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.

A Circadian Daylight Metric and Design Assist Tool for Improved Occupant Health and Well-Being

Principal investigator: Kyle Konis, AIA, PhD (University of Southern California)

All zones within a building that do not regularly achieve the lighting conditions necessary for effective circadian stimulus can be labeled as biologically dark and considered as zones where regular occupancy may be problematic for health and well-being. The objective of this research is to develop a daylighting Metric and Design Assist Tool capable of assessing the circadian potential of architectural space. Procedures using annual, climate-based daylight analysis of eye-level light exposures will be developed to map the circadian effectiveness of a given space. The Design Assist Tool can be used to assess and differentiate the performance of various daylighting strategies during the design phases of a project or to quantify the circadian effectiveness of existing spaces.

Post Natural Material Assemblies

Principal investigators: Meredith L. Miller (University of Michigan); Thomas Moran (University of Michigan)

Plastiglomerates, formed from the waste polymers of post-consumer plastic fusing with sand, rock, and other inorganic materials, suggest a new approach to sustainable building materials. This proposal builds on collaborative work of the research team to investigate the architectural potential of plastiglomerates with the intent to build a full-scale architectural assembly made from thermocast units. By combining the inherent properties of synthetic plastics and stone, these post natural “masonry” units can be inexpensive, durable, insulating, and locally sourced. The proposed project aims to enhance the plastic-waste-to-building-element workflow and its adaptability to on-site production.

Smart Cities: Population Health and the Evolution of Housing

Principal investigator: Joe Colistra, AIA (University of Kansas)

This project will develop a multifamily housing prototype that demonstrates best practices in aging-in-place strategies and tele-health technology. It will investigate prefabricated construction techniques that can be used to bring population health strategies to the affordable housing market. The research team will work with construction industry partners as well as health professionals to test various sensor-enabled assemblies. Some of the more advanced technologies will include motion sensors/fall detection, gait analysis, automated LED smart-spectrum lighting, smart mirrors, smart toilets, sleep sensors, and automated medicine dispensers.

SMART Tiles: Novel Application of Shape Memory Polymers for Adaptive Building Envelopes

Principal investigator: Dale Clifford (California State Polytechnic University)

Collaborators: Kelle Brooks (California State Polytechnic University); John Brigham, PhD (Durham University); Richard Beblo, PhD (University of Dayton Research Institute)

This project addresses the challenges of designing adaptive façade systems with ‘dynamic’ or ‘smart’ materials. The team will design latitude-specific self-shading building tiles that apply the attributes of a class of polymers with shape memory characteristics. The SMART Tiles are intended to wrinkle and reposition themselves in response to incoming solar radiation to deliver self-shading and energy harvesting performance. Stepping into the emergent field of building self-regulation with programmable matter, this project joins the shift towards a built environment that passively adapts to subtle environmental fluctuations of temperature, light, humidity, and pressure via material properties. Equally important to the team is that the dynamic aspects of the SMART Tiles appeal to the imagination and viscerally (re)connect a building occupant to the environment.


Principal investigators: Taiji Miyasaka (Washington State University); Robert Richards (Washington State University); Vikram Yadama (Washington State University)

Collaborators: Rex Hohlbein (Facing Homelessness; Rex Hohlbein Architects); David Drake (Washington State University)

TrashWalls, fabricated using materials harvested from the local solid waste stream, are designed to reduce heat loss from rented apartments, improve the comfort of those spaces during hot or cold weather, and save renters money on their utility bills, while reducing pollution. The purpose of this project is to design, construct, and examine prototypes of interior insulating walls that are attractive, have an R-value of R-10 (US) or greater, cost less than ten cents per square foot, are built from recycled waste materials, are easily manufactured, fire safe, and can accommodate windows. The research team, a collaboration between architecture and engineering, seeks applications of TrashWalls to backyard transitional homes for people who are homeless in Seattle. Testing will occur in a lab setting and at an urban site.


Michael D. Lingerfelt, FAIA (chair), Lingerfelt International

Judith DiMaio, FAIA, RIBA, FAIA, RIBA, Dean Emeritus, School of Architecture and Design, NYIT

Timothy Hawk, FAIA, WSA Studio

Frederick Marks, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Eric O. Pempus, AIA, Esq., NCARB, LEED GA, Oswald Companies

Roger Schluntz, FAIA, University of New Mexico

John R. Sorrenti, FAIA, JRS Architect, P.C.

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

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