Practicing ArchitectureArchitectural Research
To seed applied research that advances professional knowledge and practice, the AIA recently sought proposals for research projects. The projects had to be completed within one year from June 1, 2006. The proposals could cover a range of areas, including building information modeling; 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 with relevance to the practice of architecture.
A panel of architecture professionals and educators evaluated the proposals submitted and selected seven proposals for the program. The AIA awarded grants of $7,000 each for the proposals. The grants qualified the recipients to present their preliminary findings and outcomes at the 2007 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference and the 2007 AIA National Convention in addition to other venues and publishing opportunities.
An Investigative Study of the Integration of Physical Systems in Sustainable Tall Buildings
Principal investigators: Mir M. Ali, PhD, professor, and Paul J. Armstrong, associate professor, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Ill.
Abstract: The focus of this research is to look at the process of integrating tall building systems, with special emphasis on sustainable buildings. The design of tall buildings warrants a multidisciplinary approach and requires the integration of architectural components, structure, vertical transportation, fire safety, energy conservation, and communication systems. This research will look at three types of integration: physical integration, visual integration, and performance integration.
“Technology transfer” is a concept that suggests that technical developments in one industry can be applied to another. This research will also explore into the developments in integration in the aerospace and automotive industries and what lessons can be learned that can be applied to tall building systems.
A major component of this research will entail collection of data and producing detail drawings of case study buildings such as the Swiss Reinsurance Building in London, the Menara Messinga Tower in Malaysia, and the Conde Nast Building in New York. They represent a new generation of sustainable high-rise buildings that are challenging conventional high-rise building practices and setting trends for such future projects incorporating innovations in materials and smart building systems. These buildings are seemingly well-tuned to their climate and they provide a major portion of their own energy requirements through integrated passive design, daylighting, and intelligent control systems. Special attention will be focused on the refinement and further development of the “Integration Web” recently proposed by the investigators that illustrates the interdependence of tall building’s physical systems.
Case Studies on Collaboration: Lessons Learned from the Robin Hood Library Initiative
Principal investigators: Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi, AIA, director of library and external initiatives, Robin Hood Library, New York City, and John Cary, executive director, public architecture, San Francisco
Abstract: The Library Initiative is a groundbreaking partnership between the Robin Hood Library and the New York City Department of Education to reinvent the public school library as a state-of-the-art and vital community resource. Each library is innovatively designed, equipped, staffed, and programmatically integrated into elementary schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. By
overhauling 5 percent to 10 percent of a school’s real estate, the L!brary Initiative affects 100 percent of its students, tackling the problem of low literacy and its attendant relationship to poverty. This is accomplished through excellence in design and a collaborative, empowering process for students, teachers, administrators, designers, architects, artists, and communities.
The Library Initiative—recognized with the 2003 AIA Honor Award for Collaborative Achievement—hinges upon the evolution of the design standard for public school libraries. Multiple investigations of the project type (31 completed projects and 25 under construction) have resulted in prototypes by several architects that have received numerous local and national AIA and other design awards. The principal investigators propose to document some of the architecture and design lessons learned via comprehensive case studies of 10 representative libraries. These case studies will be supplemented by a dossier regarding related aspects of the Library Initiative, such as interdisciplinary collaborative design processes, community empowerment through design, relationships between visual and verbal literacy, and the effect of the built environment on academic engagement and performance. The results will be disseminated widely through a dedicated Web site and a forthcoming book by the principal investigators, designed in collaboration with New York office of Pentagram, a long-time partner in the Library Initiative.
Read the full paper, "Case Studies on Collaboration: Lessons Learned from the Robin Hood Library Initiative"
Developing a Web Resource for Translational Research in Affordable Housing
Principal investigator: Sherry Ahrentzen, PhD, associate director of research, Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family, Arizona State University, Phoenix
Abstract: To date, there is no established agenda for organizing, disseminating, and advancing the state of knowledge of how good design is best employed to create long-term economic and social value in affordable housing. Building upon and adapting evidence-based design practices in health care, this project proposes developing the first stage of an effective Web-based strategy to help foster evidence-based design among those involved in affordable housing and mixed-income developments.
This project will produce concise, useful, and insightful research briefs and FAQ-oriented statements that translate existing research findings on affordable housing design issues. By weighing the strength of evidence and synthesizing those research findings that are valid and reliable (what is known as “translational research” in health-policy forums), these Web-accessible briefs and FAQ statements will give public officials, architects, developers, and builders convincing, dependable information and new perspectives to inform design, policy, and development decisions.
The project uses a methodology for developing this resource, adapting similar successful efforts in health-care design by the Center for Health Design and health-care policy by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. The Web resource will provide a framework that users can use to “answer” questions relevant to design issues of affordable housing. Development of a comprehensive database is more resource-intensive than funds from this particular grant program allows. But this phase of the project would establish a methodology and foundation for developing a more comprehensive Web resource and produce two Web products, providing concrete evidence of its usefulness and viability in future funding requests for further development.
Read the full paper, "Actionable Knowledge: A Research Synthesis Project for Affordable Housing Design Practice"
Ecomorph: Self-Sustaining Form
Principal investigator: Lance Hosey, AIA, LEED AP, Director, William McDonough + Partners
Abstract: An ecomorph is a scientific term for a natural feature whose appearance is shaped by ecology, not by heredity or other predetermined factors. In the proposed investigation, I will study how abstract forms deform in order to adapt to environmental circumstances, conserve material and energy, increase durability, and inspire.
The investigation will divide into three broad categories: (1) materials (embodied energy, thermodynamic properties, component sizes), (2) form (efficiency with material, volume, and structure), and (3) environment (macro- and microclimates, physical setting, variable loads). The study will isolate these factors, then synthesize them. For certain aspects of the project, I will consult with a team to include Buro Happold consulting engineers, the Catholic University digital fabrication studio, and an ecologist to be determined. The resulting product will be a series of drawings, diagrams, digital models and animations, and/or material fabrications to demonstrate the evolution of form as adaptation to place. The present study will propose a clear methodology for bringing together matter, form, and place.
Read the full paper, "Ecomorph: Self-Sustaining Form"
Inpatient Unit Design: Defining the Design Characteristics of a Successful Adaptable Unit
Principal investigators: Tom E. Harvey Jr., AIA, MPH, FACHA, principal, HKS, Dallas; Debajyoti Pati, PhD, AIA, senior design architect and research director, HKS, Dallas; and Carolyn L. Cason, PhD, RN, associate dean of research, School of Nursing, University of Texas-Arlington
Abstract: Health-care architecture is in an era of phenomenal growth, with conservative estimates predicting annual investments of $15 billion to $20 billion in new and replacement facilities over the next decade. With the trend toward increased lengths of stay, shortages of trained medical personnel, and rising acuity levels of patients in in-patient units, flexibility has become the must-do trend in in-patient unit design. When coupled with unpredictable regulatory changes and shifts in technology, it assumes greater significance. Flexibility, however, is currently not well understood. Therefore, the goal of this research is to understand flexibility and improve the design of in-patient units by allowing for informed decision making during the early stages of the project. This will maximize flexibility for implementing changing care-delivery models and improving patient safety while minimizing physical design change or redesign costs, improving or maintaining efficiency over time, and lengthening the economic life of in-patient care units.
The aim of the proposed study is to identify physical design decisions of hospital in-patient care units that influence (i.e., limit) adaptability and how these may vary over different nursing-care models. We propose a qualitative, exploratory study involving unstructured, open-ended interviews of nursing and support staff on the in-patient bed units of six private nonprofit hospitals to (a) identify various underlying dimensions of flexibility (as an abstract construct) in models of care, from stakeholders’ perspectives and (b) identify the elements of the physical setting that facilitate or hinder flexibility (and its underlying dimensions) in models of care. We will solicit participation from stakeholders in nursing and services that support nursing-care delivery, including food services, environmental services, facility and plant management, patient transport, security, materials management, biomedical services, and pharmacy.
Residential Site Plans and Older Adults' Walking
Principal investigator: Zhe Wang, Texas A&M University, College Station, Tex.
Abstract: This project is cross-sectional research involving older adults who recently moved from their community dwellings to long-term care institutions. The participants (sample size: 100 to 120) will be recruited from six to eight facilities of a chain long-term care management system in Houston. Older residents who have good cognitive skills and had moved from the Houston, Sugar Land, or Baytown metropolitan areas within six months at the study period, are the eligible sample population. Questionnaire surveys will collect data on participants’ sociodemographic and socioeconomic factors, previous home locations, their perceptions of former residential sites, and their walking behavior there.
Objective data on their former residential sites will be collected from the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) after geocoding individual addresses. Three categories of site-design factors are considered as independent variables: basic building characteristics, on-site outdoor areas, and site surroundings. They are captured by both perceived measures derived from surveys and objective measures derived from the GIS. Multivariate analyses with hierarchical regression models will be used to estimate older adults’ walking as a function of their residential sites, controlling for building types (single-family residences, townhouses or rowhouses, and apartments or condos), participants’ personal factors, and neighborhood social factors.
Read the full paper, "Residential Site Environments and Yard Activities of Older Adults"
Case Studies of Sustainable Green Workforce Housing in the Netherlands
Principal investigator: Alice Alison Mueller, Assoc. AIA, College of Architecture and Environmental Design, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Abstract: The American Dream is the single-family home, with an attached garage and a large front lawn. To realize this dream, we are devouring prime agricultural farmland, virgin forests, and clean air. Our night sky no longer permits star gazing, as we peer into the reflective light from strip-mall lighting. The downtown, which has traditionally been the soul of a town, has been replaced by the large big-box stores. As housing prices rise beyond the reach of the average worker, the American Dream remains elusive for all but a few.
I propose to document case studies of the best examples of sustainable green worker housing in the Netherlands, which exemplify design excellence, sustainable principles, and cutting-edge technology. The Dutch have a strong tradition of creating dense, sustainable, mixed-use communities with affordable, livable worker housing that are highly desirable living environments. These sustainable communities provide a mix of housing types, styles, incomes, and activities, with a dedication to sustainable energy and ecological building principles. Housing projects in the Netherlands have been at the forefront of demonstrating ecological energy technologies and building techniques. The use of water is the foundation for many of these new technologies and techniques.
The Dutch, with their historic tradition of providing affordable worker housing, are in the leaders in green sustainable living communities, which exemplify design excellence, cutting-edge technology, innovative materials, and inventive building techniques. My case studies will be a resource for students, faculty, government agencies, civic organizations, and local community members.
For further information on the AIA research program, please see the AIA 2007 Research Summit Web site.