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New Case Studies 2015 - Integration at its Finest: Case studies of 3 GSA high performing buildings

Author(s) Renée Cheng
Date Posted May 6, 2015

This report was funded by the General Services Administration (GSA) Office of High Performance Green Buildings. It compares and contrasts 3 GSA projects, all AIA COTE Top Ten winners recently completed using stimulus funding. The report focuses on the leadership strategies, team decision-making and logistical/process tactics leveraged to create projects that were extraordinarily high performing and beautifully designed.

Performance based metrics is becoming more commonly used in the building industry and these projects exemplify several options for how those goals can be a positive force in complex projects.

Research team included: Chris Wingate, Dustin Harford, Carrie Dossick, Laura Osburn

Click to download full report





Case Studies on Collaborative Practices, 2013

Author(s) Renée Cheng
Date Posted October 24, 2013

The Research Partner simultaneously embarked on eleven major modernization projects totaling in excess of $700 Million. The simultaneous start of multiple large-scale projects, operating with shared High Performance/Green Building goals, provided a unique opportunity to compare and contrast projects. The goal of this study was to identify factors that had strong positive or negative effects on the collaborative culture of the project teams. The comparison of design and construction projects is inherently complicated by circumstances unique to each project. Given the potentially endless number of factors that can impact project delivery, this report focuses on selected team-performance outcomes and highlights the presence or absence of "ingredients" that influenced those outcomes.

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Var Vac + Hex Wall

Author(s) Marc Swackhamer
Date Posted October 3, 2013

Our design research explores the growth of surface complexity through careful attention to program and technical performance criteria. We contend that purposeful difference along the length of an architectural surface can offer locally fine-tuned solutions to the fluctuating situational needs of occupants. This approach is in direct opposition to conventional construction logic. Therefore, our materials research challenges traditional, static construction methods, replacing them with flexible techniques that produce inexpensive, differentiated surfaces. While this type of research is not new, our recent approach to building difference through dynamic mold making is.

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Current Architectural Projects

Author(s) Nina Ebbighausen, Project Designer
Date Posted August 19, 2013

These images represent two projects designed for Xcel Energy and currently under construction: Hiawatha and Midtown. Both are located along the Greenway bike trail in Minneapolis. Though they differ in design, both walls are comprised of a lower security wall and an upper screen, partially concealing substation equipment beyond. Both walls will be lit at night with color-changeable LEDs.

At Hiawatha, the lower wall is black gabion. The upper wall is a folded, gold-anodized expanded aluminum mesh. At Midtown, the lower wall is comprised of progressively rotated cedar pickets. The upper wall is a folded, 3-tone silver-anodized expanded aluminum mesh. Both projects were designed to fit a slim budget and be constructible by low-tech fabricators and installers.



Preservation by Adaptation: Is it Sustainable?

Author(s) Greg Donofrio
Date Posted April 5, 2013

The historic preservation field is aggressively promoting itself as ''green.'' Adaptive reuse of historic buildings is now widely considered a sustainable development practice. As with architecture in general, however, sustainability in preservation is too often narrowly framed around environmental issues such as the conservation of materials, energy, and water. Commonly accepted definitions of sustainability recognize two other components: economics and culture. Rarely does the preservation field consider sustainability as an entire system of interrelated environmental, economic, and social relationships, as envisioned by the Brundtland Report of 1987. This article offers several reasons for the preservation field to engage in the full spectrum of sustainability concerns, including economic and social issues.


Stereograph of butcher shops on the ground floor of Faneuil Hall Market, late nineteenth century.



National Trust for Historic Preservation, poster for Preservation Week, May 11–17, 1980.

A Better Path to Licensure through Research Practices

Author(s) Renee Cheng
Date Posted April 4, 2013

Last June, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) released data on a wide variety of topics across several decades related to internship, examination and licensure for architects. "NCARB By the Numbers" revealed that the mean time from graduation to completion of the Intern Development Program (IDP) is 6.4 years with an additional two years to complete the exam and achieve licensure. In real numbers that means the total amount of time from high school to licensure for architects in America is 14.5 years.

The knowledge loop between the architectural profession and academia has the potential to be a rich and interactive exchange leading to meaningful advancement of the discipline. One can imagine priorities developed by professionals would ensure the value of their expertise to clients on a day-to-day basis. While complementary research priorities collectively developed with academic researchers would address broad societal needs, advance building technology and reduce waste at many scales in the building industry. In the midst of this dynamic mix of professional experts and academic researchers, students could thrive, guided by both mentors and professors in individual research projects that connect to multi-year research goals. And if the students' role in these research efforts could be counted in their IDP, meaningful work would systematically lead to licensure, potentially upon graduation of an advanced post-professional degree.

The first steps towards this ideal world begins at the University of Minnesota with our first cohort of Masters of Science in Architecture, Research Practices concentration. Pending finalization of the MS and the Consortium, we expect our first cohort to enter in Fall 2013.

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Does Food Systems Planning Have a History?

Author(s) Greg Donofrio
Date Posted March 26, 2013

Greg Donofrio's 2007 article "Feeding the City" was republished in the "Best of Gastronomica," Spring 2013. Original abstract from 2007: The food system has, until recently, been conspicuously absent from city and regional planning practice, education, and research. Earlier in the twentieth century, food issues were a central concern of the nascent planning profession.

Keywords:urban planning, regional planning, city planning, food system planning, food distribution, history, Clarence Stein, Charles Mulford Robinson, George Ford, Lewis Mumford, public market, municipal market, terminal market, supermarket, food, agriculture, New York City, New York State, Greenmarket, farmers market, Regional Planning Association of American (RPAA), City Beautiful movement



Planners were awed by the global reach of the food system. From Walter P. Hedden, Port of New York Authority, papers on marketing within the Port of New York District, 1925, n.p.


Cartoons like this one from the Brooklyn Eagle (date unknown) reflected anxiety about the cost of food and a distrust of the food marketing system. From Housewives League Magazine 1, no. 4 (April 1913): 8.

Constructing the Significance of the Plymouth Buildling

Author(s) Greg Donofrio, with Meghan Elliott and Ryan Salmon (Preservation Design Works, LLC)
Date Posted March 26, 2013

Using primary and secondary research, Greg Donofrio and his colleagues Meghan Elliott and Ryan Salmon of Preservation Design Works, LLC argue that the Plymouth Building embodies advancements in several aspects of concrete engineering knowledge and building practice, including the concrete skeleton frame, use of deformed reinforcing steel, an integrated contractor-engineering delivery, and cold weather concreting. Use of a true reinforced concrete skeleton frame structural system made it possible to dramatically alter the façade as building owners sought to adapt to changing architectural styles. Or, as a Minneapolis Tribune article published in 1910 put it: "The outside...can be redressed time and again; just husked like corn every century or two, and a new exterior added." The Plymouth Building represents an important step in the development of modern reinforced concrete engineering and design eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service agreed.


Photograph of excavation and construction of the foundation of the Plymouth Building, Minneapolis, MN, January, 1910. Workers continued to mix and pour concrete as temperatures dropped to a low of two-degrees Fahrenheit on February 16 and 17, 1910. Smoke


Photograph of the “M/B Bar” twisted square steel bar reinforcement used in the construction of the Plymouth Building, April 1, 1910.


Photograph of the construction of the masonry curtain walls of the Plymouth Building, September 12, 1910.


Photograph of the original main façades of the Plymouth Building, October 25, 1910. Original decorative features included rusticated terra-cotta pavilions, red brick walls laid in a Flemish bond with molded brick window sills, and a twelfth-story richly


Photograph of the main facades after “modernization” in 1936.

Architecture of Thought, University of Minnesota Press, 2011

Author(s) Andrzej Piotrowski
Date Posted May 16, 2012

"Architecture of Thought traces conflicting religious, political, and symbolic complexities in architecture that have been overlooked. Against the rational systems of Western thinking, with their emphasis on language, human intentionality, and forces of power, Andrzej Piotrowski probes places, buildings, and spatial practices that have eluded architectural history." (from a review by Bronwen Wilson)
"Architecture of Thought is written with passion as well as learning. Andrzej Piotrowski draws material from amazingly diverse sources, in a refreshing approach to familiar and unfamiliar architecture alike." (from a review by Charles Burroughs)


Images from the cover and chapter 1.


Image from chapter 2.


Images from chapter 3.


Images from chapter 4.


Image from chapter 5.

Visioning Rail Transit in Northwest Arkansas: Lifestyles and Ecologies

Author(s) William F. Conway FAIA (C+S Architects, P.A.)
Date Posted March 9, 2011

Visioning Rail Transit in Northwest Arkansas: Lifestyles and Ecologies was a multi-phase research project that explored opportunities for sustainable neighborhood development along an existing 32-mile rail line in Northwest Arkansas. Sponsored by the University of Arkansas School of Architecture and its Community Design Center (UACDC), the project was organized and directed by UACDC Director, Stephen Luoni. In 2006, William F. Conway, FAIA was retained as a Visiting Professor by the University of Arkansas School of Architecture. Conway led one of four design studios charged with making development proposals along the rail line and collaborated on remaining phases of the project.

2010 American Architecture Award The Chicago Athenaeum
2010 Great Places Planning Award Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), Places journal, and Metropolis magazine
2010 Citation Arkansas Chapter American Institute of Architects (AIA)
2009 Unique Contribution to Planning Award Arkansas Chapter of the American Planning Association
2008 Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design American Institute of Architects (AIA)
2008 NCARB Prize
2007 AIA Education Honor Award