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AIA's Innovation Awards celebrate smart, holistic design

The prize honors ecologically sustainable, efficient designs and work on the frontiers of building technology

In an age of unprecedented environmental crisis and ecological stress, it’s no longer enough for firms to design buildings that are simply “green,” though this should be—and increasingly has become—standard practice for firms across the U.S. Structures must be designed with everything from their impact on the earth to their life years after the initial tenants move in in mind.

The American Institute of Architects honors such work with the TAP/CCA Innovation Award, which is, essentially, a prize for firms developing technologies that will help build and maintain smartly, holistically designed buildings that contribute to a high quality of life for users and minimize their deleterious effects on the environment.

There were five categories under which projects could be awarded—Stellar Design, Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence, Project Lifecycle Performance, Academic Program/Curriculum Development, and Exemplary use in a Small Firm. This year, with no winner chosen in the third category, which highlights work with particularly good “project lifecycle performance,” only four were bestowed.

From a (very practical) tool for measuring indoor temperature and comfort with the goal of developing better glass, to a sustainable expo site in Kazakhstan, here are this year’s winners, along with the jury’s citations. Take a look below!

And, until Friday, November 18th, you can vote for your favorite among the honorees, should you choose and not yet be tired of the word “vote,” right over here.

Stellar Design:


Astana Expo City 2017; Astana, Kazakhstan
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Currently under construction, Astana Expo City 2017 will embrace the exposition’s theme, “Future Energy,” with the aim of reducing the overall energy demand of the site by using both passive and active strategies.

Honorable Mention:

Epic Deep Space Auditorium; Verona, Wisconsin
Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc.

Situated on an 811-acre site, Deep Space is Epic Systems Corporation’s largest auditorium, seating up to 11,400 guests and was completed in less than 24 months. To create the rolling roof forms and building façade, a combination of hand sculpted and laser-cut models were developed concurrently in programs suited for generation of complex shapes.

Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence:


Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Center for Advanced Care; Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
Mortenson Construction & CannonDesign

Utilizing the latest Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) building tools and technology, the design team developed and pioneered new ways to add value and communicate with each other. By implementing a one-model approach, the team was able coordinate in advance of construction, which reduced duplication of modeling efforts, and greatly accelerated the development of fabrication models.

Practice-based or Academic Research, Curriculum or Applied Technology Development:

Honorable Mention:

Glazing and Winter Comfort Tool; Boston

The Glazing and Winter Comfort Tool is based on existing scientific research that aims to improve the design community’s understand of the triggers of thermal discomfort in the wintertime. It was developed to be simple and intuitive so that architects and engineers can design glazed facades that provide the desired levels of transparency, comfort and energy performance at an ideal cost.

Exemplary use in a Small Firm:


Youth & Opportunity United; Evanston, IL
Studio Talo Architecture

Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.), a 45-year-old non-profit, youth development agency requested renderings of their new headquarters for a community outreach and fund-raising campaign. The architects understood that the youth, not the building, needed to be the campaign's focus, so they created multiple 360-degree virtual reality video renderings of spaces in the building, populated with video avatars of young people served by the organization acting as tour guides, explaining how Y.O.U. and the new building would impact their lives.