative Models for Green Building Design

Principal Investigators: Keith E. Hedges, AIA NCARB M.Arch. M.S.S.E. (University of Nebraska-Lincoln , University of Wyoming); Anthony S. Denzer, Ph.D. M.Arch, LEEP AP (University of Wyoming); Christopher Livingston, M. Arch (Montana University )

: Accrediting boards are under the perception that multidisciplinary teams are an ideal collaborative model in light of integrated practice (IP) and a heightened social responsibility. This perception may lead the architectural accrediting board to prematurely adopt an outdated collaborative model already in place by the engineering accreditation board. The ACSA recommendations for the 2008 Accreditation Review Conference state “Collaborative Skills should evolve to address the ability of students to both recognize the value of interdisciplin¬ary collaboration and to work collaboratively with students in multidisciplinary design teams.” This is a shift from a curricular choice to a prescriptive composition of team learning. The engineering accrediting board previously adopted multidisciplinary team engagements prior to the intervention of IP. Architecture and engineering programs should explore the frontiers of disciplinarity where opportunities exist to embrace a broader civil society. Educator Sue McGregor describes highest mode of transdisciplinary activities as being between, across and beyond disciplines “far beyond the academy, the synergy created at the interface between the academy (disciplines) and civil society is woven together to create new kinds of shared knowledge that shed light on the complex problems of humanity.”

This research shall investigate several modes of disciplinarity behind the backdrop of social responsibility, climate change and sustainability, and integrated practice. In an effort to establish disciplinarity and the backdrop conditions, three research sites are triangulated. The participants include students and faculty of an engineering program (University of Wyoming) and two architectural programs (Montana State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln). The students will simultaneously collaborate in real-time through a shared knowledge resource to establish distance IP environments. A comprehensive architectural project, based on a green building program and site, induces the other backdrop conditions. The primary results will inform the accreditation boards and their constituent groups of socially responsible collaborative models for green building design. Ancillary results will develop the hallmarks of best practice strategies for classroom and curricular use of BIM and IP.

 To view the full report, click here.

Green Classroom Toolbox: Retrofitting Educational Facilities for Carbon Neutrality and Students’ Productivity Evidence-Based Design Guidelines

Principal Investigator: Ihab Elyeyadi, Ph.D., IES (University of Oregon)

: Existing classrooms and educational spaces are problematic. They consume 50% of the nation’s electricity, generate 35% of our waste, use 8% of water resources and are responsible for 20% of green house gas (GHC) and carbon dioxide emissions. While, the new construction sector of the building industry has benefited from products and green building strategies to produce high performance sustainable schools, existing classrooms, however, have been largely ignored. This problem is magnified due to the large amount of occupied classroom space in the US, which exceeds 20 billion square foot (this figure also includes labs, lecture halls, and meeting spaces). These existing educational spaces, generally a product of the past 30-50 years, are energy and environmentally unconscious. Since many of the new building products and sustainable technologies are not applicable to existing classrooms retrofits, this collaborative research project intends to target this problem through the development and implementation of the Green Classroom Toolbox (GCT) comprehensive project. The goals and objectives of this project are to develop green design guidelines for retrofitting existing educational spaces that are based on carbon neutrality metrics and student achievements outcomes. The basis of these guidelines is the analysis of data from a multi-disciplinary applied research project that we have recently completed in addition to an extensive meta-analysis of prior studies and energy modeling simulations. One of the significant targets of this project is to link green retrofit design strategies with their carbon emission reductions and impact on human health and student achievements. Every day, 50 million students attend schools and classrooms. The American Society of Civil Engineers reported that our aging educational buildings are in worse condition than any other infrastructure, including prisons. EPA estimates that 40 percent of our nation’s 115,000 schools and universities suffer from poor environmental conditions that may compromise health, safety, and learning of more than 14 million students. These conditions—which include asbestos, lead, radon, pesticides, cleaning agents, building materials, molds, leaking roofs, underground fuel tanks, poor heating and ventilation systems, inadequate lighting, and failing plumbing— contribute to a host of health concerns for both students and personnel. Problems are compounded by density. In addition, educational facilities have four times the number of occupants per square foot than most offices.

This grant will support the analysis and translational tasks of our data collection into evidence based design guidelines and a decision support website and design guideline. The intended guidelines will be developed to:
• Increase the productivity, comfort, and health of students in retrofitted classrooms;
• Facilitate integrated design and cooperation between designers;
• Reduce environmental impacts and move us towards carbon neutrality environments in schools, and
• Have a potential to be a model for future replication and dissemination.

 To view the full report, click here.

Experimental Constructions in Mumbai

Principal Investigator: Scott Shall (Temple University)

: In the summer of 2008, a team of architecture, art and design students representing nine universities will travel to Mumbai, India where they will design and build portable school shelters for children living within the improvised settlements of that city. Over the course of six weeks, our multidisciplinary team will use their creative talents to breathe new life into undervalued materials and indigenous methods of construction and work with our host community to create a new approach to building schools. The resulting proposal will be neither a replication of existing local methods nor an imposition of foreign solutions. Rather, it will be a synthesis of both traditions – a hybrid address that empowers our partners to possess and evolve the strategy in a meaningful way.

To realize this ambition, participating students must develop an understanding of existing materials and construction processes. Thus, while abroad, students will work collaboratively with students and volunteers from P.Y. Patil School of Architecture in New Mumbai and Mobile Crèches to create a battery of experimental constructions designed to uncover, test and evolve the tectonic approach described above. The purpose of this grant is to fund and document these experimental constructions and disseminate all associated findings upon return to the US. In this way, this grant will not only allow the team to develop the tectonic sensitivity necessary to design a much-needed facility for a Indian non-profit, but also provide the field with an interesting test of the practices and pedagogies that will inform this work.

 To view the full report, click here.

Integration of Solid-State, Solar-Powered Micro-Cooling Assemblies in Building Skins: Feasibility, Performance Studies, and Prototyping

Principal Investigator: Michael D. Gibson, M.Arch (Ball State University)

: The following project proposes the study of a solid state, solar-powered micro-cooling system for integration in building skins, and the architectural implications of such a system. As opposed to centralized HVAC systems, the project’s subject of examination is a decentralized system of cooling using an array of inexpensive, independently responsive units with collective intelligence.

The basis of the proposed cooling system is the application of photovoltaic panels to power thermoelectric cooling modules. Supplied with an electric current, thermoelectric devices transfer heat from one side of the device to another, heating one side while chilling the other. In summary, the proposed system would work as a compact, microprocessor-controlled unit consisting of a thermoelectric module, a photovoltaic panel, exterior heat dissipation plates, and an interior cooling plate with condensate discharge and fan. The innovation of the proposed concept, distinguishing it from
past proposals for thermoelectric building cooling, is its potential integration in the building skin as a distributed array of independently functioning units.

Through the construction of a series of prototypes, the feasibility, performance, and architectural implication of these ‘micro-cooling’ systems will be studied. Constructed at 1:2 scale in order to accommodate scientific instruments, a final functioning prototype will simulate the performance of the proposed system under realistic conditions, while monitoring an identical, unconditioned prototype in parallel. These proposed prototypes intend to both demonstrate the raw technology of the proposal and, using advanced modeling and fabrication methods, explore the design, assembly, and integration of the system’s components in the building envelope. 

To view the full report, click here.

A Digitally Fabricated House for New Orleans: Production and Presentation of an Exhibition for MoMA
Principal Investigator: Lawrence Sass, Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

: We request funds for ongoing architectural research in computing and digital fabrication at the Design Lab at MIT. We seek support for application of this technology to build an exhibit for the Modern Museum of Art in New York City (MoMA), July 20 2008. The house will be relocated to a site in New Orleans Oct 20, 2008. Faculty and staff at the lab are currently producing the first digitally fabricated house as a New Orleans shotgun cabin that will be an assembly of interlocking plywood components. The house will be digitally fabricated off site and assembled on an open lot between 54th and 55th street adjacent the MoMA. We currently seek funds for the assembly phase of the project in NYC. 

 To view the full report, click here.

From Benchtop to Bedside: Transferring research lessons learned in an undergraduate program

Principal Investigator: Meredith Banasiak, M.Arch. (University of Colorado)

: While there is a rising demand for research and “evidence based design” in architectural practice, as the 1996 Boyer Report1 and many subsequent critiques of architectural education point out, research is generally not being addressed in design education. Given the innovative and rigorous nature of the extant undergraduate projects, it is apparent that undergraduate students can contribute much to research about the designed environment. This proposal seeks to develop and test a model which will not only foster a culture of research in undergraduate design education and provide a framework for students to discover new knowledge, but moreover, will promote knowledge transfer between academia and the design profession using the student as a vehicle. Building on efforts currently embedded in the environmental design curriculum at University of Colorado such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP,, Center for Children, Youth and Environments Undergraduate Internships (CYE,, studios which embrace real world scenarios and design build projects (e.g. TrailerWrap,, and interdisciplinary seminars investigating relationships between cognitive science and environmental design (e.g., ARCH 6290: Design with the Brain in Mind), it is proposed that the implementation of a “Preceptorship Program” would allow a student to pair with 1) an academic mentor from one of the College’s four research centers2, and 2) a practicing design professional mentor, in order to structure a research partnership which is innovative, collaborative, publishable, and carries knowledge from “benchtop to bedside”. In addition to developing the preceptorship program which could serve as a conceptual framework model for other undergraduate design programs to adopt, research will be undertaken to structure mechanisms which would make the results from the undergraduate research projects both locally and globally accessible to practitioners, students and researchers.

  To view the full report, click here.

Design for Aging Review: Analyzing and disseminating statistical data and trends to define the purpose and design of aging community environments

Principal Investigators:
Design for Aging Knowledge Community:
• Leslie Moldow, AIA - Perkins Eastman
• Stefani Danes, AIA - Perkins Eastman
• Ingrid Fraley, ASID - Design Services, Inc.
• Eric McRoberts, AIA - RLPS
• James Warner, FAIA - JSA, Inc.
• Joyce Polhamus, AIA – SmithGroup

: This past September more than 70 submittals were received for the Design for Aging (DFA) Review 9 Design Competition. AIA firms identified such trends as sustainability, building/community relationships, and the purpose of a well designed environment for the aging. We were told, and told the firms in turn, that the data collected could be systematically analyzed and the results shared so that members could learn from the trends of the best designs in the country.

Despite the firms’ amazing investment of time required to submit, the data was collected. However, the company the AIA requested we collaborate with, did not deliver the results we were promised. Five months later, these leading edge design submissions are still sitting in their raw form making the data they contain unusable to the Design for Aging community.

The DFA Knowledge Group researched the most cost effective process to make good use of the data. We are requesting $7,000 to “data mine” the information, transform it into organized data, analyze it for trends, patterns and statistics, and shared the findings with our members as a useful design tool and valuable source of knowledge.

We previously requested funding for this data mining in both our 2007 and 2008 Action Plans but it was not approved. Our request has been reduced from $20,000 to $7,000 by proposing that we do the research though the use of an intern and the in-kind services for supervision and leadership donated by Perkins Eastman as opposed to hiring an outside firm.

To view the full report, click here.

Educate, Preserve, Reuse: The Good (Not Great) Buildings of San Francisco

Principal Investigators: Mark Kessler (University of California, Davis)

: In American cities, developers and government continue to propose large-scale projects to achieve economic growth and neighborhood revitalization. These projects, no matter how "green," consume new materials and often involve tossing away of existing and adaptable structures, many of which make significant contributions to the scale and character of the city.

While the preservation movement has made great strides in saving landmarks and historical districts, it has been less effective in protecting good, not great, buildings. Now, the acknowledged environmental crisis has the potential to reinvigorate the preservation movement and alter perceptions about the value of existing buildings and adaptive re-use. A new idea of progress is emerging, one paradoxically predicated on an acceptance of finite resources. Architects, economically dependent upon new construction, are slowly awakening to the reality referred to by Robert Ivy, Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Record, when he asked, "What can be greener than reuse?"

I propose to lead a studio of UC Davis design students in a study of typical San Francisco infill buildings that have architectural merit, that are adaptable, and that help define the character of streets and neighborhoods. Specifically, the focus is on buildings that present an historicist façade over an industrial interior: auto repair garages, warehouses, and utility buildings. Due to age, condition, anonymity and use, these worthy buildings are vulnerable. The goal is to promote the preservation of good, typical infill buildings as a form of recycling. The outcomes will be presented to the San Francisco Department of City Planning.

View the full report. (PDF)

Value Densification Community Project (VDCp): Community Mapping in Southwest Detroit

Principal Investigators: Constance C. Bodurow, Assoc. AIA, AICP (Lawrence Technological University); Dr. Alan Hoback, PE (University of Detroit Mercy)

: The principal investigators completed the Value Densification Community Pilot Project (VDCpp) in Summer 2007. Our goal was to explore how aspects of the post-industrial city can be understood, communicated, and leveraged in service of equity and sustainability, and to use technology to reveal data about the city in order to convince community, political, and economic leadership to embrace a broader interpretation of value. We created a unique “free-ware” digital interface utilizing Google Earth, Sketch Up, and GIS to model both physical and social density utilizing a variety of data sets in Southwest Detroit, MI, USA – a vibrant neighborhood that is currently transforming socially, physically, and economically. The resultant digital interface empowers the community through asset identification and creation of an accessible tool to assist in envisioning its environmental, social, and economic future. The VDC digital interface is unique in that it models “social exchanges” in three dimensions, and allows the user to overlay social and infrastructure layers with physical density. In Phase 2, we will continue to engage the Southwest Detroit community to determine how non profit groups can best utilize data and mapping as planning, design, development, and evaluative tools. The focus of the project is to create a comprehensive tool that can support community design and development policy decisions. Community members will become active partners in evolving the digital interface as a tool for strategic planning at the agency/organization, coalition, city and regional levels.

To view the full report, click here.



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