Trump/AIA. . . A Sleeping Giant Awakens

The election of Donald Trump, and a hastily composed (and later retracted) post-election statement by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), has galvanized the U.S. design community. After much soul-searching prompted by anxiety and anger, architects and our allied design and planning professionals have articulated a vibrant vision for themselves and their profession.

Design professionals, faculty, students, AIA chapters and other organizations have made it clear that we care deeply about climate change and its consequences, and we understand that there is an urgent need to build a just, equitable, and sustainable built environment worldwide. Many are anxious about what the recent election means for the future, but there’s also an increased awareness that we, as individuals and as a profession, are a formidable force for implementing change.

Now is the time to act. We plan, design, specify, and influence the built world. We can be complicit in further environmental disruption that leads to human suffering, or we can resolve to create a built environment that mitigates and even reverses the worst effects of climate change.

To that end, Architecture 2030 calls for the following actions:

Professional Organizations (e.g., American Institute of Architects, American Planning Association, ASHRAE, Urban Land Institute, Congress for the New Urbanism, US Green Building Council, etc.):

  • Promote carbon neutral design and planning to fulfill the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Advocate for institutions and governments at all levels to do the same.
  • End the distinction between “design” awards and “sustainable design” awards. All design and planning awards must include environmental and social stewardship as a core criterion, including an evaluation of how projects effectively and skillfully address energy consumption and emissions and promote resiliency, as well as aesthetics and other programmatic concerns.
  • Promote sustainable and resilient communities, including access to affordable housing, local renewable energy (e.g. community solar), public transportation, and community services.

Accrediting and Registration Boards, and Academic Organizations  (e.g. National Architectural Accrediting Board, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, etc.):

  • Establish ecological literacy and competency in carbon neutral design as part of all core design studio courses, and as a prerequisite for professional licensure and accreditation of professional degree programs.
  • Establish continuing education in carbon neutral design, tools, products, and climate adaptation and resiliency, as a requirement for intern development and professional license renewal.
  • Promote design and planning work and scholarship that advances a deep understanding of the relationship between built and natural environments.
  • Support exceptional instruction and student work that demonstrates theoretical and practical competence in designing and planning resilient, sustainable, equitable, and carbon-neutral built environments.

Students and Faculty:

  • Students:
    • Demand a design and planning education that prepares students intellectually and practically for the future of a carbon-neutral built environment and the challenges posed by rapid urbanization and projected climate disruption.
    • Be creative, informed, and inclusive. Solving climate change through the built environment is about visionary planning and design, active engagement in social issues, and a working understanding of policy and building technologies.
  • Faculty:
    • Inspire and prepare the next generation of designers and planners through innovative coursework that integrate lessons in energy, emissions, resiliency, embodied carbon, and climate adaptation in all courses, and specifically in design studio projects.
    • Teach the values and strategies that contribute to the creation of urban built environments that are sustainable, just, and equitable. Over the next 15 years, 1.1 billion people will move into urban areas worldwide, which is the equivalent of the entire population of the Western Hemisphere (North, Central, and South America).

Firms and Practitioners:

  • Commit to carbon-neutral design and planning in all projects, and report progress toward that goal.
  • Commit to reducing the embodied carbon of projects through planning, design, construction methods, and product specifications. This is especially important as we move towards a zero carbon built environment.
  • Design for the challenges posed by the projected impacts of climate change and rapid urbanization.

Everyone:

  • Use your voice. Insist that your institutions represent your values. We must harness the renewed sense of purpose we’ve seen over the last few weeks, and use our voice not just in our internal debates, but also to advocate for action on a broader level.
  • Participate in local, state and national politics. The core values of the design community are expressed through actions.

Recent events have awakened a sleeping giant.  Now is the time to channel this newfound energy and work toward a carbon-free future, one that leverages the transformative power of design and planning to create a better world.

– Ed Mazria, Founder and CEO, Architecture 2030


Illustration from
Tales from The Edda, by Helen Zimmern and Kate Greenway (W. Swan Sonnenschein, London, 1882. Public domain.) Adapted by Demetra Mazria.