AIA awards research grants to advance climate action

The Upjohn Research Initiative supports AIA's commitment to climate action by awarding grants to sustainable design research.

WASHINGTON – May 18, 2020 - The jury for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Upjohn Research Initiative is providing research grants up to $30,000 to five research projects that will advance sustainable architectural design and practice.

The purpose of the grant is to provide base funds for applied research projects that will advance the design profession’s knowledge and practice. This year’s recipients will research reducing energy use and carbon in buildings through the following topics:

Envelope Retrofit Guide: Net Zero Energy Ready Strategies for Existing Buildings

Principal Investigators: Nina M. Sharifi, PhD (Syracuse University), Gabrielle Brainard, AIA (Pratt Institute)

This research will produce an Envelope Retrofit Guide to assist architects working on net zero retrofit projects. Focusing on the building envelope, the guide will provide technical guidance at a schematic level and will catalogue retrofit strategies for mass-masonry and wood-frame buildings. The Envelope Retrofit Guide will serve professionals engaged in the design and construction of multi-family housing: architects and consultants; manufacturers and builders; building owners and developers; city and state agencies; energy and utility companies; and NGOs.

Evaluation of Thermal and Energy Generation Performance of Artificial Leaf-based Façade Cladding (ALFC) Systems

Principal Investigators: Rahman Azari, PhD (Illinois Institute of Technology), Mohammad Asadi, PhD (Illinois Institute of Technology)

This project, a collaboration between architecture and chemical engineering, proposes to use simulation-based methodology as well as experiments to evaluate and optimize the thermal performance, energy generation, and carbon removal capabilities of artificial leaf-based façade cladding (ALFC) systems. This research aims to develop AL catalysts that yield optimized efficiency in reduction of carbon dioxide and to document ALFC’s thermal, energy, and carbon removal properties. The novelty of the optimized ALFC system will be in offering coupled energy generation and carbon removal capabilities in a building, improved efficiency in solar-chemical energy conversion, and integration with mechanical systems.

Games Occupants Play: A Serious Games Approach to Reducing Energy Use and Carbon Emissions in Buildings and Cities

Principal Investigator: Malini Srivastava, AIA (Dandelab / University of Minnesota)

This research proposes overcoming barriers to reaching zero CO2 emissions by implementing a pervasive energy game that imagines a university or school building as the game board and empowers building occupants to achieve substantive energy savings as they play the game. Game dashboards will allow gamers to visualize and locate energy waste, and leaderboards will publicly compare energy savings, providing incentives to make substantive behavior shifts and implement building interventions. A simultaneous study of occupants’ willingness to change behavior through gameplay will provide architects with methods to create momentum, empower occupants, and activate an informed, engaged, and aware citizenry.

Life Cycle Assessment: Integrating Environmental Impact Quantification in Design Process

Principal Investigator: Vikki Lew, AIA (Design Research)

The intent of this research is to establish a methodology to integrate Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) into the architect’s design process, providing actionable feedback to improve building performance. The LCA of an office building will be analyzed in terms of carbon and energy impact related to materials and operations. Bridging design and data, this case study will address leveraging technology and quantitative analysis for sustainable design.

Using Chicago’s Architecture Legacy to Teach Practicing Architects the Design Patterns that Result in Lower Energy Use

Principal Investigators: Douglas Farr, FAIA (Farr Associates), Anne Evens (Elevate Energy)

Collaborators: Michael Wood (Chicago Architecture Center), Sachin Anand (Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT))

This research seeks to provide architects with readily applicable energy-efficient design patterns rooted in Chicago’s architectural legacy. The project expands on the translation of publicly available energy performance data on larger iconic commercial buildings into educational content for architecture tour docents and exhibitions. This research will include design attributes within an architect’s influence such as building massing and height, floorplate dimension, façade transparency, and thermal bridging. This data will be collected from firms and analyzed from maps, building imagery, and infrared photography.

Grant recipients were selected by a seven-member jury comprised of members from the AIA College of Fellows and Board Knowledge Committee. Juror process and deliberations for selecting recipients were consistent with the double blind-peer review intent of the program, which helps add an element of rigor to the process whereby proposals are debated on their own merits.

Past recipients of the Upjohn Research Initiative can be reviewed on AIA’s website.  

About AIA

Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing.

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