School of Architecture
College of Design

Renée Cheng, Professor and Associate Dean of Research

Renée Cheng

Professor and Associate Dean of Research

Director, Master of Science in Architecture, Research Practices concentration and Consortium for Research Practices

External Liaison, Virtual Reality Design Lab (VRDL)


Phone: (612) 625-1885

Renee Cheng


Renée Cheng is a graduate of Harvard’s GSD and Harvard College. A registered architect, her professional experience includes work for Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners and Richard Meier and Partners before founding Cheng-Olson Design. She taught at the University of Michigan and the University of Arizona before joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota. She has been recognized for teaching excellence with numerous teaching awards and appears on national lists of influential educators.

Her research involves documenting case studies of buildings that integrate design with emerging technologies. Her current work in Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is published by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and new research on collaborative projects by the General Services Administration (GSA) has just begun. Previously, she tracked large-scale projects by Frank Gehry and Associates as well as smaller scale CAD-CAM work done by firms such as SHoP Architects, A.R.O. and Tripyramid, focusing on how innovative technology drives change in both design and construction processes. She has widely published on these topics including editing a new chapter on Computing Technology for Architectural Graphic Standards.

Professor Cheng has also written on the topic of architectural education in the context of emerging practices and technology. These writings have appeared in the 2015 GSA report on Integrated High Performing Buildings, 2006 AIA Report on Integrated Practice and the Education Summit at ACADIA in 2004. A recent publication published by Yale is entitled “Facing the Fact of BIM”.

In numerous roles, she has served the ACSA and AIA as an advisor on how Integrated Practice affects the future of architectural curricular and professional practice.


  • Design pedagogy
  • Emerging technologies in construction
  • Future trends and current innovation in professional practice

Honors & Awards

2012 NCARB Honorable Mention, special consideration for bridging academy and practice for Master of Science in Research Practices

2011 Design Intelligence "25 Most Admired Educators" Named an educational role model based on nationally gathered input from faculty, students, professionals in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design and Product Design

2010 Design Intelligence "25 Most Admired Educators"

2009 AIA Minnesota President First full time academic to be elected. AIA MN is among the nation's largest and most active components of the AIA.

2009 AIA Latrobe Prize Finalist competitively selected as finalist for $100,000 Latrobe research prize

2008 AIA Education Honor Award for "Incomplete Curriculum for Transformation"; one of five member team for curricular reform of professional curriculum

2000 AIA Arizona Educator Award; nominated and awarded by the AIA Arizona

1998 Cass Gilbert Visiting Professorship; nominated and selected by the University of Minnesota.

1997 New Faculty Teaching Award; awarded by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS)

Grants & Contracts

2013 - present Principal Investigator: $75,000 grant for case studies of high performance buildings with contractual performance metrics

2011 - 2013 Principal Investigator: $150,000 Grant for case studies of 11 GSA collaborative contracted projects

2011 - 2012 Co-Principal Investigator: $10,000 Grant sponsored by HGA Architects for use of Immersive Virtual Reality to study patient room design

2010 - present Principal Investigator: $25,000 (2010) $40,000 (2011) Grant sponsored by AIA national and AIA Minnesota for IPD case studies, interactive pdf, primary source research on 5 case studies

2004-5 Principal Investigator: $17,000 Grant sponsored by the Steel Tube Institute for case study educational material.

2000 Co-Principal Investigator: $24,897 Grant sponsored by University of Arizona, Center for Computing & Information Technology for "Web-based Teaching for Visual Learning" (part 2). Development of teaching modules for web-based teaching of construction case studies.

1998 Principal Investigator: $45,000 Grant sponsored by the United States General Services Administration for "A Real-Time Case Study: Documentation of the Phoenix Federal Courthouse."


2011 "IPD Case Studies". Web-publication, Center for Integrated Practice, AIA.

2010 "Facing the Fact of BIM: Architectural Curricula Past, Present and Future". Building Information Modeling, Implications for Architectural Pedagogy. ed. P. Bernstein and P. Deamer. New Haven: Yale

2007 "Computing Technologies." Edited new chapter in Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th edition, ed. A. Pressman, 932-956. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

2007 "Can BIM Inspire New Directions in Architectural Education?". In Fresh Air: Proceedings of the ACSA Ninety Fifth Annual Meeting Held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 2007, 455-460. Washington, DC: ACSA.

2006 "Suggestions for an Integrative Education." In AIA Integrated Practice Report, eds. N.Strong, D.Friedman, M.Broshar, essay 5, Washington, DC: AIA.

2006 Getting Real: Design Ethos Now: Proceedings of the ACSA Ninety Fourth Annual Meeting, eds. R. Cheng, P.Tripeny. Washington, DC: ACSA.

2004 "Architectural Education in the Age of Digitization." In Evolving Tools, Evolving Ideas: Education Summit of the Association of Computer Aided Design in Architecture, ed. A. Tempkin, 11-13, Waterloo, Canada: ACADIA.

2004 "Case Catalysts: Using Case Examples in Design Teaching." Proceedings of ACSA/AIA Cranbrook Teachers Seminar (Research Track), eds. L.Lee, H.Fraker, M.Malecha, R.Green, 3-5. Washington, DC: AIA.

2003 "The Sheer Opacity of Contemporary Enclosure." Journal of Architectural Education 57, no. 2 (2003): 11-17.

2001 "The Evolution of Skins: A Case Study Comparison of Three Gehry Projects." In Skins, Where Design and Technology Meet: Proceedings of the ACSA Technology Conference Held in Austin, Texas, 2001, 23-26. Washington, DC: ACSA.

2000 "Master Architect Redux: How Digital Progress Helped Restore the Role of the Master Architect." In Paradoxes of Progress: Architecture and Education in a Post-Utopian Era: Proceedings of the ACSA Eighty Ninth Annual Meeting Held in Baltimore, Maryland, March 2000, 488-494. Washington, DC: ACSA.


2011 "IPD: What Practitioners Know" Panel on Integrated Education: What Educators Should Know, ACSA Annual Meeting, Montreal

2011 "Industry Trends and Attitudes toward New Collaborative Contracting Approaches" Panel at Symposium on Building Better Construction Contracts: Tailoring Incentives, Creating Collaboration and Developing Effective Risk Allocation, Practice Law Institute, New York

2011 "Building Stories", AIA Minnesota Convention, Minneapolis, MN

2011 "IPD: What We Know..and Don't Know" speaker at Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) National conference on IPD and Lean, San Antonio, TX

2010 "When Fingers Start Pointing: Allocating and Insuring Risks in Integrated Project Delivery" co-presented with Kevin Collins, Schinnerer. AIA Minnesota Convention, MN

2009 "Implementation and Integration Strategies for IPD: Case Studies of Integrated Projects", AIA Minnesota Convention, Minneapolis, MN

2009 "Culture of Practice: Educating the Next Generation", AIA National Board, March Meeting, Mpls

2009 "Developing Models of Research-based Practices", Design Futures Council: Leadership Conference on Design Strategy. Co-presented with Laura Lee

2009 "Culture of Practice" Panel on professional practice in curriculum. ACSA Administrators" Conference. St. Louis

2007 "Can BIM Inspire New Directions in Architectural Education?" ACSA National Meeting. Philadelphia, PA.


2011 "Sketches from Breuer's St. John's Abbey" special exhibition for 50th anniversary of Abbey Church, St. John's University, Collegeville, MN

2006 "Traveling, Seeking, Seeing: Recent Sketches." Faculty Exhibition Series. College of Design Library. University of Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN. Invited solo exhibition.

Courses Taught

2010-2011 Masters Final Project, co-coordinator

2008-present ARCH 5621 Professional Practice required course for 50 students, co-taught with Vince James

2008-present ARCH 5650 Building Stories, developed and coordinate innovative practice elective

2008-present 5516 Thermal and Lighting, Design Support faculty

2005-present Summer 3+ program, coordinate entire summer, teach segment on structure and construction

previous teaching includes Construction Systems, Design Studio (all levels), Design Fundamentals (undergrad), Drawing, seminars on tectonics and case studies


2011 Project Manager, ACSA Atlas, data collection project

2011 - present Chair, McKnight Advisory Committee, University of Minnesota, advisor to Provost on the McKnight Arts and Humanities Endowment, Imagine Awards

2009-2011 Member, AIA National Integrated Practice Discussion Group (IPDiG) and later evolution, Center for Integrated Practice (CIP), sub-committee on case studies and IPD Guide 2010 Member, ACSA Media Task Force

2010-present Executive Editorial Board, Architect Magazine, appointed by AIA President George Miller

2008-2010 Member, Executive Committee, AIA Minnesota

2007 Invited contributor, White Paper on The Future of Architectural Education, AIA Technology in Architectural Practice Conference.

2007 Chair, ACSA White Paper on BIM and Comprehensive Studio, advisory for the NAAB accreditation review.

2006 Co-Chair, "Getting Real: Design Ethos Now." ACSA Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah.

2006-present Board Member, AIA Minnesota

2006 - present Member, Colleagues Advisory Board, Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, MN, subcommittee for building addition designed by Gehry, subcommittee on Target Studio for Creative Collaboration

2004-2007 Advisory Board, Architectural Graphic Standards, AIA National. One of a 7 member board.


Recent Work

New Case Studies 2015 - Integration at its Finest: Case studies of 3 GSA high performing buildings

This report was funded by the General Services Administration (GSA) Office of High Performance Green Buildings. It compares and contrasts 3 GSA projects, all AIA COTE Top Ten winners recently completed using stimulus funding. The report focuses on the leadership strategies, team decision-making and logistical/process tactics leveraged to create projects that were extraordinarily high performing and beautifully designed. Performance based metrics is becoming more commonly used in the building industry and these projects exemplify several options for how those goals can be a positive force in complex projects. Research team included: Chris Wingate, Dustin Harford, Carrie Dossick, Laura Osburn

Click to download full report

Recent Work

Case Studies on Collaborative Practices, 2013

The Research Partner simultaneously embarked on eleven major modernization projects totaling in excess of $700 Million. The simultaneous start of multiple large-scale projects, operating with shared High Performance/Green Building goals, provided a unique opportunity to compare and contrast projects. The goal of this study was to identify factors that had strong positive or negative effects on the collaborative culture of the project teams. The comparison of design and construction projects is inherently complicated by circumstances unique to each project. Given the potentially endless number of factors that can impact project delivery, this report focuses on selected team-performance outcomes and highlights the presence or absence of "ingredients" that influenced those outcomes.

Recent Work

A Better Path to Licensure through Research Practices

Last June, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) released data on a wide variety of topics across several decades related to internship, examination and licensure for architects. "NCARB By the Numbers" revealed that the mean time from graduation to completion of the Intern Development Program (IDP) is 6.4 years with an additional two years to complete the exam and achieve licensure. In real numbers that means the total amount of time from high school to licensure for architects in America is 14.5 years. The knowledge loop between the architectural profession and academia has the potential to be a rich and interactive exchange leading to meaningful advancement of the discipline. One can imagine priorities developed by professionals would ensure the value of their expertise to clients on a day-to-day basis. While complementary research priorities collectively developed with academic researchers would address broad societal needs, advance building technology and reduce waste at many scales in the building industry. In the midst of this dynamic mix of professional experts and academic researchers, students could thrive, guided by both mentors and professors in individual research projects that connect to multi-year research goals. And if the students' role in these research efforts could be counted in their IDP, meaningful work would systematically lead to licensure, potentially upon graduation of an advanced post-professional degree. The first steps towards this ideal world begins at the University of Minnesota with our first cohort of Masters of Science in Architecture, Research Practices concentration. Pending finalization of the MS and the Consortium, we expect our first cohort to enter in Fall 2013.

Recent Work

podcast interview on future of education

there is a nice write up and link on a podcast interview I did with Markku Allison from AIA. Markku and I have worked on a number of projects, including the follow up on the Integrated Practice Report originally published in 2006. In that report, I wrote on how education might change relative to BIM and Integrated Practice. In 2010 Markku did a series of interviews to check in with the authors to see what had changed and what their new ideas were for "what's next". The link to the whole interview is in this blog, but the write up catches most of the highlights of the "what's next" for architectural education as i see it.

Recent Work

Phase 1 of IPD case studies now published online

The first phase of the IPD cases is now posted on the AIA website, most easily reached through the Center for Integrated Practice home page. There are two versions, an interactive pdf and a printable version. Many thanks go to the core team of Katy Dale and Kai Samela and the invaluable help of so many others. We are looking forward to starting phase 2!

Recent Work

IPD case studies continued

Recent Work

IPD Case studies

My most recent grant is funded by AIA national to study Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) Case studies. The work is being done in collaboration with AIA Minnesota with an interdisciplinary advisory group that will give periodic feedback. Unusual for this particular group of case studies is that all the projects will use multi-party agreements, contracts that typically bind the owner, architect and contractor to a single contract. The duration of this grant is short, wrapping up in December, but we hope that there will be additional phases over the next year or so. The work builds on previous case studies that I have done over many years, most recently focused on projects that use BIM and implement IPD principles. AIA is most interested in understanding the collaboration needed in IPD and better defining the skills an architect needs to set up, lead and/or participate in these endeavors. This fits well with my own agenda to explore the value of an architect in this new type of contractual arrangement. I expect that there will be some core skills unchanged from the traditional expertise of an architect, and some new or hybrid skills required. Eventually, this feeds into my interested in pedagogy, how should education change to support both the old and new ways of thinking.
School of Architecture
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