Special Report from AIA National Convention: Top Architecture Trends

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorBoston–In keeping with the concerns of today’s society, this year’s AIA (American Institute of Architects) national convention and design exposition placed great emphasis on the role of social responsibility within architecture. Many of the growing trends demonstrated at the show involved awareness of the impact architecture has on the world, as well as advances in new technologies to improve upon design.”BIM (Building Information Modeling) and sustainable design were the two areas of interest at the convention,” notes Sandi Susanto of Seattle-based Weber Thompson. “We are interested in BIM and are currently talking with vendors and other firms that have used BIM in their project delivery.”The opening session of the convention set the tone for the conference with a philanthropic message: architects need to take responsibility and become aware of their projects’ footprints. With that idea in mind, many of the convention’s speakers and exhibitors discussed and showcased numerous ways for architects to improve upon their surroundings.”The green approach–to be able to respond to the market in a more environmentally responsible way–is the present concern,” says Jaime Camacho of Boston-based Beacon Architecture, who attended the convention. “Given the direction of being conscious and aware of energy waste and management present in the development of housing projects, we have to be very much aware of the impact that we are imposing on the surrounding areas, as well as the impact of the materials we use.” In a city mandating green building guidelines, sustainability discussions were ubiquitous. With ambitious policies for advancing Boston’s green initiatives, James Hunt, III, the chief of environmental and energy services for the city of Boston, and Kairos Shen, the chief planner of the Boston Redevelopment Agency (BRA), provided examples of how other cities can follow Boston’s lead. Such policies might include solar energy initiatives, energy protocols, wind zoning compliances and ground water protection. At the same time, however, Hunt asserted, “We don’t want other cities to just adopt what we did; we want them to do what’s right for their city.”Technological advances in BIM can also help architects to accept responsibility for their buildings, the largest contributors to CO2 emissions. BIM can provide energy analysis of a building’s performance, thus allowing developers, architects and owners to increase the property’s efficiency prior to its being built, explained Kathleen Lison, a BIM consultant and co-author of the “BIM Handbook.” Additionally, early implementation of BIM can help to raise productivity rates, as well as decrease the project’s energy output.”If we find savings in energy and we pass that to lower housing costs, then we can create solutions and find means of being more effective, while respecting the environment,” notes Camacho.In addition to the conference sessions, many new products with an emphasis on technology and/or sustainability were seen on the show floor. SCHOTT unveiled its new transformation glass, Mirona, which converts television and computer screens into mirrors. Additionally, the company also introduced ColorTherm, a new low-E insulated glass building product. Another company combining technology with green concerns was Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES), who introduced its VE-Ware, a software program that measures buildings’ carbon emissions.