The Charles Pankow Foundation has a small pile of gold it hopes to spin into building design and construction improvements. The private foundation, which funds about six new research projects annually, expects to give out $1 million in the next year to support new and ongoing projects. “We fund research that moves innovative [nonproprietary] solutions to problems from the red zone to the end zone,” says Robert K. Tener, the foundation’s Claremont, Calif.-based executive director.

Builder Charles Pankow started the foundation in 2002 to “inspire new and better ways to build.” Pankow, who died in 2004, left much of his estate to fund the foundation. In 2007, it had $42.8 million in assets.

The group supports developing and transferring technology into common industry practice.

The foundation’s research areas are structures and project teams. A four-person board, led by Pasadena, Calif.-based Charles Pankow Builders CEO Richard M. Kunnath, directs the foundation, advised by a council of architects, engineers and builders. “I am not aware of any foundation that ‘exists to advance innovations in building design and construction, so as to provide the public with buildings of improved quality, efficiency and value,’ ” says advisory council member Jeffrey Russell, chair of the dept. of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, quoting the group’s statement of purpose.

To help identify pressing issues that need research dollars, the foundation has alliances with six industry groups, including the Applied Technology Council. “They are focused on the transfer of tech technology to practice,” says Edwin T. Dean, principal of structural firm Nishkian Dean, Portland, Ore., and project director of a Pankow-funded ATC project related to structural building information modeling.

The goal of practical research is exemplified by Pankow’s first grant, which funded tests to improve seismic detailing of link beams in concrete cores. “It took only 21 months from the grant award to a code change,” says Tener.