February 4, 2020

At the 2019 FORUM in Toronto, we had a fantastic time celebrating the 15th birthday of our Freedom by Design program! In case you missed all the hype leading up to and surrounding this momentous, year-long party, here’s a recap on all things FBD15:

FBD Live

In the summer of 2019, the AIAS hosted our first FBD Live: a year-long project that begins in the days before Grassroots and allows passionate students from across the country to work together on the designing and building of a real project. The theme of the inaugural event was aimed at educating students and the community about sustainable design. By partnering with LEAFhouse, University of Maryland students, and AIA Potomac Valley, the goal is to expand their current site to grow into a Sustainability Park and Academic Research Center (SPARC). After a day of demonstrations, collaboration, and charetting, the team left the site full of ideas and motivation for the upcoming project! Thanks to Elizabeth Ott and Max Skoglund for leading this incredible team; to our AIAS members Nada Abdel-Aziz, Lauren Craig, Dania Darra, Timothy Hemphill, Alison Katz, Karianna Larson, Quinlan McFadden, Justin Trammell, and Katherine White; and to our Sustainability Co-op Teammates Jacob Mast, Jennifer Pineda, Evan Shipley-Friedt, Ante Rosales, and Will Washburn for their collaborative work on the project ever since it’s beginning.

The team has continued to operate as a task force to work towards accomplishing their project goals: a pedestrian/bike path and bus shelter. The AIAS hopes to continue FBD Live next year with a similar day-long event where students from across the nation and those from UMD can come together to install the first phase of the SPARC project and continue planning and designing the next phase! Stay tuned for more updates about what we’ll get up to during Grassroots 2020!

Staying in Touch

The Freedom by Design Advisory Committee is always dedicated to keeping up with and assisting FBD Programs at all of our AIAS Chapters. Members of this committee host monthly calls in each Quad where Directors and FBD fans can get together, ask each other questions, get help with applying for grants, and troubleshoot projects. The FBDAC stepped up their game this year by keeping in touch with more FBD leaders than ever before, and by sharing this data with the Board of Directors, we can begin to accurately track and increase the growth of FBD for the next fifteen years and beyond! Thank you to Alison Katz and Michael Bair for Co-Chairing the FBDAC during this momentous year, and to Andrew Quinn, Asia Nolan, Colt Brock,  Gwendoline Albright N., Quinn McFadden, and Ross Mackenzie for rounding out a terrific team.

The engagement on our FBD-specific instagram – @aias_fbd_national – has been off the charts lately, and if you aren’t already following, come check it out! In the weeks leading up to FORUM, the FBDAC posted highlights and take-overs from FBD programs at fifteen chapters across the country. Thanks so much to University of Nevada – Las Vegas, University of Texas San Antonio, University of Texas Austin, University of Colorado – Denver, Oklahoma State University, Andrews University, University of Hartford, Temple University, Mellon University, and Ryerson University for submitting content and updating your peers and fellow Chapters on what your FBD Programs are up to! The FBDAC hopes to do even more promotion for FBD Programs, whether it’s a charette, a meeting, or a build day! It certainly helped roll out the red carpet for the FBD15 Honor Awards Celebration that we got to celebrate at FORUM in Toronto with 500 of our closest friends!


In honor of the 15th anniversary of the AIAS Freedom by Design Program, the 2019-2020 Freedom by Design Advisory Committee compiled every documented and completed Freedom by Design Project since 2004 and ranked them according to how ambitious the project was, the final quality of the project, and the project’s impact on its community. In conjunction with the 2019 AIAS Honor Awards, we recognized 15 projects and their schools for their contribution to the history and legacy of Freedom by Design! Those awarded include: 

Bruner’s Backyard by University of Kansas (2008)

Ramp I and II by Syracuse University (2011)

Garden of Hope from Roger Williams University (2014)

Courtyard Renovation by New Jersey Institute of Technology (2014)

Chantilly Montessori Elementary Playhouse by University of North Carolina – Charlotte (2015)

Patrick Cole’s Patio and Ramp by North Dakota State University (2017)

Pendleton Ramp Project by Clemson University (2017)

Uptown Baptist Church Signage by Illinois Institute of Technology (2018)

Water Table Project by North Carolina State University (2018)

Casa de Luz by University of Nevada – Las Vegas (2019)

Cherie’s Ramp by Texas A&M University (2019)


We invited our largest Freedom by Design Sponsors, NCARB and Benjamin Moore, and the Founder of Freedom by Design, Brad Buchanan, to choose their favorites:

NCARB’s Favorite Project: Brown Home Repair by University of North Carolina – Charlotte (2009)

Benjamin Moores’s Top Pick: Galaxy Garden by Ryerson University (2019)

Founder’s Favorite: Weatherization Kits by Carnegie Mellon University (2018)

The kicking off of more many years of incredible FBD Projects was made even more special by Ryerson University’s FBD Program! Their team, led by Marwa Al-Saqqar and Kathleen Crisol, inspired everyone coming to FORUM to bring fabric with them so that we could all make pillows, quilts, and blankets for Yonge Street Mission (YSM), a non-profit that is working to end chronic poverty by responding to immediate needs and helping move from surviving to thriving. Check out the highlights on @fbdryerson on Instagram to see the full scoop! A huge thank you to everyone who participated in that effort; because of your work, Ryerson’s FBD Program was able to donate 5 blankets and quilts and many pillows to YSM.

What’s a Motto?

This season of celebration has given the National Office, the FBDAC, the FBD Live Task Force, and all of us, a chance to reflect on what we can learn from Freedom by Design and how we can make its spirit of service synonymous with our architecture. As we walk forward into a critical decade of climate and social change, we carry with us everything we’ve loved about this program and those who participate in it. It’s hard to sum up such a journey that lies both behind and ahead of us, without rededicating ourselves to the ideal that we began with 15 years ago:

“What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?” – Mary Ann Oliver