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.

Biodiverse Built Environments: High-Performance Passive Systems for Ecologic Resilience

Principal Investigator: Keith Van de Riet, PhD, Assoc. AIA (The University of Kansas)

Passive architectural systems are materials and geometries that capitalize on natural bioclimatic factors without the need for operational energy input. This project expands the category of high-performance passive systems to include biodiversity as design criteria in the development of architectural and landscape structures. The objectives of this study include the design and production of a full-scale prototype of an engineered-living wall panel derived from mangrove trees to be installed over an existing seawall in a tidal estuary. The method to test this approach relies on biomimetic designs built on parametric models of natural systems and manifested through novel fabrication techniques. This process of integrating living systems within urban environments will be a collaboration among design and scientific communities.

Biophilic Architecture: Sustainable Materialization of Microalgae Facades

Principal Investigator: Kyoung-Hee Kim, PhD (University of North Carolina at Charlotte)

This project proposes to prototype and study a microalgae façade, a sustainable building system based on the synthesis of biophilic, bioclimatic, and biomimetic design approaches. This research is motivated by the need to better understand the technical design of microalgae facades and their impact on sustainable design excellence and innovative building technology. Projected outcomes are technical design principles and a database for building integrated microalgae facades including appropriate algae strains, system assembly, and user interaction potentials. Results will provide alternatives to sustainable building materials and broaden the biotechnological knowledgebase for integrated microalgae façades toward carbon-neutral building practices.

The Impact of Biophilic Learning Spaces on Student Success

Principal Investigators: James Determan, FAIA (Craig Gaulden Davis), Mary Anne Akers, PhD (Morgan State University)

Based on biophilic and neuroscience literature, this research studies how biophilic learning environments correlate with student stress reduction and enhanced cognitive performance toward improved learning outcomes for urban middle school students. A traditional classroom and an enriched classroom will be compared using data gathered from educators and students. The researchers, advised by neuroscientists at the Salk Institute and biophilic consultants from Terrapin Bright Green, will enhance the Biophilic Classroom with a visual connection to nature, dynamic and diffuse light, and biomorphic forms and patterns. The Traditional Classroom will remain without biophilic enrichment. This study aims to provide learning space designers, educators, and decision makers with evidence of the link between biophilic classroom design and student success.

Print Tilt Lift - Concrete 3D Printing for Precast Assemblies

Principal Investigators: Tsz Yan Ng (University of Michigan), Wesley McGee (University of Michigan)

Print, Tilt, Lift seeks to develop 3D concrete printing technologies to produce prefabricated concrete panels for complex wall assemblies. The primary goal of this project is to develop a prototypical panelized wall system that takes advantage of the geometric variability possible through additive manufacturing. Developing a vocabulary of techniques for detailing and panel connections, this project will highlight new construction systems that are specific to 3D printing technology, shifting the focus to address design-oriented goals. Focusing on the advancement of the manufacturing process, construction logistics, and performance criteria in relation to precast assemblies, the investigation will explore unique and novel designs for architectural production.


John R. Sorrenti, FAIA (chair), JRS Architect, P.C.

Illya Azaroff, AIA, NYCCT CUNY; + LAB Architect PLLC

Thomas Fisher, Assoc. AIA, University of Minnesota

Brian J. Frickie, AIA, Kerns Group Architects, P.C.

Diane T. Georgopulos, FAIA

Edward A. Vance, FAIA, EV&A Architects

J. David Waggonner III, FAIA, Waggonner & Ball

Image credits