Architects play a critical role in designing buildings and communities that use resources wisely, preserve essential ecosystems, promote equity and access, and adapt to changing conditions. The warming climate has caused widespread damage to people, ecosystems, and the built environment. We recognize that the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is the result of natural and human systems pushed beyond their ability to adapt. These climate trends are only a few of the risks facing civilization, along with unsustainable consumption of resources, land and ecosystem degradation, rapid urbanization, and social and economic inequalities. Architecture contributes nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, a percentage that has not changed significantly since the middle of the 20th century.  

The profession finds creative solutions that ensure design excellence and climate action as we make progress toward a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient, and healthy future. Every project is a new opportunity to make incremental improvements, test new strategies, and apply lessons from past projects.  

The four outcomes  

The architect's call to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public extends to the challenges of mitigating increasing climate extremes and social inequity. Architects everywhere must recognize that our profession, and every project, can harness the power of design to contribute to positive, creative solutions that address the most significant needs of our time. AIA adopted the four outcomes in 2019 as part of the Climate Action Plan. They include:

Zero carbon. Making all new buildings and renovations carbon-neutral will slow the catastrophic effects of climate change caused by the building sector and protect people, ecosystems, and value. Both operational carbon and embodied carbon must be considered when looking at the whole building carbon impact.

Equitable. Justice in the built environment fosters inclusion and access for people who have been underrepresented or struggled for justice. Centering equity in practice also creates spaces that are safe, welcoming, and address historic injustices, making a better environment for all.

Resilient. Preparing buildings for a future marked by intensifying climate challenges helps residents survive extreme events, maintain operational capabilities, and recover quickly. A resilient project addresses social, economic, and environmental concerns.

Healthy. Architects are obligated to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. The public not only includes the occupants of the buildings but also an expanded community of users: the community where the building is situated; the community that builds and maintains the building; the community where the materials are harvested, manufactured, and transported; and future generations.

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