Frederick Steiner isn't shy about his ambitions for the National Academy of Environmental Design. The dean of the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and president of the forthcoming design academy compares it to the National Academy of Sciences or the National Institutes of Health—institutions that drive research in their respective fields.

"The National Academy of Sciences was established during the Civil War to provide a link between science and decision making," Steiner says. "Some of the institutes are more recent," he says, adding that the National Academy of Public Administration, which was founded in 1967, is the most recent.

The National Academy of Environmental Design now has a roadmap to build on the legacy of public research in the U.S. The new institution has opened a search for an executive director, who will guide its launch in 2013.

Further, the nonprofit organization has signed an agreement with the Spotsylvania County, Va., Board of Supervisors to open a permanent office in Ni Village, a site planned by Luck Development Partners.

Steiner says that green building and sustainability research will be at the heart of the academy's research. The Ni Village, a sustainable mixed-use development, suits the organization's purpose. "The proximity to Washington is very important," he says. "The commitment to environmentalism is very important. The Center for Green Technology and Sustainability is very important," he says, referring to the building where the new academy will be a tenant. "And the money is important," he adds—Spotsylvania pledged $500,000 to bring the organization to the county.