ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 148 - 03/02/2012

AIA, NIBS Make Pact to Further Promote High-Performance Buildings

By Steve Rizer

One of the first projects the two organizations will work on together through the MOU is the joint development of an on-line portal for building industry research and knowledge. Intended to be accessible to the public, this initiative will include the participation and contribution of various building science and performance disciplines. NIBS and AIA anticipate this partnership will culminate in providing a centralized location for the knowledge and research efforts under way that are considered relevant to the building industry.


“AIA has long recognized the power of knowledge to inform design,” AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy said. “For many years, the AIA Knowledge Communities have provided ample testimony to the value of that orientation. The AIA-NIBS research portal will enable practitioners to use knowledge creatively in ways for which they have impatiently hoped. Now the wait is over.”


Later this year, NIBS and AIA also will collaborate on an industry summit that will bring together professionals from within the fields of architecture, construction, and engineering. The event will focus on elevating awareness and understanding of how design adds value to the building process, whether it is expressed through increased property value or the health, safety, and welfare of a building’s users.


Additionally, AIA and NIBS are working together on “High Performance Buildings: Combining Field Experience with Innovation, the third Building Enclosure Science & Technology (BEST) Conference,” which will take place April 2-4 in Atlanta. The conference is part of the Building Enclosure Technology and Environment Council’s (BETEC) mission to explore the advancement of energy efficiency of buildings as well as the durability of buildings as affected by moisture and the indoor environment. AIA and NIBS have been partners in the Building Enclosure Councils since 2004.


NIBS Official Provides Additional Details


In an email interview with Green Building Insider, NIBS Director of the Consultative Council Ryan Colker, who also serves as presidential advisor, provided the following additional information:


GBI: AIA and NIBS stated that there will be a centralized location for the knowledge and research efforts under way that are relevant to the building industry. Could you elaborate on what these knowledge and research efforts are, specifically as they pertain to green/sustainable buildings? When will these efforts conclude?


Colker: In the near term, AIA and [NIBS] will develop a repository for existing research from both inside and outside of the two organizations. The newly formed Council at the Institute is in the process of developing the criteria for the repository. It will be available to anyone in the building community and cover all building-related topics. This effort may reveal opportunities for joint research projects, which will be decided at a later date. This is intended to be an ongoing effort with no set conclusion. The existing Whole Building Design Guide ( will serve as a model. A research summit is being scheduled for later this year to help define future steps and research areas of focus.


GBI: Regarding the industry summit, which specific characteristics will be addressed, and when will the summit take place? Will the summit address energy efficiency and indoor air quality (IAQ)?

Colker: The summit is currently in the development process and likely will be held this summer. The summit will bring together chief executive officers from leading building organizations to examine, broadly, research needs on the value of high-performance buildings. While energy efficiency and IAQ are not specifically the subject of the summit, they are key aspects of high performance. The preliminary description for the summit is below.

‘While not always evident, buildings and related infrastructure serve as the economic backbone of communities. Citizens rely on housing and schools, businesses rely on commercial and industrial buildings, and governments provide necessary services like police and fire stations, libraries, and recreation sites. Buildings represent the major assets and investments within a community and their construction, renovation, repair, and operations employ a significant workforce. High-performance buildings strive to integrate and optimize those values and attributes important to a community including safety and security, sustainability, resilience, accessibility, functionality, and historic preservation. This dialogue will explore opportunities for the design and construction community to demonstrate the value of high-performance buildings and the research needed to support such actions. This dialogue will bring together leaders from key members of the building community to identify opportunities for cooperation on a shared research and/or advocacy agenda.’

GBI: Besides the three areas of the agreement (the knowledge and research efforts, the industry summit, and the BEST Conference), what other provisions are included in the agreement?


Colker: The three areas you identified are actually parts of three separate agreements. We signed an overarching agreement to cooperate on efforts of mutual interest including: advocacy, including codes and standards development, adoption, and enforcement; integrated design processes and building information modeling; sustainability; building systems and materials; disaster assistance/mitigation; and research. The summit is an initiative under this overarching agreement. The agreement on BEST and the Building Enclosure Councils was signed last year and focuses on improving knowledge sharing for building enclosures. The research/knowledge agreement is specifically focused on developing a cooperative approach that recognizes the need to move toward a more integrated and holistic approach to buildings and the value of providing the knowledge in a single location accessible to all within the building community.


GBI: Roughly how much of an investment will each organization make to fulfill the objectives of this agreement in terms of money and/or estimated hours of labor?


Colker: As indicated above, there are several different agreements focused on achieving the joint objectives. It is hard to identify the actual investment, but each agreement includes the establishment of liaisons at the staff level with regular communication. Both the building enclosure and research agreements have councils here at the institute that will support their content (the Building Enclosure Technology and Environment Council and the newly established Research Council).


GBI: What is the duration of the memorandum of understanding? Could it be renewed?


Colker: All three agreements are for a three-year term but [are] automatically renewable on a one-year basis.


GBI:  In your opinion, what will be accomplished to promote green/sustainable/high-performance buildings through the MOU that otherwise would not be carried out independently or by other organizations? What unique benefits will result from this endeavor?


Colker: These agreements recognize the belief by both organizations that buildings are improved through the application of best available knowledge and the need to work across building disciplines to integrate knowledge. By bringing together the unique skill sets of architects and their important role in the design process with the knowledge of building scientists, better buildings that meet the goals of high-performance can be achieved.




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