President’s Message – November, 2019

The automotive world has been making headlines lately. Last week, Ford released their controversial all-electric crossover SUV, the Mustang Mach-E. Tesla just unveiled their brand-new stainless steel ‘cybertruck’ and moved up the delivery date of their new crossover SUV. The Y, as it will be called, is anticipated to be the best-selling electric vehicle ever. Auto manufacturers around the world are setting target dates for when their entire line-ups will eliminate internal combustion engines. These dates are not 10 or 20 years away, but only four to six years out. Recognizing that government fuel efficiency standards are not aggressive enough, auto manufacturers are taking it upon themselves to accelerate technological advancements and change the impact their products have on planetary health. These next few years will see a fundamental shift in the way we move around. An immense investment in charging infrastructure will be required, but it’s happening.

We are obviously not automotive designers, but I see clear parallels between our industries. Like the auto industry, we continue to grapple with the tremendous impact our work has on the planet’s health. For decades we have been talking about climate change and taking meaningful, but incremental, steps to improve the way we design buildings. Green building codes and rating systems, technological advancements, and research on human and building health have all pushed us forward. Some firms have fully embraced this new reality and become the Tesla’s of our industry; tracking and researching, building analysis tools, and sharing methodologies that help shape how we collectively design sustainable buildings.

Our members are aligned on the need for our profession to be leaders on climate change. This year the AIA formalized our leadership around climate action by voting to ratify the ‘Big Move Toward Environmental Stewardship,’ or the ‘Big Move’ for short. It outlines three key initiatives:

declare an urgent climate imperative for carbon reduction;

transform the day-to-day built practice of architects to achieve a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient and healthy built environment; and

leverage support of peers, clients, policy makers, and the public at large.

Read the release from AIA. One of the Big Move’s major elements is reframing the COTE Top 10 into the Framework for Design Excellence, fully integrating environmental stewardship with design excellence. This is a move that will be echoed over time in our state and local chapter awards programs. The Big Move, however, is not mandated by National but rather is a resource that requires active participation from state and local components and the broad engagement of our members. AIA resources are plentiful and continuing to grow. There are also a multitude of industry resources available that focus on a wide range of topics, such as resilient design, material transparency and embodied carbon. Check them out, talk to your colleagues, and think about how the Big Move can move you forward on climate action.