The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has put a spotlight on innovation with six 2008 Education Honor Awards. The University of Virginia's “Learning Barge Project,” led by Phoebe Crisman, brought together students in design disciplines as well as history and education to create a floating laboratory for sustainable practices such as renewable power and rainwater collection. Auburn University's David Hinson and Stacy Norman launched a “DESIGNhabitat 2 Initiative” linking factory fabrication and site construction for post-disaster housing.

At California Polytechnic State University, Thomas Fowler developed a “Collaborative Integrative-Interdisciplinary Digital Design Studio” to put students to work on real-world situations, while Edgar Stach at the University of Tennessee Knoxville brought students and faculty from three countries together to study “Smart Structures—Experiments in Linking Digital and Physical Strategies.” At Pennsylvania State University, Peter Aeshbacher focused attention on “Design & Democracy.” University of Minnesota design and architecture students were introduced to a holistic approach called “An Incomplete Curriculum for Transformation,” orchestrated by Ritu Bhatt, Renee Cheng, John Comazzi, Ozayr Saloojee, and Marc Swackhamer.

The AIA launched the education honors in 1988 to recognize faculty achievements. This year's jury said it was looking for “evidence of exceptional innovative courses that dealt with broad issues” powerful enough to change practice. The awards will be presented at the AIA's national convention, taking place in Boston this month.