Since its formation in 1979, the California Architectural Foundation (CAF) has been engaged in addressing issues relating to the environment and the sustainability of California communities through strong partnerships and collaborative efforts. Its very first initiative was the “Advanced Technology House,” a joint venture between the California Council of the American Institute of Architects Foundation (CAF’s original name), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – Ames Research Center and the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). This unique effort involving design professionals, a government agency and a public utility demonstrated CAF’s leadership and is the model and the heritage that CAF strives to continue.
The project was to demonstrate useful building technologies from the aerospace and related industries in an actual house while seeking answers to universal questions:
• How can we reduce building costs while delivering better products?
• How can we build additional needed housing without despoiling the environment?
• How can we maximize energy conservation without eliminating comfort?
• How do we build more self-sufficient structures to avoid increasing demands on expensive urban infrastructures?
• How can we manufacture products and build houses which can be adapted to the special or changing needs of their occupants?
These questions are still challenging our profession and CAF is leveraging its relationships with both the academic community and design professionals to bring answers to public officials and decision-makers across California. The biennial William Turnbull Jr. Design Competition engages students and professionals in generating long term design strategies to address issues critical to California and is the keystone program of CAF’s multi-year collaborative partnership with at least one of California’s academic programs. Beginning in 2012, winners of this distinguished competition receive research grants to develop their concepts and present them to a wider audience. In addition, CAF’s Owings Award for Environmental Excellence recognizes environmental excellence and community impact in a built project by individuals or groups that demonstrate outstanding accomplishments in the reconciliation of nature and the built environment. Launched in 1986, this award honors Nathaniel A. Owings, an AIA Gold Medalist and key contributor to the development of mid-20th century modern architecture in the United States. It is fitting that these two programs honor outstanding California architects who worked together at SOM in 1960 on the Big Sur Coast Master Plan, which was written into law and protects nearly 100 miles of pristine California coastline from development. This work, along with that of Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull and Whitaker, left lasting a legacy in the effort to preserve California’s coastline and demonstrate how to “build in cooperation with nature.”