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    Credit: Vincent Ricardel

Henry Green, Hon. AIA, is president of the National Institute of Building Science (NIBS), based in Washington, D.C. Recently, NIBS and the AIA launched the Building Research Information Knowledgebase (BRIK), a digital library that serves as a repository for peer-reviewed research. BRIK (brikbase.org) will focus initially on healthcare, building performance, and learning environments as pilot interest areas, and in coming months NIBS and the AIA will expand it to other areas. “Sure, there are a lot of repositories out there,” Green says, “but none of them are connected in the way that BRIK is.”

The idea of BRIK is to collect the pieces of scholarship and information about best practices and put it in one place. All of the information is peer-reviewed by invited organizations, which adds credibility to the enterprise—but the important thing is that we’re creating a platform for reliable content that’s accessible and scalable. Folks can find information through BRIK and recommend that information to others. Here’s the beauty of this: Not only are those organizations going to be able to contribute material to BRIK as content providers, but their individual members will have the ability to directly contribute to BRIK as well.

Our project committee for BRIK is an expansive group, and they’ve identified healthcare, building performance, and learning environments as three areas that will help launch this initiative. We’ll put out a call for papers and convene experts with reach in those areas. NIBS will be contributing content as well—and I suspect that one area we’ll want to engage is the Building Envelope Program. We’re also doing more work with regard to resiliency programs—information on how to use enclosures for thermal heat and security. Our National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF) is the largest repository of school information anywhere in the world—and it’s something we’ve looked to as a model for BRIK. One of the tragedies of this is that there’s been no funding for NCEF for the last two years, so the site is rather static right now. But we can still use that information to move forward with BRIK. We also have our journals that we publish that will feed into BRIK.

One of the things I’m confident we’ll find is that BRIK will become contagious. Once we start the first areas and people see the value of it, others will be driven to want to contribute. We’re also going to work with AIA Knowledge Communities to draw out the best research. All of the material BRIK will have will be resonant, even if it won’t always be relevant over time, so less relevant pieces will fall off the site. In terms of partners, we will seek them out initially, but there will probably be a call for organizations to work with us and provide content. Here’s something I think is really important: New ideas come from new people. And now we’ve got a way for those new ideas to come to light.

–As told to William Richards