The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a voluntary organization with the mission statement: “We advocate for the value of architecture and give architects the resources they need to do their best work. Our work drives positive change through the power of design.”
Political and public relations are a big part of their job, but they angered a lot of members when shortly after the Presidential election, they wrote a letter congratulating the winner.
The big issue being, of course, the new government’s position on climate change. As Architect and critic Michael Sorkin noted in a letter and a challenge:
We urge both the incoming Trump Administration and the new Congress to work toward enhancing the design and construction sector’s role as a major catalyst for job creation throughout the American economy.
The earth’s environment is inarguably in a dire state and this imperils us all. The stunning and unsupportable ignorance that Trump and the cabal of climate-change deniers are likely to foist on us is alone grounds for radical measures to resist and impeach a Trump presidency.
The AIA apologized for their letter, but more importantly, they have doubled down with a new statement: Where we stand: Climate change. In it, they make a strong commitment, starting with their introduction:
Scientific consensus shows that increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide contribute significantly to rising sea levels, extreme weather events and degradation of natural resources. These trends threaten national security, human health, food supply, natural ecosystems and global economies. Climate change clearly is one of the biggest global crises of the 21st century.
They call on architects to be leaders in this, and for lawmakers to support this with codes, standards and tax incentives.
We understand how buildings contribute to climate change. Almost 40 percent of all US energy is consumed by buildings, which produce carbon through heating, cooling and lighting and through their construction. Architects can reduce such operational and embodied carbon production with passive design techniques, energy efficiency measures and low-impact building materials, which increase human health and productivity. Architects also integrate renewable energy sources into buildings, making them more sustainable, resilient and economical. We call on lawmakers to retain and extend tax incentives that underwrite such energy-efficient design and construction.
Unfortunately, as Lance Hosey notes, architects have not picked up the ball and run with the 2030 challenge, and that as many as a third of architects are skeptical about climate change. Perhaps having the AIA take this strong stance might make a difference.