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New Sustainability Report Outlines Recommended Focus Areas

The Sustainability Leadership Opportunity Scan provides an AIA roadmap for advancing architectural leadership through sustainability.

By Mike Plotnick

A newly published sustainability report identifies four unique areas where the AIA can most effectively strengthen the sustainability leadership and influence of architects. Researched and written by AIA Resident Fellow Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA, the Sustainable Leadership Opportunity Scan summarizes current sustainability activities within the design and construction industry and outlines recommended high priority issues for the AIA.

“The AIA has equipped its members with valuable resources to advance sustainability within their practices and across the profession for the last 30 years,” says AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “Our responsibility to strengthen the architectural profession’s leadership and influence in sustainability has not abated, and continues to be vital to the future of our clients and our communities.”

Closely aligned with the Repositioning the AIA initiative, the scan seeks to expand leadership opportunities for architects, deliver value to clients and communities, and improve the public’s understanding of the valuable role architects play. It highlights the current state of sustainability priorities and emerging trends across a wide spectrum of organizations, firms, and institutions. This research included more than 40 interviews with AIA and non-AIA affiliates, as well as extensive web research and document review.

Four Priority Issues

A 12-person advisory group of diverse thought leaders helped to synthesize the research into four priority issues that will make the greatest impact for the profession. The scan’s recommendations include two core issues (central to the architect’s current role) and two emerging issues (rapidly escalating areas where architects can contribute to a better environment for current and future generations).

Core Issues

    Energy: Drive building energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy toward meeting the AIA 2030 goals of achieving net-zero energy in buildings.

    • Materials: Equip architects to make informed decisions about material selections based on full life-cycle and health-related criteria.

Emerging Issues

    • Design & Health: Play an active role in improving human health and wellness through the design of the built environment.

    • Resilience: Promote design that adapts to changing conditions and that maintains or regains functionality and vitality in the face of natural and man-made disturbances.

The AIA Board validated these recommendations at its September 2013 meeting, and agreed to move forward with implementation, subject to the Board’s operating plan and budget approvals.

To maximize results within each focus area, the scan recommends that the AIA seek collaborative opportunities with complementary partners. “The AIA should build on its long-standing alliances and stature to expand its impact, while identifying new relationships that will address the additional skill sets and areas of research,” Lazarus says. “Similar to the work of architects in their own firms, this must be a truly collaborative effort to be effective.”

Included in the report is a three-year timeline of priority actions for advancing each of the four issues. “Each issue is at a different place in its evolution, so we developed the recommendations based on an analysis of the current state at the AIA and identification of where efforts would have the greatest benefit to Repositioning,” Lazarus says.

The scan acknowledges that architects have a unique, pivotal role to play in sustainability, as designers of places and spaces that people occupy. “Our dynamic world urgently needs the unique problem-solving skills that architects and design professionals bring to it,” Lazarus says. “By taking a comprehensive approach and coming together around these core issues, all of us will benefit: our practices, our clients, our communities, and our profession. In many ways, these issues bring us back full circle to what drew so many of us to the profession of architecture in the first place,” she says.

Advisory Group members who contributed to shaping and refining the recommendations include: Betsy del Monte, FAIA, Texas Society of Architects; Carl Elefante, FAIA, AIA Board; Jeffrey Ferweda, AIA, Small Firm Roundtable; Melissa Gallagher-Rogers, U.S. Green Building Council; Suzanna Wight Kelley, AIA, AIA National; Bill Leddy, FAIA, COTE Advisory Group Chair; Vivian Loftness, AIA, Past COTE Chair; Rico Quirindongo, AIA, AIA Seattle and AIA Board Communications Committee; Lisa Richmond, AIA Seattle; Colin Rohlfing, Assoc. AIA, AIA Chicago; Bill Roschen, FAIA, AIA Design and Health Leadership Group Chair; and Bill Wilson II, FAIA, AIA Emeritus Board.

Download the full report and executive summary.


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