AIA Upjohn Research Initiative

The AIA Upjohn Research Initiative supports applied research projects that enhance the value of design and professional practice knowledge. The program funds up to six research grants of $15,000 to $30,000 annually for projects completed within an 18-month period. This section lists recent recipients and jury panelists.

View published Upjohn-funded research.


Adaptive Envelopes for a Changing Climate: Exploring Bistability for Building Envelope Design

Principal Investigators: José Pinto Duarte, PhD (Penn State); Elena Vazquez (Penn State); Zoubeida Ounaies, PhD (Penn State)

Collaborator: Neil Katz, AIA (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM))

Working with material scientists, engineers, and an architecture firm, this project will generate design guidelines for adaptive building envelopes using bistable laminates. As the first architectural application of these laminates, this research will develop a prototype for a bistable adaptive envelope actuated with a smart terpolymer material. This combination provides a novel approach for kinetic building envelopes. It serves as an energy-efficient solution for high-performing buildings able to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Build Carbon Neutral v2.0: A Free Online Embodied Carbon Calculator for Approximate Building and Landscape Impacts

Principal Investigators: Sean Cryan (Mithun); Claire McConnell (Mithun); Chuck McDowell (Mithun)

Collaborators: Katie Stege, Assoc. AIA (Mithun)

This calculator tool expands on an existing carbon calculator used online since 2007. It will allow for more detailed conversations and better understanding of the elements that contribute most to the embodied carbon of a building. One of the steps in reducing carbon emissions associated with construction is understanding what those impacts may be. An easy, early assessment of those impacts will provide design teams with a baseline condition for further, more detailed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and the opportunity to educate clients as to those impacts based on specific elements of design that they can vary. This project intends to expand the calculator inputs to allow for estimates for the full building as well as expanding the site and landscape component of the tool to include the calculation of above-ground biomass and site materials.

Mix Design Standard and Strength Gain Correlations Testing for Stabilized Compressed Earth Block (SCEB) Units

Principal Investigators: Lauran Drown, AIA (Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates); Michael Donoghue, PE (Maritech Engineering)

Collaborators: Celia Mendoza (Earthen Construction Initiative); Ron Evans (De la Tierra Construction); Ryan Runge (Advanced Earthen Construction Technologies)

With a lack of tested standards for quality assurance and no commercially available mixes specific to earthen construction, wider adoption of earthen materials has not been realized. This research will outline the material proportions and mixing process requirements to reliably and repeatably fabricate SCEB units on a small-to-medium production scale. The Mix Design Standard will be geared toward streamlining unit fabrication to facilitate wider adoption of earthen construction, unlocking its potential to reduce embodied carbon in the building industry and providing data-driven storytelling to show how SCEBs contribute to climate solutions.

unPLANningMIAMI: A Transformative Design Framework for Strategic Decline and Resettlement of South Florida from the Effects of Sea-level Rise and Climate Change

Principal Investigator: Jeffrey E. Huber, FAIA (Brooks + Scarpa Architects; Florida Atlantic University School of Architecture)

This project builds upon current design solutions that link urban, architectural, and landscape architectural strategies for flood exceedence—designed to flood while solving for urban decommissioning (unplanning). The outcome will be a design and construction manual illustrating how to retrofit traditional planning and urban design to include addressing storm surge, sea-level rise, and changing rainfall and runoff patterns on the heavily-developed coastal zone. Through diagrams and illustrations, this manual will describe how adaptation and transformation design approaches can be replicated and adopted in other densely developed coastal areas.


Laura Lesniewski, AIA (chair), BNIM

Susannah Drake, FAIA, DLANDstudio

David Greusel, FAIA, Convergence Design

Frances Halsband, FAIA, Kliment Halsband Architects

Vivian Lee, FAIA, Woods Bagot

Britt Lindberg, AIA, Gensler

Stephen Parker, AIA, SmithGroup

Jury panel affiliations and designations are listed at the time of the jury deliberations and may have changed.

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