Obligations to Environment and Society: 2007 Amendments and Updates
0By Rena M. Klein, FAIA
0The AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (Code) is a document that expresses the best aspirations of the architectural community of practice. While much of the Code deals with business-related conduct and adherence to the law, there are canons and ethical standards that ask AIA members for more. In 2007, the Code was amended to reinforce the policies and values of the AIA, as determined by its Board of Directors (Board).
0The Code has been amended 30 times in the last 99 years to reflect the changing values of the AIA membership and the society at large. For example, in the seventies it was considered unethical for an AIA member to engage in design-build. In the nineties, the Code was changed to include sexual orientation in the wording of the Rule 1.401 (cited below). In 2007, amendments to the Code were approved that reflect affirmative institutional support for pro bono work and for sustainable design and development practices.
Understanding Applied Ethics
0As background to understanding the 2007 amendments, it is necessary to examine the basic ethical principals that are the foundation of the Code. This begins with an understanding that practicing architecture involves making numerous decisions that impact the environment and society, as well as clients and users. This means that ethical thinking – determining what is right or wrong – must play a role. In their textbook, Ethics and the Practice of Architecture (John Wiley & Sons, 2000), Barry Wasserman, FAIA; Patrick Sullivan, FAIA; and, Gregory Palermo, FAIA, discuss four distinct theories upon which ethical decisions can be based – utility theory, deontology, virtue theory and social contract theory.
0Two of these theories dominate the applied ethics of the Code.
1. Virtue Theory: actions based on taking personal responsibility to achieve excellence; excellence in things, persons or practices will give rise to an excellent community
0Examples of virtue theory from the Code:
Ethical Standard 1.2 Standards of Excellence: Members should continually seek to raise the standards of aesthetic excellence, architectural education, research, training, and practice.
Ethical Standard 4.2 Dignity and Integrity: Members should strive, through their actions, to promote the dignity and integrity of the profession, and to ensure that their representatives and employees conform their conduct to this Code.
2. Social Contract Theory: actions based on social contract between equals; obligation to structured agreements designed to balance conflicting interests and promote fairness; autonomy of individuals entitled to certain rights and access to the ability to improve themselves balanced with the security and stability of the political collective
0Examples of social contract theory from the Code:
Rule 1.401: Members shall not discriminate in their professional activities on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
Rule 4.102: Members shall not sign or seal drawings, specifications, reports, or other professional work for which they do not have responsible control.
0Like much of the Code, the 2007 amendments are grounded in virtue theory. They elevate sustainable practices and pro bono services to the level of ethical activities to be undertaken as “good works” by “good architects.” The message is clear – by being better architects, members can help create better communities and a better world.
0This is distinct from contract theory – agreements among equals designed to balance conflicting interests. Usually these types of agreements are mandatory, such as complying with the zoning codes or disclosing conflicts of interest. In the 2007 updates to the AIA Contract Documents, ethical actions are reinforced by requiring architects to represent the interests of the environment along with those of their clients.
Understanding the Ethics Code
0The AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is organized into three tiers of statements. First are the Cannons which are broad principles of conduct. The Cannons articulate big-picture obligations of AIA members to the various stakeholders involved in professional practice. Until 2007 there were five Cannons: General Obligations and Obligations to the Public, to the Client, to the Profession, and to Colleagues. In 2007, Canon VI Obligations to the Environment was added.
0Each Cannon is followed by Ethical Standards defined in the Preamble of the Code as, “more specific goals toward which Members should aspire in professional performance and behavior.” Failure to meet Ethical Standards is not considered grounds for disciplinary action.
0However, some Ethical Standards do give rise to Rules which are mandatory. Violations of rules can be grounds for action by the National Ethics Council should a complaint be filed. Many Rules are further explained through Commentary on how the rule is applied.
0Example of Rule and Commentary:
Rule 5.303: A Member shall not unreasonably withhold permission from a departing employee or partner to take copies of designs, drawings, data, reports, notes, or other materials relating to work performed by the employee or partner that are not confidential.
0Commentary: A Member may impose reasonable conditions, such as the payment of copying costs, on the right of departing persons to take copies of their work.
Pro Bono Work
0The 2007 amendment to Ethical Standard 2.2, Public Interest Services, encourages members to provide pro bono services for worthy projects that may not otherwise benefit from architectural services. The impetus for this came from members of the Board Community Committee who had noticed the increased involvement by AIA members in pro bono efforts.
0“The committee believed that the AIA’s Code of Ethics, although encouraging members to provide ‘public interest professional services’, did not sufficiently reflect the value that the Institute and many members place on the particular types of public interest services that are called ‘pro bono’.…As explained by Anthony (Tony) J. Costello, FAIA, a member of the pro bono subcommittee: ‘The Institute’s AIA 150—Blueprint for America initiative and the growth of Public Architecture’s 1% Program are but two instances that have prompted both AIA components and architecture firms to make a formal commitment to providing pro bono services to those sectors of our society that have not historically been well served by the profession.”
Code of Ethics Reflects Support for Pro Bono Work, Sustainability, AIArchitect (March 21, 2008)
Ethical Standard 2.2 Public Interest Services: Members should render public interest professional services, including pro bono services, and encourage their employees to render such services. Pro bono services are those rendered without expecting compensation, including those rendered for indigent persons, after disasters, or in other emergencies.
Sustainable Development and Practice
0The Committee on the Environment/Sustainability initially proposed changing the Code by amending ethical standards contained within existing canons. In 2007, the National Ethics Council proposed that a new canon be created to reflect the importance of sustainable development and practice to the Institute. The Board agreed with this approach and the new Canon was approved.
Canon VI Obligations to the Environment
0Members should promote sustainable design and development principles in their professional activities.
Ethical Standard 6.1 Sustainable Design: In performing design work, Members should be environmentally responsible and advocate sustainable building and site design.
Ethical Standard 6.2 Sustainable Development: In performing professional services, Members should advocate the design, construction, and operation of sustainable buildings and communities.
Ethical Standard 6.3 Sustainable Practices: Members should use sustainable practices within their firms and professional organizations, and they should encourage their clients to do the same.
0These ethical standards articulate three areas of sustainable practice: the design process, the development processes, and within an architect’s own workplace. They provide benchmarks for members to employ in evaluating their own daily practice. The new Canon clearly states that it is the obligation of AIA members to learn about sustainable design, to advise clients about sustainability as part of everyday practice, and to “green” their workplaces as a model to others.
0Because the new sections of Canon VI are Ethical Standards, failure to meet any one of them will not be grounds for disciplinary action by the AIA. Nevertheless, the Canon lends strong support for the notion that sustainable practices are simply “the right thing to do.” Overtime it is likely that there will be specific definition of what constitutes a violation of these ethical standards. When this occurs, Rules, which are mandatory, and Commentary on their application will surely be added. In the meantime, members who use the 2007 updates to the AIA contract documents will find they are not “off the hook” in regard to sustainability.
2007 Updates to AIA Contract Documents
0In November 2007, AIA released the 2007 update to its Contract Documents. These updates included a new Owner-Architect agreement entitled B101. As part of the new language, architects are required to discuss environmentally responsible approaches with the client and to consider how these approaches can be incorporated throughout the design process.
0Specifically, Sections 3.2.3 of B101 requires discussions with an owner about sustainability during the Schematic Design Phase, as part of Basic Services. Section 126.96.36.199 requires that the architect continue to explore environmentally responsible design alternatives in all phases of the design.
§ 3.2.3 The Architect shall present its preliminary evaluation to the Owner and shall discuss with the Owner alternative approaches to design and construction of the Project, including the feasibility of incorporating environmentally responsible design approaches. The Architect shall reach an understanding with the Owner regarding the requirements of the Project.
§ 188.8.131.52 The Architect shall consider environmentally responsible design alternatives, such as material choices and building orientation, together with other considerations based on program and aesthetics, in developing a design that is consistent with the Owner’s program, schedule, and budget for the Cost of the Work. The Owner may obtain other environmentally responsible design services under Article 4.
0Unlike the Canon VI in the Code, these contract sections are legally binding to architects who sign the 2007 B101 Agreement. This means that failure to discuss “environmentally responsible design approaches” and “consider environmentally responsible design alternatives” could be deemed a breach of contract by the architect. If this occurred, an architect could face financial penalties as well as other consequences. Similar contract language is included in B103: Owner-Architect Agreement for Large Complex Projects, sections 3.2.3 and 184.108.40.206, and B201: Standard Form for Architect’s Services: Design and Construction Contract Administration, sections 2.2.3 and 220.127.116.11.
0AIA Members Strive to Be “Legally and Ethically” Green, AIArchitect (January 11, 2008)
A Unified Policy
0As instruments of policy, contract documents and the ethics code play a complimentary role. The 2007 updated contracts are entered into voluntarily and can be used by architects whether or not they are members of the AIA. These contracts bind the parties to certain standard of behavior and can have the power to alter day-to-day practices.
0The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, on the other hand, applies to AIA members only and much of it articulates goals rather than compulsory rules. There are no new provisions in the 2007 amendments to the Code that could produce disciplinary actions against a member. Nevertheless, the Code articulates standards to which members should aspire and, in doing so, provides guidance on what it means in the AIA to be a virtuous, respectable design professional.
0The 2007 amendments to the Code and updates to the 2007 AIA contract documents present a unified initiative to bring sustainable design and development into mainstream practice. These changes, along with encouraging pro bono activities by members, make adherence to the Code more than just business as usual.
0Rena M. Klein, FAIA, principal of R.M. Klein Consulting, in Seattle, Washington, is a member of the Soloso Editorial Content Review Board and serves as the Subject Matter Expert for Practice.
0Keywords: Practice, Practice management, Ethics, Sustainability, Pro bono, Code of Ethics amendments, Contract document updates, Contract documents, Professional ethics, Article