The American Institute of Architects' (AIA) has recently made several announcements.

upjohn research initiative grant recipients

The AIA's College of Fellows and the Board Knowledge Committee have announced four projects selected to receive grants from the Upjohn Research Initiative, an annual program that provides funding for applied research projects advancing professional knowledge and practice. Recipients of the 18-month-long project grant, ranging from $15,000 to $30,000, are qualified to have their research findings and outcomes published by the AIA.

The four 2009 Upjohn Research Initiative projects are:

  • "Sustainability Index: Designing a System of Performance Indicators to Measure and Manage Urban Developments."Principal investigators: Bimal Mendis, assistant dean, director of undergraduate studies, Yale School of Architecture / Joyce Hsiang, critic and lecturer, Yale School of Architecture and Yale College. The investigators propose to design and develop a sustainability index for measuring and evaluating sustainable urban development using a transparent system of performance indicators. The research will review existing performance indicator systems, many of which focus on a single method of generating measures, and therefore have a limited scope. Researchers will synthesize advantages of the existing indicator systems into a cohesive performance matrix, while integrating new indicators, to provide a comprehensive approach for evaluating the complex elements of urban development.

  • "Energy Efficiency Benchmarks for Housing."Principal investigators: Joerg Ruegemer, assistant director, Integrated Technology in Architecture Center (I TAC), University of Utah / Ryan E. Smith, director I TAC, University of Utah. Designing and building net-zero energy housing on any substantial scale has been viewed as cost-prohibitive; and methods for achieving net-zero energy performance are not well known. The researchers will study four energy-efficient home rating systems for their capacity to achieve net-zero energy housing, the associated costs, and the return on investment: Energy Star Qualified Homes, ICC 700-2008 National Green Building Standard, LEED for Homes 2008, and the Passive Home Planning Package 2007.

  • "REIs: Renewable Energy Infrastructures."Principal investigator: Chris Ford, 2008-2010 Steward Professor in Sustainable Design, College of Architecture, University of Nebraska. The research team will apply design-thinking skills to the development of a new typology of electrical generation—a Renewable Energy Infrastructure (REI)—that will simultaneously harness wind, solar, geothermal, and hydrologic (if applicable) resources within an integrated, holistic, free-standing facility in an urban environment. REIs would be owned and operated by an electrical utility to serve users in high population areas. The team will assess preexisting and emerging industrial-scale power technologies and will generate multiple design options for hybridizing the technologies into a single infrastructural entity.

    new documents-on-demand service

    The AIA has relaunched its web-based Documents-on-Demand service for PC and MAC users, enabling easy online access of 16 of the AIA's most popular contract documents. Users can now download and electronically populate some data fields on AIA Contract Documents with Adobe Reader software, where previously documents had to be printed out and filled in by hand. The improved service became available October 20.

    AIA Documents-on-Demand allows those who don't need or can't afford AIA Contract Document software to purchase and download only the AIA Contract Document forms and agreements necessary for a certain project. While the price per document varies from $4.95 to $19.95, access to the service is free. To view the complete list of documents available through Documents-on-Demand, visit documentsondemand.aia.org.

    aia billings index rises in september

    The AIA's September Architecture Billings Index (ABI) showed a slight improvement over the previous month, although it still indicates an overall decline in demand for design services. September's ABI rating was 43.1, up from 41.7 in August. The ABI reflects the nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending; any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.

    September's new projects inquiry score reached the highest level since September 2007, rising to 59.1 from August's score of 55.2. According to AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, the high score for new inquiries is an encouraging sign, but could be due to the fact that "firms are broadening their search for new projects," which is likely inflating the number of inquiries reported.

    The regional ABI breakdown for September shows the Northeast leading with a score of 47.2, followed by the Midwest (43.0), South (42.7), and West (36.0). Multi-family residential leads the way in September, scoring 45.1, followed by institutional (43.9), commercial/industrial (39.0), and mixed-practice (36.3).