The AIA 2030 Commitment: Set Audacious Goals

Who said “If you fail to plan you plan to fail”? Winston Churchill? Ben Franklin? Not sure.  But the real question is: do you believe it?

I do.  

We architects LOVE plans – floor plans, of course! Floor plans reveal all: the flow of space, the order of form, the organization of function. But how about those other plans? Strategic plans? Business plans? Do we love them less?

And what about sustainability action plans?

When your architectural firm signs the AIA 2030 Commitment, you will have one year to develop a long range plan that aligns your firm with “the stated 2030 benchmarks for achieving carbon neutrality”.  In other words, you will be asked to tell the AIA what – specifically – your firm will do to help us all get to those 2030 goals. That’s a sustainability action plan. It’s the next big step for us at Bergmeyer.

And on this requirement, the AIA wisely advises “action plans will differ from firm to firm.”  That means the sky is the limit! Shoot for the moon. Go for broke. Have fun with it. It’s an entirely open-ended assignment. Like an extra-credit essay question, you can’t fail.

A famous architect once said “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood . . .”

In my very first blog post about the AIA 2030 Commitment, I recommended avoiding audacious goals. I was just kidding.  Audacity is good. When it comes to sustainability planning, your firm needs what Jerry Portas and Jim Collins described in their very influential business book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies as “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” or BHAGs. A BHAG is an ambitious, compelling, but achievable target that serves to unify firm-wide effort and catalyzes action.

Go ahead. Set audacious goals for your firm. Think five or ten years out. Extend your reach. Strive for national or global leadership. Do research. Create your own design criteria. Be generous. Strive for exemplary performance. Document your findings and publish the results for free on your website so we can all bask in the glow of your success.   

And to help you out with this, the AIA has put links to several completed sustainability action plans on the AIA 2030 Public Reporting Template.

Wanna see ‘em? Sure you do.

Mithun’s sustainable action plan is here. It’s one of the more graphically sophisticated documents. It has a good, clear outline. Their Design Process goals include doing a “payback analysis’ on every one of their projects and a detailed lifecycle cost analysis (LCCA) “on selected projects where fee allows.” I especially like that they have a section of their plan devoted to Advocacy, Policy & Public Education. (You can bet Bergmeyer’s plan will have one of those, too!)

Lake Flato’s plan is here. Full of BHAGs, this firm is going to buy carbon emission offsets, host an office wiki to record sustainable design achievements, do internal “sustainability reviews” of every project, and create a customizable client education kit. The sustainable action plan for one of our Boston firms, KlingStubbins, is here. They’re making sustainable design criteria part of their Quality Assurance process and have a very long list of Staff Training and Education activities. Very good stuff.

Sustainability action planning. It could be the most important, most meaningful, most gratifying part of the whole AIA 2030 program.  Because, as the Cheshire Cat may have said, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there!”

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One Comment on “The AIA 2030 Commitment: Set Audacious Goals”

  1. […] The AIA 2030 Commitment: Set Audacious Goals (mikedavisfaia.wordpress.com) […]


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