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.


Age-Friendly University and Community Creative Spaces

Principal Investigator: D. S. Nicholas, AIA (Drexel University)

Collaborators: Ayana Allen-Handy, PhD (Drexel University); Rachel Wenrick (Drexel University)

Through case-study research, this project will study how nonprofits focused on creative placemaking and art for social justice can facilitate the implementation of age-friendly retrofits in their spaces to advance the creation of equitable, healthy, and resilient communities. This research project will connect Age-Friendly University (AFU) work to the larger professional and community voices in this space by creating a guide for architects, designers, and nonprofits who are undertaking age-friendly creative spaces.

Carbon Neutral Corridors

Principal Investigators: Jacob Davis, AIA, LEED AP (archimania); Matt Seltzer, AIA, LEED AP (archimania); Kayce Williford, AIA (archimania); Heather Koury, Hon. AIA, LEED Green Assoc. (archimania)

Collaborators: Barry Yoakum, FAIA, LEED AP (archimania); Todd Walker, FAIA (archimania)

Using a mixed method approach, this research will provide a Carbon Neutral Corridor model for reimagining aging commercial and residential corridors into locally authentic, resilient, equitable and inclusive solutions to rising energy use and carbon emissions. This will be a focused study of lower-carbon streetscapes, carbon neutral building strategies, and engagement with public/private partnerships. This study will create a path for a more resilient and healthy future in urban communities.

Early, Parametric Mass Timber Building Design Tool

Principal Investigator: Corey Gracie-Griffin, Assoc. AIA (Penn State)

Collaborators: Nathan Brown, PhD (Penn State); Samantha Leonard (Penn State); Chris Chatto, AIA (ZGF Architects); Ethan Martin, PE (DCI Engineers)

What early-stage decisions can designers make to improve environmental performance and justify mass timber structural systems for building projects? This industry-guided research will produce a dataset and data visualization tools to support architectural and engineering design of mass timber gravity systems across a range of geometries. The quantitative, simulation-driven tools will include a design guide and interactive interface for communicating design data, which architects and engineers can use to reduce embodied carbon while also considering other design and construction parameters.

Fungal Biomaterials for Sustainable Architectural Acoustics

Principal Investigators: Benay Gürsoy Toykoç, PhD (Penn State); Linnea Hesse, PhD (University of Hamburg); John Pecchia, PhD (Penn State); Nathan Brown, PhD (Penn State); Natalie Walter (Penn State)

Collaborators: Ali Ghazvinian (Penn State); Alale Mohseni (Penn State)

Mycelium-based composites are lightweight and biodegradable biomaterials. This research will explore this biomaterial’s acoustic and mechanical performance. Using adaptive digital fabrication, this interdisciplinary and international collaboration will cultivate novel mycelium-based composites on waste paper-based substrates to be used as acoustic absorbers. The team, including architects, a materials scientist, a mushroom scientist, and an architectural engineer, will design, build, and exhibit a full-scale mycelium-based acoustic wall prototype.

SlimLam: Structurally Optimized Glulam Beams Made from Robotically Fabricated, EAB-Infested Ash Wood

Principal Investigator: Sasa Zivkovic (Cornell University)

Collaborators: Lawson Spencer (Cornell University); Matthew Reiter, PE (Cornell University); Craig Van Cott (Unalam); Peter Smallidge, PhD (Cornell University)

In collaboration with a glulam (glue laminated timber) manufacturer, the SlimLam interdisciplinary team in architecture, engineering, and forestry will create a new and integrated approach to low-carbon materials. The team will upcycle EAB-infested timber and will prototype light-weight, sustainable glulam beams using robotic fabrication methods. The research will quantify the embodied carbon and embodied energy savings developed through this method at the scale of an individual element (the glulam) and at the scale of a mass timber building.


Marlene Imirzian, FAIA, (chair), Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects

Nathaniel Hudson, AIA, FormGrey Studio

Deborah Lucking, FAIA, Fentress Architects

Upali Nanda, PhD, Assoc. AIA, HKS

Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, Clemson University

Tate Walker, AIA, OPN Architects

Stas Zakrzewski, FAIA, ZH Architects

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

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