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The goal of the Building Performance Knowledge Community (BPKC) is to promote architects as leaders in the application of technical design for building performance; in the use of high-performance design criteria, codes, and standards; and in programming, designing and managing building performance. To advance, disseminate, and advocate—to the architecture profession, AIA members, building owners, the construction industry, the academy, and the public—design practices that create buildings that are healthy, energy efficient, and durable.

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Institute Honor Awards

Richard J. Keleher AIA04-13-2017 22:48

  • 1.  Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-12-2017 16:04
    I just read through the AIA Awards Issue of Architect Magazine. What a lot of great architecture. It is very inspiring.

    However, I do wonder what happened to the information on energy, community connectivity, water and materials that was part of each project's required submission? Project square footage and cost appear to be the only "metrics" that are published. What's up with that? Where is the building performance information? Shouldn't the great architecture of the 21st century be able to express this? And, shouldn't Architecture magazine include this as an integrated and holistic part of architectural values?

    Rand Ekman AIA, LEED AP BD+C
    Chief Sustainability Officer
    Chicago IL

  • 2.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-13-2017 17:47
    Could not have said it better. awards need to show extraordinary value to the owner and society in many ways

    Marc Chavez FCSI AIA
    Technical Director
    Perkins + Will
    Seattle WA

  • 3.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-15-2017 17:28
    Aesthetics and Sustainability are only two of the eight design objectives included in the Whole Building Design Guide. Shouldn't great architecture consider more than just two of these objectives? The weighting of the design objectives is greatly dependent upon the project and the client, but execution is dependent upon the skills of the design team. Is that not what the Awards Program is intended to recognize?

    Dennis J. Hall FAIA, FCSI
    HALL a/e/c PA
    Charlotte NC

  • 4.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-13-2017 18:12
    Mr. Elkman makes an important point.  Can architecture rightly be called award-worthy architecture, let alone good architecture, if it does not at least meet basic sustainability criteria. These projects would be more fairly represented if the basic metrics that were submitted were published.


    Ralph Bicknese AIA, LEED AP BD+C, LEED Fellow
    Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects
    St. Louis, MO

  • 5.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-13-2017 22:48
    I agree wholeheartedly!




    RJKeleher Architect  

    46 Brewster Lane, Acton, MA 01720

    (978) 944-2734

    Founding Chair, Building Enclosure Council, Boston



  • 6.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-14-2017 17:58
    I will go one further... and will resuscitate a recommendation I've made more than once over the years:

    No project should be considered for premiation of any sort unless strong, positive supporting comments have been submitted by the Owner and/or User of the property (as applicable).

    Evaluations by the end owner/use should address how well the project reflects original expectations, functionality, conformance to budget, and other such criteria.  Buildings do not exist in a vacuum - i.e. they not simply pieces of sculpture that tempt the eye.  They must, among other things, meet goals for utility, efficient use of space, promotion of the owner/user public image/perception, etc.

    Unless the Owner/User (the Architect's client) can vouch that the completed project meets or exceeds anticipations and objectives, the project cannot be considered among 'the best' efforts of the design team, nor 'the best' building of its ilk.

    In past decades there have been many projects given awards by the AIA and other organizations that were nevertheless replete with design, technical and financial problems.  In fact, rarely are real world 'problems' of any sort adequately covered in reportage by design publications - because, after all, they are vehicles by which designers congratulate each other, absent input from constructors and users.  In that respect they are vanity-driven, not 'performance-driven'.  While this may make designers feel good, the results push new, younger firms to place a greater value on appearance than on utility.

    Awards should reflect on fundamentals.  Historic laudable attributes (Vitruvius):  Firmatis (durability), Utilitas (utility) and Venustatis (beauty).  The modern 'take' (Sullivan):  Form Follows Function, interpreted (per Wiki) to "include use, perception and enjoyment, not only practical but also aesthetic, psychological and cultural".   Too often premiated projects offer the latest visual trend but fail to deliver on other fundamentals.  Evaluators might do well to re-focus on long term values.

    Howard I. Littman, AIA, Emeritus
    Forensic Architect, Expert Witness
    Agoura Hills, CA

  • 7.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-18-2017 10:56
    I was just going to say the exact same thing, but much less eloquently.  If a building doesn't meet the owner's needs, it is not a successful project, regardless of appearance.  Good architects LISTEN to their clients and provide what the client needs, not what the architect wants.  A successful project will accomplish both.  All award programs should include a verified owner's statement.

    Karen Campbell
    Assistant Director & Architect
    LSU Agricultural Center Facilities Planning
    Baton Rouge LA

  • 8.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-20-2017 15:42

    I to agree.  I have said this for many years.  I was on the AIA board in another city and said something similar and it was not well received or tolerated.

    Another point that is often over looked is that the owners budget is part of their program.  Most people can create nice projects if they do not have to worry about what it cost.


    Paul T. Pierson

  • 9.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-18-2017 11:14
    I am in total agreement with Howard. Enough of this "eye candy" approach to architectural award programs. To me design equals performance, and performance must be interpreted broadly -- functional, energy, environmental, occupant well-being, etc -- and address the programmatic expectations against the achieved results. Thus, architectural awards must have input from the owner and the occupants.

    Michael Holtz FAIA
    Boulder CO

  • 10.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-20-2017 10:28
    I completely agree with Howard Littman's comments and would strongly support changing the rules to require Owner satisfaction be documented before a project is eligible for a design award. I have a forensic practice also and have fixed numerous "award winners" - buildings that have actually won awards and or have been published as exemplary, yet they leak in the roofs and or cladding, have excessive settlement and / or deflection issues, and sometimes mold up to the degree that they can't be occupied. The process give the whole profession a bad name and causes many clients to view architects with a "jaundiced eye".

    Ladd Ehlinger AIA
    Ehlinger & Associates PC
    Metairie LA

  • 11.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-21-2017 17:42
    I can't quite agree on your 'take', Ladd.

    Your comments focus on buildings that suffer from construction defects.  In most circumstances, the designers cannot be held accountable for the problems you cite.  I would not disqualify buildings that are problematic only due to contractor error.

    On the other hand, numerous major projects do suffer in significant ways, as the direct result of designer negligence.   It is those projects that in my view should not be premiated.  I am talking about buildings that suffer significant design/performance problems, and in some cases have required major remodeling or reconstruction to address them - entirely as a result of errors or omissions by the responsible design professionals.  Those projects may 'look great', but should not be considered successful because they do not meet the owner's expectations - they commonly lead to lawsuits lasting years, costing parties untold millions of dollars, and are usually lose-lose propositions at the end of the day.

    While lauding 'artful' buildings, and ingenious application of new technologies, etc., the ultimate test of great Architecture (with a capital A) must account for more than those limited factors.  Awards should be reserved for the 'best' that our profession can produce.  If the result of winnowing the field is fewer awards, so be it.  That will only increase the value and meaningfulness of those that meet the higher bar.

    Howard I. Littman, AIA, Emeritus
    Forensic Architect, Expert Witness
    Agoura Hills, CA

  • 12.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 04-24-2017 18:20

    I am perplexed as to how you can disagree with my perception, since I didn't list reasons for the leaks, deflection, etc. I only implied reasons and stated my conclusions.

    Actually, it has been my experience and perception that in most building failures, it starts with a failed design - the Architect's fault. The Architect's failure then gets compounded by construction error by the Contractor.

    For instance, I am dealing right now with a failed publicly owned building that has to remain open during hurricanes with a 130 MPH wind speed and the attendant pressures produced by it = +48.1 PSF at the 4th floor Zone 5 per ASCE - 7. The original design Architect used a "rainscreen principle" cladding (foam filled metal panel) that is self supporting when attached, with an integral window system, that allows water in to weep out later in theory, and all are rated for 12 PSF. There is no water-tight back-up wall designed by the original Architect with sheathing and a WRB, so when the water gets past the rainscreen of the cladding, it is inside the building wall or the building itself. The 12 PSF rating does not begin to comply with the code mandated required pressures.

    The contractor mis-installed this under-designed wall / window system such that, when tested in-situ per ASTM E-1105, does not even perform at the rated 12 PSF, much less the code required 48.1 PSF.

    Yet, this building is the type done by Architect's to get published and to win Honor Awards.

    You mis-perceived my comments which were intended to compliment and reinforce yours - your loss.


  • 13.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-03-2017 20:45
    This is a great conversation and I thank you all for covering so many bases. Maybe we should write the awards committee and ask them to publish the ratings regarding, energy, water, materials, sustainability intent and  community engagement for the winning projects.  I feel like the publishing of metrics and the featuring of this information for the COTE awards has really upped the game on this front in the past few years and has improved the general reputation of architects by showing people inside and outside the profession that we know how to design buildings that deliver projects that meet the design performance targets.

    Pamela Sams AIA
    SE Design Realization Leader
    Washington DC

  • 14.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-04-2017 19:35
    Ladd, if my comment seemed an over-reaction, I apologize.  I do not think we are really on different pages.

    My reaction only resulted from the fact that in your post you cited deficiencies but did not further clarify that the deficiencies resulted from designer negligence (as opposed to contractor error).  My response to yours was only to point out that a project should be not denied recognition only because it suffers from physical problems.

    We both have a lot of mileage behind us - in my case 45+ years, 25+ of those as a forensic specialist, during which time I've handled over $3 billion in claims.  I imagine both of us have seen things that would surprise most designers.  However, my experience has been that the great majority of 'significant' problems flow from contractor error, whereas the small minority are attributable to designer error/omission.  I would agree that as to many 'fatal' flaws (as in your example), designer error is key.  Like you, I imagine, I have dealt with situations where a single ill-considered (or 'not considered') decision by an A/E has led to remedial work amounting to tens of millions of dollars at a stroke.

    In respect of this it has long been my feeling that our designer-focused publications should be more up front about disclosing and discussing these kinds of failures.  In past, only the most egregious have made it into the public eye (as with the Hyatt bridge, or the Hancock window wall).  I think we need to be more self-critical so that our younger compatriots can learn from the errors of their predecessors (instead of repeating predictable and avoidable errors).

    Hand in hand should be a frank disclosure of problems with projects submitted or considered for award status - along with an Owner/User endorsement (to include the several other factors earlier posters have mentioned).


    Howard I. Littman, AIA, Emeritus
    Forensic Architect, Expert Witness
    Agoura Hills, CA

  • 15.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-06-2017 08:45

    I'm. Sorry that I wasn't more succinct, but we are definitely on the same page.

    You and I have roughly the same amount of experience: I am a 64 graduate, and have been doing forensic work and correcting projects for about 32 years.

    My opinion is slightly different than yours for about the last 10 years though. My impression is that the Architect now is the prime entity at fault - mostly because of the changes in the educational system due to NAAB. Unlike other professions, the architectural schools rarely have practicing teachers, at least that's the case at the 4 schools in LA. Not only that, I've been told by several of the Deans that practice and constructability are not important issues in architectural education.

    Therefore, today's students don't get courses I got, or they get way less than I did: no materials of construction courses, no working drawings courses, no rendering courses, 2 semesters of architectural history instead of 4, 1/3 the structures courses (can't design a simple beam), no descriptive geometry, or shades and shadows. Today's students are being taught implicitly that computer skills are a substitute for architectural skills - yet they cannot tell you what a Cartesian coordinate system is, that is the root of the CAD system they are so glib with.

    I am not opposed to computers in Architecture: I pioneered it beginning in 1978, and was producing whole projects (structural and other calcs, specs, MEP, and all drawings) by 1981, and have done so since. I am opposed to the schools not teaching the courses mentioned above as they are all better learned in a school environment rather than an office, which is where the students ar told by the schools that they will learn these skills.

    My opinion is that these poorly educated architects are the ones committing the errors. I am also very concerned about the future of the profession as a result.


    Ladd Ehlinger AIA
    Ehlinger & Associates PC
    Metairie LA

  • 16.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-08-2017 18:33
    Mr. Ehlinger,  I believe you have hit on one of the key problems.  Architecture and building science has gotten more complicated over the years.  The architectural education system has not done a good job of keeping up.  In my experience very few practicing architects let alone architectural graduates understand the fundamental forces that drive water through an opening and how to control those forces. They do not understand even the most basic principles of a psychometric chart and how water vapor diffuses through materials and why/where/when it condenses.  They do not understand the three means of heat transfer and how to control each.  They do not understand how air infiltration occurs and the issues of moisture transport along with air flow.  Most architects cannot describe the generic wall assembly types and how they control the transport of heat air and moisture.  In other words, architectural education is not providing the basic scientific principals that provide a foundation for the real technical and detailing skills they will hopefully learn in an office.

    Our profession is so completely focused on design that we gloss over most everything else and I think it makes us a less and less important profession.  I have a daughter who is only 3 years out of architecture school and i worry about her future.  My concern is that architects will take the project to approximately the equivalent of DDs and then the project will be turned over to firms with technical people that get the building built.   Frequently those technical people all work for a construction firm and are engineers and contractors with only a few technically inclined architects.  This is already a common method of delivery in other parts of the world.  The architects role gets further and further diminished as we step away from the Master Builder model.  Frankly the quality of design suffers in the because the aesthetic sensitivity gets cut out of the fine scale detailing.

    Wrapping back to the original post, don't we imply we don't care about energy, community connectivity, water, materials and building performance by not even giving these issues mention in awarded projects?  How much stronger would we be as a profession if we valued these issues to the point of being a prerequisite for an award. 

    David Altenhofen AIA
    The Facade Group
    Philadelphia PA

  • 17.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-08-2017 23:16
    Although it deserves its own thread, and we digress a bit, I have to agree wholeheartedly that with each decade I have seen construction documents (when issued to builders) that are less 'informed' when it comes to technical aspects - the 'firmatis'.

    In recent years there seems to be an effort to reduce or streamline the 'learning' and 'experience' that are mandatory before one can become licensed.  Perhaps this has been driven by the declining numbers of aspirants (so schools and boards are trying to make it easier, thus boosting the numbers).  Maybe its the entitlement trend among our younger compatriots (I know everything I need when I get out of school, so should start out with a job as 'designer').  I think the 'quicker to license' effort is ill-advised.  If anything I believe the process should be long and demanding, for many reasons - and that applicants should be well rounded in both the art and science of architecture.

    It is undeniable that as our field becomes increasingly more complex it becomes hard (? impossible) for anyone to become the legendary 'master designer and builder' of history.  Computerization has only made things worse.  There is a belief that because a machine can turn out slick drawings, and BIM models, they are accurate, correct, constructible, and can be relied on by all involved.  Not so.  I can't tell you how many times I've found details and even whole systems that were physically impossible to construct, ill-conceived in terms of functionality, etc. (as I'm sure others have also observed).  That is because the new ease of drafting complicated parts no longer demands that the designer actually understand how the parts work and interface.

    For as long as I can remember I have taken the position that before considering oneself qualified to design entire buildings (well, perhaps I should exclude truly small buildings) the student should have to spend time in the field, in a variety of trades and building types, alongside tradesmen and superintendents.  How much time, and how that time is structured in real time is a subject that can be much debated.  But I will always believe that if you don't know how to plan, assemble and trouble-shoot the 'stuff' you are asking others to build you will always be operating from a deficit position.

    An appreciation for the manual aspects of our industry can only make us better at the 'art' side.  But, as noted above, it seems there is increasingly less time devoted to learning the 'science' part - to our own detriment.  You can't rely on manufacturers and product reps, supplemented by photos of attractive projects, to make you 'experienced'.  You need to understand (I mean, really understand) every 'bit' you are drawing, absorb what your consultants are telling you, appreciate how all the pieces of the puzzle integrate, and be the orchestra leader that turns it all into something that makes your artistic vision play like a symphony.

    So, I agree.  Learn more and be patient.  If it took 6,  8, 10 years to learn our craft 50 years ago, why should we think it ought to be easier now, when we must master one that has become far more complicated?

    I will always choose the apprentice that knows BIM and also how to pound a nail, over one that only knows how to cut and paste.  How ironic that some think you don't need to know much about how to put things together in order to design them.  Would you take the same conceptual approach when choosing a brain surgeon?

    Sorry for 'going on'... it's been a long day!

    Howard I. Littman, AIA, Emeritus
    Forensic Architect, Expert Witness
    Agoura Hills, CA

  • 18.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-09-2017 17:39

    And, regarding your precepts about the Architect's understanding of water intrusion through the envelope – try obtaining training related to the ASHRAE 90.1 Energy Code. It is not available from Ashrae, Colleges, the AIA nor anywhere that I can find, Mr. Altenhofen. That, in spite of the ridiculous mandate for continuing education driven by states and the AIA. Proves that the actual "education" content is unimportant in that cottage industry.


    Steve Cox, Architect

    Cox Architecture, P.A.

    P.O. Box 65

    McComb, MS 39649

    Cell: 601-249-7948

    Office: 601-684-6181


  • 19.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-10-2017 17:38

    You might want to look at the information available at They have a tremendous amount of free information of very high quality. Much of their work was funded by the US Department of Energy's Building America program.


    Bill Burke

    Architect, AIA, LEED AP B, D, + C

    Energy Center Technical Specialist | Architecture Program Coordinator

    PG&E Pacific Energy Center | 851 Howard Street | San Francisco, CA 94103



    We respect your privacy. Please review our privacy policy for more information.

  • 20.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-11-2017 17:47
    Mr. Cox,  You have hit on another important topic.  The AIA has sold our continuing education program to manufacturers who mostly provide "education" in the form of thinly veiled advertising.  What if everyone in our KC demanded better education from the local, regional and national AIA?  What if we allowed only XX% of our continuing ed to be from manufacturers and they had to pay enough that the AIA could then support members to make presentations with an honorarium.  As it is now, I cannot afford to provide classes with AIA CEU credits and I know other knowledgeable architects in the same boat.  You loose on the hours to prepare, the hours to present, the cost to travel and then you may have to pay a fee to the AIA on top.

    One spot you might try is your local Building Enclosure Council.  If you ask the local committee they may be able to put up something about ASHRAE 90.1 Energy Code.  Also be sure to check out BEST 5 coming up in Philadelphia.  The BEST conferences are full of building science education. Please see the information posted on the TDBP blog along with this string.

    Mr. Burke,  You are right, Building Science Corp does post a good deal of content about building science.  If you see there seminars that sometimes come through the Building Enclosure Councils it is worthwhile to attend.

    David Altenhofen AIA
    The Facade Group
    Philadelphia PA

  • 21.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-12-2017 19:09
    I just gave a presentation today, I should look up if I can get credit for teaching. lord knows I do enough of that. It doesn't really matter as I always have enough credits, it would be nice to sell them on e-bay, i'd make a fortune.
    But seriously, manufactures would rather have a choice about speaking product or speaking generic. Most that I know are quite ethical and carefully separate one topic from the other. I agree education should be "real" and it's important. AIA could certainly deepen the educational pond by giving more "units" for upper level classes.

    If I were to give a class on exterior wall assemblies and fire with required reading PRIOR to the seminar of selections from IBC 7,14 all of 26, NFPA 285, 268, ASTM E 119, and E 136 and THEN we started talking. what would that class be worth? it ought to be worth more than 1 ceu to the attendee! but the bar is quite low so it never happens.

    Marc Chavez AIA
    Technical Director
    Perkins + Will
    Seattle WA

  • 22.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-12-2017 20:15
    Mr. Altenhofen and Mr. Cox:

    Your observations and references to building science and enclosure resources are extremely useful. A thorough reading of just a few papers at left me comprehensively informed, confirming what I know (or believe) and then integrating my knowledge with new research and insights. One hour of reading was easily worth several Learning Units, made pleasurable by dry wit, down-to-earth explanation and excellent graphics. Some Building Science Corp. articles written 12-15 years ago remain current and essential reading, creating a framework for me to evaluate building products and systems as yet untested.  
    Thank you.
    John G. Sponsel
    AIA  |  CSI-CDT  |  LEED-AP
    St. Paul, MN 

  • 23.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-14-2017 21:12

    I agree with Mr. Chavez that some courses/seminars should be worth more than one CEU/hour, and Mr. Altenhofen is correct that some manufacturers offer minimal education with veiled advertising.  I would not like to see manufacturers be charged more to provide credits.  During the 20+ years that I practiced I greatly appreciated the information that manufacturers provided.  In the 13+ years that I have represented a manufacturer I have grown to appreciate it even more, as do our customers in the A/E community.  While architects need to know about so many specification divisions we can be an expert resource on one.  Our experience is practical, from design to manufacturing to construction and commissioning. The seminars that we provide (speaking only of the company I represent now) are highly technical, created by architects, engineers and contractors. We often provide reading assignments prior to our seminars. All of our territory managers have been trained by many credible sources including Dr. Joe Lstiburek of the Building Science Corporation.  We participate in our local Building Enclosure Councils, CSI chapters, sit on code committees and attend many industry association symposiums to further our education.  Manufacturers can be industry expert resources.  At least we are.  We invest a great deal of money in educating our resources specifically to deliver knowledge to the design community.

    Shannon Perry, AIA, LEED AP
    Interstate Brick
    Grass Lake MI

  • 24.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-15-2017 14:52
    Hello Mr. Cox and others.

    I do value the education I have received fabulous training in the past from local provides. I seek it out to maintain my understanding of the current methods and practices of our profession; especially as it pertains to assisting my clients to reducing their energy consumption. These events also help me to meet my AIA commitment. There are many avenues every Architect can follow to do the same. Here are some local examples you might like to undertake:

    In July, the U.S. Dept of Energy is holding their semi-annual energy codes conference. Find out more about that here:

    Another method you and others may like to investigate is education underway in your home state by regional energy efficiency organizations like Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA). They regularly provide training in conjuction with state agencies (like the Mississippi Development Authority) in the SE. See here for some of their resources:  and 

    These serve as examples that can be utilized by building professionals in every state.

    Thank you,

    Steve Kismohr, AIA, LEED A.P. BD
    Ilekis Associates
    Chicago, IL

  • 25.  RE: Institute Honor Awards

    Posted 05-24-2017 14:15
    Dear Mr. Cox,

    In reply to your statement about "training related to the ASHRAE 90.1 ". The AIA/CES Course Directory has more than 30 courses listed with 90.1 in the title. Also there are several courses at:


    Joseph Stypka FAIA
    Vice President, Director Specifications
    Jahn, LLC
    Chicago IL