The AIA 2030 Commitment: It Takes Leadership

When your architectural firm signs the AIA 2030 Commitment, the first big step is to create an in-house Leadership Team. Sounds simple, but leadership is a make-it-or-break-it deal.

All architectural firms have rules. We have official polices about things like vacation time and what to wear around the office. Some rules are unspoken code-of-conduct things like how to position yourself for a good desk or when to use e-mail versus when to just get up and walk down the hall.

Then there are those invisible but hard-and-fast rules that are fundamental to getting stuff done in a corporate setting, like when to play the power card versus when to use personal influence. Or knowing what you can really get away with as opposed to what will cost you later.

Bergmeyer’s 2030 Leadership team was formed with one of our hard-and-fast rules in mind: If we want anything to take hold in our firm, we must have Principals backing it. Fortunately, we had three Principals volunteer for our Leadership Team. We also had a good mix of senior-level architects/project managers and young emerging professionals. We had our LEED guru and our Admin/HR wizard. We were ready to go with standing monthly meetings and list of action-items.

It was beginning to look any other corporate sleep-walk.

Then I wondered. Perhaps this was the wrong approach. By giving this project – the AIA 2030 Commitment – the form and shape of every other corporate initiative, were we missing an opportunity to do something transformative? Could organizational learning happen within the confines of the old paradigm?

I put this question to Bob Hoye, AIA, recently retired CEO of TRO/Jung Brannen, as we were leaving the BSA one afternoon.

Bob isn’t a tree-hugger. He’s a “money guy”. Treasurer of the BSA Board, he’s all business. But he’s passionate about sustainable design and led the team at TRO/JB that signed the Commitment and successfully completed their first-year reporting.

His experience? Forming a leadership team wasn’t a problem. He just grabbed a bunch of the usual suspects and deputized them. But soon after, they created a “green council” with co-chairs and subcommittees and rolled out an ambitious firm-wide program with goals like getting everyone LEED Accredited. His objective? Bring people in! In his view, the AIA 2030 Commitment needs “a bunch of champions.” Yes, their plan was structured like other corporate initiatives, but this one was designed to really take hold. And it did.

His advice? The reporting isn’t hard. Hitting the 2030 Challenge energy-use reduction targets is hard. And nobody wants to report on their shortcomings, but it’s “the right thing to do.” TRO/JB is hard at work on Year 2.

His parting comments (as the elevator doors slowly opened at 52 Broad Street): If your CEO or Managing Partner isn’t involved, it won’t succeed.

Funny, they have the same rules we do.

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2 Comments on “The AIA 2030 Commitment: It Takes Leadership”

  1. papeschaia says:

    Changing the culture of an office or an organization has to start with intentional statements by the principals, but will not be successful until the office culture becomes second nature for every participant. Our BSA Sustainability Education Committee (BSA-SEC) on 110920 heard from two seasoned practitioners – Barbra Batshalom of the Sustainable Performance Institute (SPI) and Chin Lin of HMFH – on the subject of Peer Education-Obstacles and Opportunities. The discussion very much underscored the need for the leadership that Mike and Bob Hoye emphasize. (I’ll shortly be sending out minutes, and anybody interested can get a copy from me – papesch@mac.com).

    A tremendously helpful tool is the SPI Certification pamphlet that defines the Evaluation Criteria. Barbra will probably be willing to share that document as it gets refined (bb@greenroundtable.org).

    Our BSA-SEC discussion started to grapple with how to entrain and enthuse participants, and we’ll continue this important exploration. Participants and contributors are most welcome – http://www.architects.org/committees/sustainability-education-committee.

    • Mike Davis FAIA says:

      Thanks for that post, Peter, and keep up the good work! The Sustainable Perfromance Institute is a resource for all our firms. I’ll link to them on this site, too.


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