The AIA 2030 Commitment: 2030 Fever

Strange things can happen when your architectural firm gets 2030 fever.

I was in my office the other day fuming about Canadian tar sands or something when Bill came busting in with both hands full of paper. He was livid. Since 7 AM that morning, he had been watching unclaimed 8-1/2  x 11 prints pile up in our office printer. The pile in his left hand said “1 PM yesterday” right hand said “7 AM today”. Clearly, some people at Bergmeyer were not taking our AIA 3020 Commitment waste reduction goals seriously.

Without letting me ask why he was at work at 7 AM, he exploded: “We oughta do something about this, Mike! We need a serious all-office e-mail. Or a meeting. Or maybe we can just pin all this wasted paper up somewhere so people will realize what they’re doing?”

In a flash, I saw the genius of Bill’s suggestion. A presentation would be much more effective than another reproachful e-mail. But not a pinup, we needed a bit of performance art. We needed an installation. This called for something . . . spontaneous.

We discussed an idea. Spontaneous behavior authorized, Bill flew into action. Starting at the printer in question, he began to lay sheets of paper on the office floor one at a time like little white carpet tiles. The trail of paper three sheets wide stretched down our main corridor, past the reception desk around the corner to the kitchen, by the bathrooms and into the main conference room. 

We all got the point. The offending parties were served. Printer waste dropped dramatically.

But that’s just one of the many strange goings-on at Bergmeyer since we signed the AIA 2030 Commitment. It’s as if the whole firm has gotten itself behind the idea of reducing our environmental impacts. It’s almost like . . . we have seen the light!

Since that blog post about dumpster-diving, our Twitter feed has been off the hook about how to recycle almost anything. The road warriors are now into it as well. A recent intranet message made this astonishing claim: “more than two million partially used bars of soap are discarded at hotels every day!” The post linked to the Global Soap Project.   Another post began “whenever I stay in a hotel, I always think about all those half-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner that end up in landfills . . . “ and – boom – the warriors have rallied to save soap and shampoo containers from the housekeeping trash by salvaging the stuff.

And this breaking news from our Information Technology department: Bergmeyer’s new external website will be hosted by a company that’s entirely powered by wind energy.

Food for a lunch and learn was brought in the other day by an eco-friendly caterer. I complemented the sales guy doing the presentation, but he confessed. He was required by us to show up with recycled-content paper products. Our Human Resources department now promotes paperless forms. Our accounting department has stopped giving us paper pay statements. We even have yoga lessons twice a month. OK, maybe the AIA 2030 team can’t take credit for the yoga. But still.

So what does all this craziness have to do with architecture and climate change, you may ask? Does salvaging hotel soap reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Wrong question. Think of it this way: It’s about change management. It’s about organizational transformation.  One of my sustainability gurus, Barbra Batshalom, wrote recently in her blog about Dr. John Kotter’s “8-Step Process for Leading Change”. This theory describes a holistic, systems-thinking approach to making good stuff happen in a corporate setting. Dr. Kotter’s step number five is “Empowering People and Removing Barriers”.  All the funny stories in this post are evidence that this kind of change has started to take hold at Bergmeyer. It can happen in your firm, too.

We architects know that none of us can make our profession carbon-neutral by ourselves. We need empowered, enlightened teams of people with crazy, contagious energy to make it happen. That’s what AIA 2030 fever does for you. When your whole firm gets it, the power – and the ideas – just flows.

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One Comment on “The AIA 2030 Commitment: 2030 Fever”

  1. Peter Papesch, AIA, chair, BSA Sustainability Education says:

    Compliments … again, on your uplifting stories, Mike.

    It inspired me to remind everybody of the interlocked components of paradigm shift and re-formulating one’s skill sets. The BSA COTE is hosting a 10-session series titled AIA+2030 (go to http://www.architects.org/, and scroll down on the right). My point: it takes both, a different mindset, and some practice in making one’s new skills become second nature.


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