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Swarthmore the Only College Honored for Housing Design by American Institute of Architects

PPR Apartments underneath a blue sky in the fall

Swarthmore was the only college or university this year to receive the award from the AIA, which is special in its acknowledgement of both a building’s owner and designer.

PPR Apartments has once again been honored by the American Institute of Architects, this time with an award from AIA’s Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community.

The AIA bestowed a 2020 Housing Award upon Swarthmore and its architecture firm, Digsau, in September. It cited the design team’s close collaboration with students, staff, and administrators to create a facility that encourages lifestyle choices that foster environmental awareness.

Swarthmore was the only college or university this year to receive the award, which is special in its acknowledgement of both a building’s owner and designer.

“It’s especially meaningful,” says Susan Smythe, senior project manager and ADA program coordinator, “since it celebrates not only the exceptional design, but the degree to which Digsau and Swarthmore collaborated to create a building that not only meets the needs for residence life in a new way but also celebrates a high degree of sustainable design and integration of the College's values regarding sustainability.”

The 2020 Housing Awards emphasize “the importance of good housing as a necessity in life, a sanctuary for the human spirit, and a valuable natural resource,” says the AIA, which honored 11 other projects this year.

Among the criteria for the award were how PPR Apartments “created a new threshold where the athletic and residential landscapes converge” and its sustainable assets. Some of those assets include a comprehensive water management system, landscapes that restore more than 15,000 square feet of native plantings, and a range of energy production and conservation systems designed to help the College meet its net zero and carbon-neutral goals.  

“This project demonstrates high achievement within architecture in that the building is attractive and functional, and it achieves this through methodically approaching countless requirements and constraints,” noted an AIA juror. “It is environmentally responsible, economically sensitive, informed by social and cultural needs of the owner and users, and uniquely suited to its site.”

The award follows a gold medal for “best project build” bestowed upon PPR Apartments by the  Philadelphia chapter of the AIA earlier this year, and the project being a finalist for the Willard G. “Bill” Rouse III Awards for Excellence in 2018.

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