The AIA 2030 Commitment: Friendly Competition

I love Chicago. Great city. Millennium Park, the Art Institute, the Drake Hotel, all that fabulous Sullivan and Richardson. And the blues at Buddy Guy’s. And the boat tours.

But how about those White Sox? Don’t like them very much. My home team, the Boston Red Sox, took three out of four games in their last series, but that’s about all Boston has won this year. Chicago is in first place and ready for the post-season run. The Red Sox have been in the cellar since April.

Who’s better? Boston or Chicago? Sports fans thrive on this kind of friendly competition. Could a little friendly competition help architects design better buildings?

I called Chicago to talk with architect Steve Kismohr, AIA. Steve caught my attention when I read that he had managed to get all the Chicago firms that signed the AIA 2030 Commitment to pool their data and post the results on the AIA Chicago web site. This sounded like something we could try at the Boston Society of Architects.

I got Steve on the phone. I sensed he was busy keeping many balls in the air yet couldn’t say “no” to sharing a good idea. His story: as a member of the Chicago AIA COTE and the local AIA 2030 Working Group, he helped them develop and beta-test the AIA 2030 reporting template that we all know and love. So it seemed obvious to him to grab a bunch of Chicago firms and combine their AIA 2030 first-year results.

I fired up the AIA Chicago website. A link to the AIA 2030 Commitment was right there on the home page. One click and I saw a screen full of architectural firms’ logos. Nice. Click on “Chicago results”, and there were pdfs of aggregated data from firms that signed the Commitment in 2010 and 2011. At a combined 33.2% energy use reduction, Chicago’s aggregated PEUI was pretty close to the AIA’s national average. And they had the data broken out by firm (with names removed!) and by market segment. That “Office” sector at an aggregated 50% energy use reduction looked really good! I wondered how the work of our BSA-member firms would compare to that.

Getting all these firms to share their data was no easy lift, but they pulled it off. How? Peer pressure! They told Gensler that Perkins + Will was in – and vice versa! Once Buro Happold shared their data, AECOM couldn’t say “no”. Steve’s advice: Be strategic. Build momentum. Spread the publicity around. Firms can be reluctant to share their AIA 2030 info, but NOT seeing your logo on that website was a powerful incentive . . .

I was still looking at the pdf while taking notes and noticed something. Steve? There are – what – hundreds of architecture firms in Chicago. You had how many participate in this report? Thirteen in 2010?  That’s all you could get?

Yeah, he fired back, but they’ve doubled the number of Commitment firms since then. They hosted special invitation-only monthly roundtables for the AIA 2030 firms that pool their data. They are pushing client groups to require firm-wide EUIs as part of their RFPs and advocating that all design award submissions should include the project’s EUI.

So what are you guys in Boston doing about this, hmm?

And the Red Sox are how many games behind the Yankees right now?

OK, enough. I got the message. The gauntlet had been thrown down. Chicago is good, but they got nuthin’ on us. I certainly can’t help the Red Sox (nobody can!) but maybe a little friendly competition could encourage BSA Member firms to sign the AIA 2030 Commitment and pool our data. Maybe we’ll take a page outa Chicago’s playbook.

Nice work out there, Steve. Now let’s see if Boston can do better.


2 Comments on “The AIA 2030 Commitment: Friendly Competition”

  1. Marya Graff says:

    Bring it on, Boston!
    Mike, I promote the Commitment in Chicago (along with Steve Kismohr and a bunch of others). Following your blog is my number 1 recommendation to potential and new signatories. Keep up the great work!

    • Mike Davis FAIA says:

      Thank you, Marya! And congratulations on your good work, too. I know it takes a bunch of people to make positive change happen! Way to set a high bar for the rest of us. Too bad about the White Sox, tho . . . there’s always next year!

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