The AIA has publicly denounced the decision of some states to remove licensure requirements for architects, a move that left some of our readers feeling rather verklempt. When the news broke last month, our comments section hosted a healthy confab on the issue. And dear readers, we hear you! While the debate brews on, here's a well-rounded takeaway of what has been said thus far: "Would you like to have an unregistered doctor? On the other hand removing the costly grip of NCARB would be a positive thing," admitted Caleb Crawford. Erin Walker agreed the licensing process was necessary, but ultimately the tests were are a ploy to make money, not test knowledge: "There should be a practice requirement for people holding roles on state boards, and NCARB. It seems that a lot of these people are just trying to catch a gravy train and have lost touch with doing any actual work." "I'd really like to see examples of how the licensing requirements have changed," fumed Bryan Wick. But Matthew Harmon had an another take on how to solve the problem: "A better idea would be to require prospective architects to actually build something. In my view, designing a building without an understanding of how it gets built is irresponsible, economically, socially, and from an environmental standpoint." Meanwhile, Conrad Skinner felt that the whole process was unnecessary and demeaning, considering that codes dictated best practices and that students at accredited schools were already tested in all major areas: "There is an element of sadism in the architectural credential process. For how long should a person who is good at architecture, or any art, have to prove over and over to bureaucrats that they are worthy of practicing?" On the other hand, Edward Casagrande argued that education- and technology-based curriculums were the real problem: “The need to edify the human spirit has been sacrificed to CAD, tech templates and an arrogant disregard and disrespect to the belief that 'Architecture is the mother of all arts.'" "The idea that Architecture is undervalued comes from a lack of public awareness about what an Architect actually gives them. This I fault the AIA for," quipped an unapologetic Zach Hicks. Be that as it may, Michael Curtis left us with a simple truth: "Was Michelangelo licensed? Bernini?" Is the AIA "fight(ing) any effort to minimize the requirements for professional licensure in architecture?" Have your say in the comments.
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The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has issued a statement denouncing the growing trend of states removing architectural licensure requirements. In its first Where We Stand statement of 2018, the AIA came out strongly against a practice that they consider as contrary to their commitment to securing the "health, safety and welfare of all who occupy and visit the structures that they design." The past few years have seen a rollback of professional licensure requirements across the United States, including architecture, in the name of lowering barriers to entry and fostering competition. This is a shortsighted, the AIA argues, as rigorous education and licensing keeps consumers safe. To emphasize their point, the AIA has also produced a map indicating states where through either legislation or executive orders, licensure requirements have been threatened or rolled back from 2015 to 2018. As a counterpoint, the institute has put forth ideas for strengthening license requirements across the country, as well as allowing architects to operate across state lines in times of crisis. While proponents of such rollbacks can cite a few examples of overreach, the AIA has put out this statement to remind the public that licensure requires passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) and a familiarity with local conditions and laws. Just last summer, the highly-publicized arrest of an architect who was practicing without a license in upstate New York brought a dose of well-deserved attention to the issue. "The essential purpose of licensing architects is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and shield consumers from unqualified practitioners," said AIA President Carl Elefante. "This is a responsibility our profession fully accepts and takes quite seriously, and we will fight any effort to minimize the requirements for professional licensure in architecture."
[Editor’s Note: This the third in a three-part series documenting the winners of the AIA 2018 Honor Awards, which are broken down into three categories: architecture, interior architecture, and urban design. This list covers the regional and urban design awards, but additional segments spotlight winners in architecture and interior architecture.] The American Institute of Architects announced its 2018 recipients of the Institute Honor Awards January 12. The 17 winners were pulled from approximately 500 submissions from across the globe and only three regional and urban design projects took home the prize. The designs range from the double-award winning Chicago Riverwalk, to frameworks for dealing with sea level rise. In one way or another, this year's notable topic was living with water. The five-person jury that selected this year’s AIA Regional and Urban Design Honor Award winners included:
- Roger Schluntz, FAIA (Chair), School of Architecture and Planning, University of Mexico
- Lisa Chronister, AIA, City of Oklahoma City Planning Department
- Suzanne DiGeronimo, FAIA, DiGeronimo Architects
- Tim Griffin, AIA, Minnesota Design Center
- Gerry Tierney, AIA, Perkins+Will.
This is the first article in a three part series documenting the 2018 AIA Institute Honor Awards. This lists the winners of the architecture category, while additional segments contain the winners in the interior architecture and regional & urban design categories. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the 2018 winners of the AIA Institute Honor Awards. The list contains projects from all around the world, and of varying programs and uses, and honors firms both large and small. From a girls’ school in Afghanistan to a municipal salt shed, this year’s widely diverse group of winning projects will be recognized at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 in New York City, in late June. This year's eight member jury panel included:
- Lee Becker, FAIA (Chair), Hartman-Cox Architects
- Anne Marie Decker, FAIA, Duvall Decker Architects
- Susan Johnson, AIA, Strata; Anna Jones, Assoc. AIA, MOD Design
- Caitlin Kessler, AIAS Student Representative, University of Arizona
- Merilee Meacock, AIA, KSS Architects
- Robert Miller, FAIA, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
- Sharon Prince, Grace Farms Foundation
- Rob Rogers, FAIA, Rogers Partners.
For the first time since the Twenty-Five Year award program was opened in 1971, the AIA has decided that there is no winner. The award honors a building that has "stood the test of time for 25-35 years and continues to set standards of excellence for its architectural design and significance," according to the AIA. Moreover, the building must completed, in good shape, and not be significantly changed from its intended design. In 2017, the Twenty-five Year Award went to the Grand Louvre – Phase 1, by I.M.Pei & Partners (Pei Cobb Freed & Partners). According to a statement released by the AIA to AN, the jury "felt that there were submissions that appeal to architects and there were those that appeal to the public. The consensus was that the Twenty-five Year Award should appeal to both. Unfortunately, this year the jury did not find a submission that it felt achieved twenty-five years of exceptional aesthetic and cultural relevance while also representing the timelessness and positive impact the profession aspires to achieve." Needless to say, this is quite a snub to any buildings completed between 1983 and 1993. While it's hard to speculate what the top contenders would have been, perhaps this is also a comment on the speed of demolition and the challenges of preserving outstanding buildings from this decade. The 2018 jury included Lee Becker, FAIA, Hartman-Cox Architects (Washington, D.C.); Anne Marie Decker, FAIA, Duvall Decker Architects (Jackson, Miss.); Susan Johnson, AIA, Strata Architecture + Preservation (Kansas City, Mo.); Anna Jones, Assoc. AIA, Shyft Collective (Johnston, Iowa); Merilee Meacock, AIA, KSS Architects (Princeton, N.J.); Robert Miller, FAIA, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (Seattle); Sharon Prince, Grace Farms Foundation (New Canaan, Conn.); Rob Rogers, FAIA, Rogers Partners (New York); student representative Caitlin Jean Kessler, the University of Arizona.
After raising the alarm on provisions in Congress's tax plan that would negatively affect architects, the AIA is "encouraged" by revisions that were announced Friday night. The amendments arose during the reconciliation of the Senate and House tax bills that began on December 4. Notably, the changes keep the Historic Tax Credit (HTC), an incentive that spurs revitalization of older buildings in both blue and red states. Originally, the Senate's plan kept the HTC but spread the current 20 percent credit for recognized historic structures over five years, a move that would have diluted the credit's impact. (The bill also would have nixed the ten percent credit for buildings erected before 1936.) The House's version would have eliminated the HTC entirely. The reconciled, final bill, officially known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, gives architects more flexibility to use the 20 percent credit. The revised bill also allows a 20 percent deduction for what are known as pass-though businesses. These include S-corps, sole proprietorships, and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and are often (but not always) small businesses. Due in part to the AIA's lobbying, the bill also exempts architecture and engineering firms from restrictions on deductions that apply to other service-oriented businesses.
In a prepared statement on the changes, AIA 2018 President Carl Elefante thanked members for their support in opposing key provision of the bill, and explained the outcome of the AIA's advocacy: "The AIA lobbied hard and successfully to improve this bill, and to ensure that architects continue to be major job creators in the American economy. Gaining tax relief for architects who organize as pass through companies—which includes the majority of U.S. architecture firms—is a significant improvement over earlier drafts. So is preserving at least in part the Historic Tax Credit, which was totally abolished by the original House tax reform bill."
The AIA is gearing up to fight the House's and Senate's tax plan, both of which eviscerate historic tax credits and disadvantage architecture firms, especially smaller ones. In a statement released last night, the professional organization said it would lobby hard against provisions in both versions of the bill, which is officially known as Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The House's plan eliminates the Historic Tax Credit (HTC), an incentive that's key to revitalizing buildings along historic main streets and downtowns. The Senate's rules, meanwhile, would spread out the current 20 percent credit for recognized historic structures over five years, and eliminate the ten percent credit for buildings erected before 1936. The legislation goes into conference today. The HTC is an important revitalization tool for municipalities across the country. A 2015 report by the National Park Service and Rutgers University showed the HTC preserved more than 42,000 buildings nationwide and generated $131 billion in private investment since they were introduced in 1981. By offsetting the design and construction services needed to rehab older, often blighted buildings, the credits have created 2.4 million jobs in construction and administration. "By weakening the Historic Tax Credits, Congress and the Administration will hurt historic rehabilitation projects all across the country—something to which architects have been committed for decades," said Thomas Vonier, the AIA's 2017 president. "Since 1976, the HTCs have generated some $132 billion in private investment, involving nearly 43,000 projects. The Historic Tax Credit is fundamental to maintaining America's architectural heritage." "Our members across the country are already mobilized to make sure their Congressional delegations know these views. In the coming days, we will spare no effort to make sure members of the House-Senate conference committee know the views of the AIA's more than 90,000 members on the inequities in both pieces of legislation," he said. "So far, this legislation still falls well short of these goals. If passed, Congress would be making a terrible mistake." On the operations side, for all small firms (regardless of industry), the Senate bill permits some ("pass through" businesses) to take a 23 percent tax deduction. Bills from both sides of Congress, however, exclude certain professional categories from these benefits; under the proposed rules, only the tiniest architecture firms would receive tax relief.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the winners of their 2017 Innovation Awards. This annual recognition by the AIA's Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community honors architects and designers for the implementation of new practices and the innovative use of technology in the built environment. The awards are divided into five categories: Stellar Design; Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence; Project Lifecycle Performance; Practice-based or Academic Research, Curriculum or Applied Technology Development; and Exemplary Use in a Small Firm. The four winning projects for 2017 include: The Bahá’í Temple of South America, designed by Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects, is honored for Stellar Design. Located on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile, the design of marble and glass paneling focuses on the interplay and reflection of light, both within and outside of the temple. These glass panels were developed specifically for this building through machine-to-machine fabrication technology in order to create their irregular shapes and unique light-capturing qualities. During the day, natural light reflects into the dome-shaped glass structure, creating a stellar lustrous performance. At night, the opposite happens, the light from inside the temple reflects towards the majestic outside landscape of the Andes Mountains. The temple demonstrates innovation through its material, technological and structural composition, which is designed to withstand extreme earthquakes, a reality of the area. The Yard at The Chicago Shakespeare Theater, designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture in collaboration with CharcoalBlue and Bulley & Andrews, is also recognized for Stellar Design. The design features an electrochromic facade clad in tinted transformational glass, which is designed to adjust with the outside light, becoming more opaque during daylight hours and clearing up as the sun diminishes in the evening. This technology serves to alleviate the effects of glare and heating from natural light, which reduces energy needs for cooling inside of the building. The performance venue also allows for reconfiguration and flexibility to accommodate different performance types with audience sizes ranging from 150 to 850 people. Garden Village, designed by Nautilus Group and Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects, is recognized under the Project Delivery & Construction Administration Excellence category. Located in Berkeley, California, the design is admired for striking an impressive balance between dense, yet open community living. Constructed entirely through modular building technology, the apartment complex is composed of 18 detached buildings connected by a network of walkways and garden areas. Two module types compose the entire project, with every detail refined in full-scale mock-ups as in the automobile industry, allowing for cost savings. This high-density living situation is focused on sustainability and community bonds–no parking spots are provided for the residents, but instead, bike parking, discounted transit tickets, and on-site car-sharing services are made readily available. The individual building rooftops also serve as urban farms and produce up to 16 tons of harvest every year. The Reality Capture Workshop of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture is recognized for their project in Volterra, Italy, under the Practice-based or Academic Research, Curriculum or Applied Technology Development category. This workshop-style initiative provides a unique international research experience for students and professionals working with innovative reality capture technologies such as 3-D computer modeling, laser scanning, drone and camera capture of historical architecture in the ancient city of Volterra. No winners were chosen for Project Lifecycle Performance and Exemplary Use in a Small Firm. This year's jury was chaired by Matthew Krissel, AIA, partner at KieranTimberlake, and included Tyler Goss, innovative development manager at Turner Construction; Paola Moya, Assoc. AIA, CEO and principal at Marshall Moya Design; Jeffrey Pastva, AIA, project architect at JDavis Architects; and Brian Skripac, Assoc. AIA, vice president and director of virtual design and construction at CannonDesign.
On October 12, the Trump administration announced that the United States would withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations agency responsible for the designation of World Heritage Sites. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has issued a public statement that decries this decision. In the statement, AIA president Thomas Vonier advocated for the World Heritage Sites program, which is important to architects because it "seeks to identify and preserve buildings and places of exceptional importance to humankind." He also noted that UNESCO had recently partnered with the International Union of Architects on a new project to select an annual World Capital of Architecture. This project, he argued, makes UNESCO's mission to support architectural heritage all the more critical. "The AIA urges the Administration to lends its support to this initiative," he concluded. UNESCO–short for the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization–protects over 1,000 sites of architectural, natural, and cultural importance. Once selected, World Heritage Sites are demarcated and protected as landmarks. The United States is home to 23 of these sites, including the Statue of Liberty, the San Antonio Missions, Independence Hall, and Yellowstone National Park. The Trump Administration chose to withdraw from the global initiative citing "the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias" as its reasoning. The bias mentioned is likely in reference to UNESCO's recognition of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site earlier this summer. With Hebron's addition, Palestine now hosts three World Heritage Sites (all of which are considered endangered by UNESCO), as compared to the nine in Israel (none of which are). The United States has not been able to vote in UNESCO procedures since 2013, when the Obama Administration cut funding for the organization. This cut was in direct reaction to UNESCO's recognition of the first World Heritage Sites in Palestine. The U.S. government hasn't entirely separated themselves from the organization. Instead, they plan to adopt the role of a "non-member observer state" in continued engagement with UNESCO. In this capacity, they will remain involved only to offer American perspectives on the organization's undertakings. The withdrawal takes full effect on December 31, 2018.
Almost two weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm, museums, theaters, and local AIA chapters are reporting widely varying degrees of damage. Some of the best-known museums and other attractions in Houston were relatively unaffected by the rain and flooding that overwhelmed the region, and their collections are secure. Institutions that were mostly spared by the storm include The Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and the Blaffer Art Museum. Others weren’t so fortunate. Close to where the storm first struck on August 25, the Rockport Center for the Arts in Rockport, Texas, was hit hard. “From images I have been provided and third-party accounts, it appears the building has sustained serious external damage,” director Luis Purón said in a statement posted on the institution's Facebook page shortly after the storm landed. “One image demonstrates that the front porch is completely gone and a roof structure in the front of the building is exposed and thus compromised ... We won’t know about internal damage until we are able to re-enter and inspect the building. The timeline for that is uncertain.” In Houston, Bayou Bend, the house museum of American decorative arts that is part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, suffered “inundated gardens, flooded outbuildings and significant water in the basement of the main house,” museum director Gary Tinterow reported in an email message to colleagues. Rienzi, the house museum for European decorative arts, had flooding in its gardens, according to the museum’s website. The collections in both buildings are safe but the structures remain temporarily closed to the public and most of the scheduled programs have been canceled, the website notes. In Houston’s Theater District, a 17-block area downtown that is home to a variety of arts organizations and sees more than two million visitors a year, many of the performing venues experienced water penetration, including Jones Hall, home of the Houston Symphony, and the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Houston’s Alley Theatre “has been devastated” by the hurricane, with its Neuhaus Theatre and Mitchell lobby under 10 feet of water, and is closed for “the foreseeable future,” according to its website. “We are forced to move to other spaces around Houston to produce our shows, though we expect to be back by the holidays,” one message said. Even the home of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapter in Houston was flooded. AIA Houston had also been renovating a 1906 structure, the B.A. Reisner Building, for Architecture Center Houston, and it took on four feet of water. According to the chapter, the space at 902 Commerce Street was within three weeks of completion and flood mitigation features weren’t fully installed when the storm hit, so the space suffered “almost total devastation.” AIA Houston has launched a $100,000 GoFundMe campaign to help finish construction. Anecdotal examples fail to convey the widespread scope of the damage. Throughout south Texas, houses, stores, and other commercial buildings were damaged either by winds or flooding or both. NBC called it “the greatest rainfall event in the continental United States,” with almost 52 inches of rain reported in one area outside Houston. More than 40,000 people went to shelters and more than 400,000 have sought federal funding assistance. The economic impact has been estimated at more than $100 billion. “This is the largest hurricane to hit Texas in close to 20 years,” said Paul Dennehy, president of the Texas Society of Architects. “We’re talking about 50 inches of rain falling in one place. It’s the equivalent of two weeks of flow of the Mississippi River. No infrastructure can withstand that.” Even though it was eventually downgraded to a tropical storm, Dennehy said, Harvey caused damage in two ways. When it first hit land near Corpus Christi and Rockport, it brought high winds as well as rain, and that alone knocked down trees and destroyed buildings. Then as Harvey became a tropical storm and lingered over Texas, the rain caused massive flooding. The hit-and-miss nature of the damage was due to many factors, from the age and location of buildings to the adequacy of storm drains. Rural, suburban, and urban areas all were affected. “All of it is terrible,” Dennehy said. “Houston is getting the focus [of national attention] because it’s an urban area. It’s the fourth largest city in the country. But the damage is widespread. There are other areas that are equally devastated. Rockport. Port Aransas. These are areas of total devastation. They were right at ground zero of the hurricane.” As the flood waters recede and efforts shift from rescue to recovery, the AIA is playing a major role in disaster assistance. The National Endowment for the Arts and other organizations have become involved as well. According to public relations manager Matt Tinder, AIA National wants the Texas Society of Architects to take the lead during the initial stages of recovery. The Texas Society is a statewide AIA organization and oversees 17 chapters around the state. The AIA’s national office has the ability to bring in experts from around the country through its Disaster Assistance Program, which was established in 1972 to “equip architects with the knowledge and skills to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster.” But there is little point in sending teams from other states until the flooded areas dry out more, Tinder said. For now, “it is being done through the Texas chapter of the AIA,” Tinder said. “There is going to be a larger effort. But there are architects who are already in Texas and prepared.” Dennehy said it’s appropriate to utilize Texas-based architects first because they are licensed to practice in the state and already familiar with the damaged areas. He said the Texas Society has architects throughout the state who are trained in disaster assistance and has already begun training even more, starting with a session in Austin last Friday. “We are working to mobilize our members,” Dennehy said. “The Texas chapter has more than 7,000. We have had an outpouring of firms that have asked to help. “ Because of the specialized nature of disaster assistance, the Texas Society wants to be sure participants are properly trained, he added. “It’s not that people can just come down to help. You have to have training and be qualified.” Around the country, hundreds of architects and other design professionals and companies have offered to do what they can, said Carl Elefante, the AIA’s 2017 First Vice President and 2018 President Elect, in a posting on Facebook. “AIA National, the Texas Society of Architects, AIA Houston and hundreds of architects around the country are rallying to make a real difference at this time of great need,” he said. For cultural organizations such as museums and theaters that suffered damage, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that it is coordinating efforts to provide assistance. “The NEA expresses its deepest concern and most heartfelt sympathies for the millions of people in Texas and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Harvey,” said agency chair Jane Chu, in a statement. “We are working to coordinate support for arts organizations in the regions designated a disaster area by FEMA, and we stand ready to support the recovery of the arts and cultural communities in the devastated areas” The NEA has responded to other national emergencies in the past, such as Hurricane Katrina. In this case, “we are coordinating with the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Division of the Arts in the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development to assess the situation and those arts organizations hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey,” Chu said. “As the current situation stabilizes, the National Endowment for the Arts is prepared to direct additional funds to these state arts agencies for re-granting to affected organizations, as we have done in the past.” The U. S. General Services Administration has also taken action to aid in relocation and rebuilding efforts. On Friday, officials announced that the department has raised monetary thresholds for certain purchasing and leasing activities. Raising the thresholds, they say, will help contracting officers gain access to the resources they need. Dennehy, who is based in Fort Worth and heads his own firm there, Dennehy Architects, said Texas architects can benefit from the experience of other states that have been struck by hurricanes and forced to rebuild. “We are joining the ranks of Florida and New Jersey and New York and Louisiana that have been devastated by these storms,” he said. “We have a lot to learn from them.” It won’t be a short process, he warned. “The assessments will go on for months. The recovery efforts will go on for years.” Dennehy said the Texas Society plans to concentrate its efforts initially on storm-damaged areas in Texas, including Rockport, Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur. But if a neighboring state needs assistance, he said, it will respond as well. “Because of the enormity of it, we are focusing on Texas,” he said. But “nobody is going to draw a hard line when it comes to helping. We are going to help each other.”
As flood waters begin to recede in Texas and daylight illuminates the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, many architects are wondering what the next steps will be as recovery plans begin to take shape. The short-term work will be to assess the damage and make the built environment safe for families to return; however, the long-term planning may take months or likely years of advocacy and design to fully implement. The Houston chapter of the AIA, the Texas Society of Architects, and FEMA will begin this week to train architects and engineers as part of the AIA’s Safety Assessment Program (SAP). This program helps to ensure the safety of the public as thousands of families return to their storm-battered houses and business in the coming weeks. Architects can help save millions of dollars for cities along the coast by volunteering to evaluate the habitability of these structures, freeing up funds for life safety and other emergency services. These volunteers will also help to compile data that will be used to develop new response strategies and better inform residents about how to manage the reconstruction of their houses. The last major hurricane to hit Houston was Ike back in 2008 in which the flooding conditions were not as severe, though many consider it an early warning of what was to come. According to Rusty Bienvenue, the executive director of AIA Houston, there are a variety of opinions about why the flooding was so extensive, but ultimately, “no city in America is prepared for 35 inches of rain all at once.” Bienvenue cautioned against blaming the extensive flooding wholly on Houston's zoning codes, or rather lack of code, arguing that approach is a narrow analysis of the complex environmental conditions. “We need to look at codes and strengthen them in some cases, but I get grumpy when some blame everything on supposedly bad design in Houston,” he said. Bienvenue indicated that poor regional planning and overbuilding around the reservoirs may have had detrimental effects on Houston's ability to drain its floodwaters during the worst of Hurricane Harvey. He also pointed towards a more pernicious problem, which is the likelihood that the severity of this storm was the result of global climate change. Resiliency planning and design has been a topic of great debate among Texas’ academic institutions, particularly at Rice University’s SSPEED Center in Houston, Texas and Texas A&M’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center in College Station, Texas. These and other issues will be at the forefront of the discourse as designers look for solutions to safeguard American coastal cities.
In response to the Trump administration's announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), as well as members of the design community, are releasing comments and statements in opposition to the decision. Architects Advocate also penned an open letter urging members of the House of Representatives to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. We will continuously update this story as statements are submitted to The Architect’s Newspaper. Thomas Vonier, FAIA, AIA President:
The United States must remain a leader in the battle to cease harmful and needless practices that damage the planet and its climate, acting out of both environmental concerns and national economic interests. Instead of helping our economy, as the Administration contends, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will put us behind our major global competitors. The AIA will not retreat from its long-established efforts to conserve energy and to deploy renewable resources in buildings. We will continue to lead in efforts to curb the use of fuels and technologies that needlessly pollute our atmosphere and harm our environment. This makes good sense economically, and it is in the best interests of those we serve: our clients and the public. We will also urge our members throughout the United States and the world to assist cities, states, organizations and citizen groups in meeting the aims of the climate accord. By adhering to our values as a profession that is concerned with human habitat and the health of our environment, we will help to mitigate the harm this decision will do to our economy and to America's stature across the globe.Mahesh Ramanujam, president & CEO, U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC) and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI):
As many know the Paris Agreement, under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), establishes voluntary actions to address greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change mitigation and adaptation—and 194 countries around the world are signatories. The United States government has an opportunity to lead on this and, in so doing, strengthen global partnerships, yet has chosen to walk away. We are deeply disappointed to learn of the Administration’s decision to withdraw from the historic Paris Agreement today. We are facing an important crossroads and America must keep building. We need to keep building bridges and bonds and breaking barriers in the push for a sustainable future for all. While the pullout of the U.S. government from the Paris Agreement will be felt across the world, the surge of climate commitments and actions by the private sector, NGO’s, governments, cities and states, will only serve to strengthen the green building movement and keep pushing us forward. For 24 years, USGBC has led the green building movement with a strong vision – that buildings, communities, and cities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within this generation. Today, our efforts continue unabated and with stronger than ever commitment and hope. Yes, hope. We are hopeful for the future because we know that our movement is a community of 13 million strong and growing. We are encouraged by their continued commitment to build a sustainable future for all. U.S. companies, including many USGBC members, are already working to address business risks from climate change and to adapt their businesses to domestic and global opportunities created around climate mitigation needs. Businesses and local governments are wisely seeking and investing in low-carbon fuels and technologies to stay on the cutting edge of the global economy. And with platforms like Arc, more and more companies and government entities are tracking their carbon emissions, committing to reduction targets, and taking action. Right now, business as usual is no longer an option. With the work of our organization, our members, our volunteers and many others, we have reached the point where the transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable; but remains urgent. And all around us, we see that there are new leaders who are ready to rise, inspired by the promise of a brighter future for our children and for generations to come. They are the big corporations and small business owners, educators and innovators, scientists and activists, non-profit employees and policy makers, advocates and so many more who are working every day to change our world, definitively, for the better. To these leaders, green building is the key solution to pushing our built environment to be supportive and restorative of all life.James Miner, AICP, Managing Principal, Sasaki:
It appears that the president has decided to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. We gathered as a firm just yesterday to discuss the importance of moving from intent to action. We also talked about the need to take a stand together at times when our collective values are being called into question. Now is one of those times. As a community of designers that aspire to bring positive change to the world through the power of place, I would like to make clear that our position on climate change remains strong. As we all understand and appreciate, the topic of climate change is one that will far outlast the current political cycle. We cannot and will not change our stance towards responsible stewardship of our planet. Read the full statement from Sasaki here.Van Alen Institute
This past December, in response to the divisions revealed by the presidential election, we launched Crossroads Conversations on the Red Steps in Times Square. The program, which has since become a multipart series, invited people from all walks of life and political convictions to engage in a ten-minute conversation with a stranger. One participant, a young firefighter from New Orleans, introduced himself with, “I’m a Trump guy.” When the topic of climate change arose, his response was, “It’s undeniable. When you walk outside in Louisiana, you know this isn’t right.” He continued to rattle off statistics about the escalating global temperature, emphasizing the need to address climate change on an international level. Though only a brief moment at the “Crossroads of the World,” the conversation highlighted how the broader national belief in the reality of climate change and faith in science, particularly among younger generations, can overcome last week’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords amid ongoing partisan divide. We can envision a future in which climate change is no longer a politicized issue, in the same way the issue doesn’t divide populations in other countries, where scientific research is the foundation of collective goals. Van Alen Institute’s work in the young firefighter’s home state of Louisiana has renewed our commitment to developing projects that address climate change issues in communities around the world. In that particular region, we served as a key partner with the Environmental Defense Fund and BuroHappold Engineering on Changing Course, a design competition that launched in 2011 to envision a more sustainable Lower Mississippi River Delta; the competition’s findings are now informing regional master plans. Of course, our approach to climate change goes far beyond the Gulf Coast. Back in our own region, we served as a lead partner on Rebuild by Design, an initiative of President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the region, and develop fundable solutions to better protect residents from future climate events. We invite you to browse all of our climate-related work here.[Statement from the Van Alen Institute continues on vanalen.org]