Design and Health

ACSA is partnering with AIA to develop research, scholarship, and curricular resources to develop explicit connections between design and health. Architects and designers are change agents who can improve lives at work, play, and rest. With resources in this area for education, practice, and policy, the value of architecture to people and communities can become all the more evident. Join us in strengthening this disciplinary area.
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Decade of Design: The AIA Global Urban Solutions Challenge
Targeted Research for Real-World Solutions to Urban and Regional Design Problems 



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Deadline: March 15, 2014


Communities large and small around the globe face increasingly complex challenges to quality of life that require innovative solutions. The AIA has launched a long-term commitment it will develop with other partners within the Clinton Global Initiative to help address such problems. Decade of Design: The AIA Urban and Regional Solutions Challenge is conceived as a 10-year commitment to engage architecture schools and other stakeholders in research in a set of targeted areas to address problems facing, urban, suburban, and rural communities in the United States and beyond. Through the Decade of Design, the AIA and its partners seek to demonstrate the economic and social value of design and that design thinking can result in innovative solutions that significantly enhance a community regardless of its resources, location, or demographic make-up. 

To launch the Decade of Design the AIA is partnering with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the Clinton Global Initiative to solicit proposals for research projects in the second of a series of topic areas: resilient design. The proposed projects should document the positive impact of design interventions or propose solutions, based on past successes that can be readily implemented in the future. Through the projects, faculty, students, and practitioners will actively engage stakeholders to ensure that proposed design solutions are a good fit for the communities in which they will occur.

Resilient Design
Extreme weather events are causing unprecedented economic losses around the globe. As the world population continues to urbanize, the risk of natural disasters and their consequences is being concentrated in cities. The next generation of buildings and infrastructure must be designed for resilience, remaining habitable during extreme events.
This challenge hopes to identify innovative ways to advance the standard of practice in architecture and planning in the topic of resilient design. This area of research will advance the body of real-world, implementable solutions to promote resilient design and reduce risk to buildings and communities. Areas of exploration may include: achieving passive survivability, adapting or retrofitting existing buildings and urban environments, evidence-based design metrics, cost-benefit or fiscal analysis of specific design features or materials or the effect of density or development patterns on community risk. 

Expectations for Research Proposals
Through the Decade of Design initiative, the AIA and its partners seek to support innovative, practice-focused research within the academy and to challenge the development of innovative solutions. To that end, each funded project will require deliverables that will help communicate the impact of design to a broader audience. The AIA, with support from ACSA and other partners, plans to grow the Decade of Design initiative annually, with future grants that will build a database of research-based evidence. 

The AIA invites full and candidate ACSA member programs to submit proposals for research projects to be carried out in the 2014-2015 academic year. Proposals may be for new or ongoing projects led by qualified faculty and may include the participation of students, private-sector firms or organizations, or other partners. A total of $40,000 in funding is available, with a maximum award of $20,000 to any single project. Proposals must clearly address how the funding will be used address the Decade of Design’s goals of providing evidence for the impact of materials and design features that can make buildings and communities more resilient to disaster. If the funding will extend an existing project, the proposal must specify how this grant will extend or expand the project scope

The grants will be made through the AIA and will require an agreement setting out the commitments by the university and any partners involved. Leaders of each selected project will be required to provide an interim report and a final report during the grant period. See Proposal Requirements section at the end of this document for a detailed list of what should be included in a successful submission. 

Evaluation Criteria 
The Decade of Design Selection Committee will review proposals based on four criteria, noted below in order of importance: 
  1. Commitment of the university— The proposal must document commitment by faculty members and the architecture program to the design and implementation of the Decade of Design pilot project. 

  2. Well-developed program outline— The proposal must include a clear and defined approach to the research within the context of the Decade of Design initiative. The research project’s goals should be achievable within the one-year time period from May 2014-May 2015 and yield a deliverable suitable for broad dissemination. Universities should indicate to the extent possible any actual courses, funded research assistants, or other relevant institutional resources they plan to use to support the research project. 

  3. Description of deliverables— The proposal must include a detailed description of the intended research outcome, including format and medium of deliverable. 

  4. Ability of university to deliver services as proposed— The proposal must include the supporting data and justification, including a budget and brief curriculum vitae (no more than 3 pages) of participants. 

Decade of Design Selection Committee 
The proposals submitted for consideration will be screened for completeness. Qualified proposals will be reviewed by a Selection Committee comprising practitioners, educators, and emergency management, and resilient design professionals. 

Members of the Selection Committee may not submit proposals during the year of their service on the committee, and must declare any potential or actual conflicts of interest. Where conflicts are determined to exists, committee members will be asked to recuse themselves from discussions and decisions affecting the proposal. 

The AIA will award up to $40,000 in grants, with a maximum of $20,000 for any single project. Funds will be available during the 2014-15 academic year, in two equal installments: following completion of a research agreement and following acceptance of the January 1 progress report. A maximum of 15% of funds may be used for overhead and indirect costs. The AIA encourages programs to seek additional resources from other sources outside the program or institution to support the development of the program if necessary.


November 1, 2013

  AIA and its partners distribute Decade of Design RFP to universities
March 15, 2014   Proposals due to the AIA by 5 pm EST
April 2014   Selection Committee convenes to review proposals; short list of schools compiled, phone interviews conducted
May 2014   Announcement of Decade of Design research programs selected by committee
December 2014   Progress report due
April 2015   Sessions at ACSA Annual Meeting
May 14-15, 2015   Session at AIA National Convention and Design Expo to showcase results
June 15, 2015   Final report on results and outcomes due

Original proposal in hard copy format by 5 p.m. EDT March 15, 2014. 

Proposals should be sent to: 
Cooper Martin
Director, Resilient Communities
The American Institute of Architects
1735 New York Avenue NW Washington, DC 20006
Fax: 202-626-7527 

If there are any questions, please contact Brooks Rainwater, 202-626-7442 or



The Value of Design: Design and Health



Deadline: February 12, 2014 -- The submission site is closed.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), AIA Foundation, and Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) invite the submission of abstracts of ongoing or recently completed design and research projects that address the intersection of design and human health. The projects should propose solutions to specific conditions or use quantitative or qualitative methods to document the positive impact of design interventions on human health. 

The submissions are for an April 2014 summit funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts entitled The Value of Design: Design and Health, initiated by the AIA’s Design and Health Leadership Group. SAVE THE DATE: April 23 - 24. 2014 in Washington, DC. 

Abstracts are due Wednesday, February 12. Following a blind peer review by a panel of educators and practitioners, authors of accepted abstracts will be notified March 5 and invited to submit either a complete paper or a poster by April 2, 2014. The final materials will frame the Design and Health conversation and form the basis of a digital and print publication released after the meeting. A limited number of authors will also be invited to participate in the summit in person.

Authors must submit abstracts online at ACSA’s website (submit now). If you are not an ACSA member but would like to submit, please contact ACSA directly (202.785.2324 or to receive website access for submission. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words and must be formatted for blind peer review with no identifying information in the text. Abstracts should be text only and not include images. Authors should clearly describe the design or research project, its link to health issues described below, and the outcomes documented. Reports from firm-based projects, design studio courses, community design centers, university research centers, and affiliated disciplines are encouraged.   

Desired Outcomes for Design and Health Projects 
Domestically, the average American lifespan has begun to decline, and vehicle-centric urban plans have contributed to sedentary lifestyles and sharp rises in obesity and health care costs. Communities designed to encourage physical activity, develop smart infrastructure, reduce air pollution, and support the natural environment are developing a framework for positive change. Although public health challenges vary broadly by community type and geography, leaders in public health, architecture, and other fields recognize the role the built environment plays in community health and wellness. 

The AIA/AIA Foundation Design and Health Initiative seeks to develop real-world design solutions to promote health and wellness in diverse communities. To frame the summit’s discussion the following questions are posed to prospective authors in education and practice alike. They are intended as challenges to spark discussion that will yield desired outcomes from the summit, described further below. 

• What part of public health belongs to design?
• How do we drive design into codes and standards to intentionally achieve positive health outcomes?
• How can design solutions address a wide range of health outcomes as a question of equity?

Areas of exploration may include but are not limited to: 
• Incorporating physical activity into daily routines; 
• Providing attractive destinations within walking or biking distance; 
• Applying resilient and biomimetic design techniques; 
• Ensuring safety through lighting and other design features; 
• Providing access to clean water for agriculture, sanitation, and consumption; 
• Addressing environmental justice in planning; 
• Improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety; 
• Promoting positive mind-body relationships through design; and 
• A myriad of other creative solutions.

 Submissions are encouraged about health and wellness impacts at several scales: 
Individual scale: addressing the physical elements in immediate surroundings that affect individual health and well-being, such as materials, ergonomics, layout, dimensions, etc. 

Building scale: addressing planning and design, building envelope, interiors, and external connections that can benefit the occupants’ well-being; these include a focus in much of the developed world on existing buildings upgrades and interior renovations as well as new construction additions and facilities. 

Neighborhood/city scale: solutions affecting the health of the local community through design of places and spaces that support local infrastructure, human connectivity, and the local economy; solutions at the urban scale address broad health and wellness issues through planning and zoning, design of infrastructure systems, and large-scale redevelopment or new construction.  

Desired Outcomes for Design and Health Summit 

1. The AIA, AIA Foundation and its partners will create a single professional vocabulary for design and health. 
The integration of knowledge from architecture and public health will allow practitioners, clients, lawmakers, and the public at large to better appreciate their intellectual and practical convergence. Moreover, clearly defined terms and concepts common to architecture and public health will foster a consensus around ways that design impacts health and health informs design. 

2. Architects will be drivers of community discussions on design and health.
Architects will use their knowledge and the new design and health vocabulary to catalyze discourse and policy in partnership with city and state governments. Architects will work within their local AIA community to engage local governments on design and health.

3. The AIA and AIA Foundation will engage the public imagination for design and health. 
While influencing policy is fundamental to change, clearer demonstrations of the reciprocity between design and health promise to influence public perception about the value of architecture, in particular its impact on environmental integrity and well-being. 

Topical Focus Areas for Design and Health Initiative 
Architects possess a broad set of unique skills that, coupled with a proactive spirit and distinctive vocabulary, result in changes to both the natural and built environment. This ability to act as change agents comes with an enormous responsibility. Design at its core is about improving lives at work, play, and rest. Architects should employ design techniques in everyday practice that promote an absence of disease, improve mental health and cognitive function, promote physical wellness and public health, and address health disparities by extending healthy environments to those who need it most. Further, healthy places are sustainable places; the optimal building of this century is one that minimizes its ecological footprint while promoting health and well-being.

The Design and Health Leadership Group has identified five areas essential to making explicit connections between design and health:

1. How can design and policy address equitably built environments? 
We seek new ideas about buildings and public spaces that create safe, comforting conditions, promote human interaction, and enable equitable access to optimal conditions for people of all economic classes and abilities. 

2. How can design and policy address the sensory quality of built environments? 
We seek new ideas about spaces and places designed to optimize controlled access to favorable natural light, olfaction, tactility, and acoustics. 

3. How can design and policy address nature in built environments? 
We seek new ideas about spaces, places, and buildings that incorporate direct contact with bio-diverse species, natural forms, and ecosystems.

4. How can design and policy address healthy physical activity in built environments? 
We seek new thinking about design that integrates physical and social activity into daily life for all age groups.

5. How can design and policy address continuous environmental integrity? 
We seek new ideas about spaces and places that provide access to basic amenities—clean, toxin- and pest-free environments with appropriate levels of social connectedness, quiet, and privacy, attentive to both physical and mental well-being.