Five teams of architects, designers and researchers studying topics ranging from lighting for occupant well-being to walls made of trash were recently awarded a total of $100,000 in research grants from the American Institute of Architects.
In its 10th year, the Upjohn Research Initiative funds applied research projects in the design and construction space. The 18-month grant offers individual project awards from $15,000 to $30,000 and includes the publication of research findings.
Principal investigators and collaborators on this year’s winning teams hail from California State Polytechnic University, Durham University, the University of Dayton Research Institute, the University of Kansas, the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California and Washington State University, as well as Seattle-based architecture firm Rex Hohlbein Architects.
Three of this year’s five Upjohn grant winners look at the use of new or reclaimed materials to improve the structural and environmental performance of the building in which they are used.
One such project, out of California State Polytechnic University, explores the use of dynamic facades fitted with responsive materials that adjust as environmental conditions change. In this case, tile cladding would "wrinkle and reposition" in response to solar radiation to shade a building’s interior.
Products and materials that can respond to their surroundings are a growing area of research interest in the building and design community. And while many such innovations emulate responses in the natural world, an emerging element is incorporating living materials, such as photo-reactive algae, into the structure itself.
Meanwhile, some researchers are looking to rethink tried-and-tested building materials. Chief among them is concrete, which has high embodied energy due primarily to the volume of CO2 emissions resulting from its production. Research efforts include reducing the amount of limestone in cement and the amount of cement in concrete, as well as finding ways to make the material’s manufacturing process less energy-intensive.
Other research efforts question the environmental impact of concrete throughout its life-cycle, primarily considering its ability to absorb carbon, Architect reported.