On September 6 and September 7, 2019, the SOM Foundation partnered with the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to organize the inaugural International Research and Design Forum in Chicago. During the two-day event, industry leaders, researchers, and academics from around the world delivered presentations and panel discussions on the groundbreaking ideas and research that continue to elevate design thinking within the urgent context of climate change.
The International Research and Design Forum recognizes leaders whose body of work, creativity, and expertise inspire the future of design in the built world. William F. Baker, SOM Structural Engineering Partner, was recognized as an introductory honoree.
The first part of the event took place at the IIT College of Architecture with a full day of public lectures and debates that aimed to engage professionals as well as students from Chicago’s architecture and engineering schools. Speakers included Michelle Addington (The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture), Francis Aish (Foster + Partners), Philippe Block (ETH Zürich), James Carpenter (James Carpenter Design Associates), Scott Duncan (SOM), Janet Echelman and David Feldman (Studio Echelman), Jan Knippers (University of Stuttgart & Jan Knippers Ingenieure), Caitlin Mueller (MIT), Guy Nordenson (Princeton University & Guy Nordenson and Associates), Mike Schlaich (TU Berlin & Schlaich Bergermann Partner), and Matthias Schuler (Transsolar | KlimaEngineering). The debates, moderated by James Carpenter and Guy Nordenson, connected the efforts and discussed the different approaches the speakers were exploring. Susan Conger-Austin (Assistant Dean of the IIT College of Architecture), Iker Gil (Executive Director of the SOM Foundation), and Mark Sarkisian (Director of the SOM Foundation) delivered the opening remarks.
On the second day of the event, participants gathered privately to reflect on the ideas presented during the public forum and to discuss continued challenges in addressing climate change. The key starting point of the second day was how designers, contractors, and educators can make a difference in addressing this global problem in a significant and structural way. Alessandro Beghini (SOM), Susan Conger‐Austin (IIT), Paul Endres (IIT), David Gerber (ARUP), Reed Kroloff (IIT), Rob Otani (Thornton Tomasetti/CORE Studio), Glen Rust (Laing O’Rourke), Mark Sarkisian (SOM), and Juliane Wolf (Studio Gang) joined speakers from the previous day to share their ongoing research. The presentations were followed by a group conversation prompted by the individual talks and the larger ideas of the forum. The conversation highlighted the urgency to act amid the global climate crisis and the need to collaborate across organizations, make research and knowledge publicly available, and demonstrate the impact with data and prototypes. The second day was moderated by Iker Gil (Executive Director of the SOM Foundation) and Reed Kroloff (Dean of the IIT College of Architecture).
We are happy to share a selection of public lectures that capture the energy and ideas from the first day of the event, along with a series of manifestos that were developed by participants after the event. We hope these inspire others to build on the efforts of the Forum and keep the conversation going.
The 2019 International Research and Design Forum was presented with support from AIA Chicago.
Thank you to Anna Adamski, Susan Conger-Austin, David Horos, Christine Manuel, Gina Martin, Julie Michiels, Mark Sarkisian, and Stephanie Wagner for the logistical support.
Photography: Daniel Kelleghan Photography
Videography: Lucid Creative Agency
William F. Baker, SOM
The Climate Crisis is real. We must act quickly. The built environment is a major contributor to the Crisis. As some of the world’s leading designers, contractors, and educators, we can make a difference, but we cannot do it alone. To galvanize support, we recommend the following:
Recognizing that much of the world’s future growth will happen in underdeveloped areas, develop demonstration projects that can allow these regions to leap-frog the developed world to build a sustainable future.
Recognizing that much of the world’s current generation of CO2 comes from developed areas, develop demonstration projects that show these regions how to adapt to a sustainable future.
We pledge to work together and use our considerable collective influence with political, social, and philanthropic leaders to embrace design as one of the tools in addressing the Climate Crisis.
David Gerber, ARUP
Improve human health, safety, and wellbeing recognizing that this is intrinsically tied to the health of the planet and quality of the built environment.
Transition to a zero-carbon economy and a world where everyone has access to clean energy and potable water.
Adopt circular economy principles leading to decoupling of economic growth and consumption.
Enhance communities’ resilience to climate change and other risks.
Create social value that results in a more inclusive, equitable, and just society.
Respect planetary boundaries, and reverse the damage done to date.
Glen Rust, Laing O’Rourke
It is refreshing that on the subject of our current climate emergency we are aligned, and it is my opinion that we are all obligated to use our various positions of influence to change the manner in which the built environment contributes, to prevent this becoming a climate catastrophe!
As educators, designers, and builders, we can have a positive contribution. Through research and development of new low and negative carbon building materials, the efficient use of materials and energy, and enabling the circular economy in the built environment, we can make a difference!
Yet we must not lose sight that excellent design does not just result in the physical manifestation of an idea. It should encompass not only shelter with neutral environmental impact, but encourage community connection and integration, promote wellbeing, equality, and social mobility, and provide aesthetic delight.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals should therefore underpin our work!
Mike Schlaich, Schlaich Bergermann Partner
The climate crisis is real and we must act quickly.
A key to addressing the problem in the building industry is lightweight and prefabricated construction which minimizes the use of materials and allows for easier recycling at end of life. Also, we must turn to renewable and clean energy for producing the material for our buildings and for operating them.
There is enough proven technology readily available that we need not wait any longer in any of our fields of activity. Already today we can build differently and harvest enough energy from the sun, from the deserts of our planet to make a change.
We as multipliers must demonstrate with our work that this is possible and we must actively spread the message in our offices, in schools and in politics to create the general awareness and further research that is still needed.
Matthias Schuler, Transsolar
Creating new architecture with zero carbon footprint through research and demonstration.
As leading building designers, architects, and engineers, teachers in this field and contractors, we see the big problem of human-caused climate change through our greenhouse gas emissions, 50% of which are caused by buildings today. Serving the additional 2.2 million people expected for 2050 with buildings of today in erection and operation would lead to a collapse of our climate system, aside of building material scarcity.
Action is very urgent today, after we discuss this problem since the “Limits of Growth” published in 1992 by the Club of Rome. If we miss the 1.5° increase target, even the EU talks officially about the possible extinction of humankind.
We need a zero-carbon society, with carbon neutral buildings in construction and operation, of which most technologies are available today but for higher costs. Even the best strategies will not solve the problem, it needs as well a different consumption of everything from food to land from mobility to living area.
We are willing to invest our know-how into carbon neutral demonstration projects to teach the world “it can be done,” and to teach the next generations how to solve the problems through these target projects. (This was the large success of Masdar City, that people realized it can be done, even when only a part was really done.)
Introduction by Susan Conger-Austin, Iker Gil, and Mark Sarkisian
Founded in 1979, the SOM Foundation’s goal is to advance the design profession’s ability to address the key issues of our time by bringing together and supporting groups and individuals, each with the highest possible design aspirations. The Foundation’s grant programming was established in 1981 and currently offers four annual awards across the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. The grants support students and faculty of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and engineering to undertake rigorous interdisciplinary research that can help shape our future.
www.somfoundation.com | SOM_Foundation
The College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology builds on a legacy of disciplined experimentation in materials and technologies to educate and inspire the next generation of architects and landscape architects. From its landmark campus and home at S. R. Crown Hall, IIT Architecture champions an interdisciplinary approach to education and research that is simultaneously local and global in its impact. IIT Architecture students are educated to address complex, contemporary challenges of designing and constructing across all scales. Both faculty and students enjoy a longstanding relationship with professional practice in Chicago, a city with a vibrant history of innovation in architecture, design, landscape architecture, and urbanism.
www.arch.iit.edu | @IITArchitecture
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