The AIA 2030 Commitment: One Architect’s Opinion

shutterstock_281262299Greetings. First, a disclaimer. This blog post is not written on behalf of my company, Bergmeyer, my professional society, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), or my local AIA Chapter, the Boston Society of Architects (BSA).

This post is one architect’s opinion.

I have been writing this blog since June 2011 to help promote the AIA 2030 Commitment. If you, like me, understand the link between building energy use and greenhouse gas production, and think we should design our buildings and spaces to be increasingly energy efficient so that by the year 2030 they are all net zero energy or carbon-neutral, the AIA 2030 Commitment is an invaluable program. It’s a framework for connecting our firms’ professional activities to the ambitious goals of Architecture 2030 Challenge. It’s genius; one of best ideas the AIA has ever had.

But you may not appreciate how important the work of the United States Federal Government is to achieving these goals.

All that satellite data we get on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, polar ice caps, and water temperature? The info that 350.org uses to say we’re at 400 PPM of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere now, adding 2 PPM per year? Much of that data comes from the Earth Sciences division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), part of the executive branch of the United States federal government.

If, in 2017, the work this agency does is re-framed as “politicized science” and their funding is cut, our feedback loop will be gone. We will have no idea if the work we do under the AIA 2030 Commitment is making any difference.

Next: Part of what drives the AIA 2030 Commitment vision is a future where all the energy we need for our buildings will come from renewable sources. And who is doing the scientific research necessary to get us to this goal? The National Renewable Energy Laboratory. NREL is the United States’ primary laboratory for renewable energy research and development. And it’s funded through the United States Department of Energy (DOE), another agency of the executive branch of the US federal government.

If, in 2017, renewable energy research is considered a “subsidy” and is viewed as something that should be abandoned because it “distorts markets”, I fear our carbon-neutral future may be unattainable.

Finally, let’s look at what else the DOE does for us. The Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinances that many US cities have adopted relies on Energy Star Portfolio Manager as a reporting platform. Energy Star was created and is run by the DOE. Our national database on building energy use, the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey or CBECS, is compiled by the US Energy Information Administration, also part of the DOE. And that headline news in May 2015 about the AIA 2030 Commitment’s Design Data Exchange or DDx, the remarkable new online reporting tool that we all use? Developed in partnership with the US Department of Energy.

If, in 2017, all these agencies get gutted, where will we be? Say nothing of the Clean Power Plan or the 2016 United Nations’ Paris climate treaty, I’m afraid that our work under the AIA 2030 Commitment will be severely impacted.

So what can an architect do?

If you’re an AIA Member, I have a suggestion. One of the things the American Institute of Architects was designed to do is lobby. On Capitol Hill. The AIA is incorporated as a chapter 501(c)(6) trade association and is headquartered down the street from the White House for that very reason.

The AIA’s annual Government Advocacy survey is here. Take a moment to share your opinions about our core values and principles and how the professional association your dues supports should represent you in Washington DC. Tell them to head up to The Hill and knock on every door and say the architects in the USA will fight climate change and will stand up for energy efficient buildings, resilient and livable communities, equity, social justice, and civil rights. The survey is only live until December 16, 2016, but if you miss the deadline please email them here. Operators are standing by. You can make yourself heard.

So what do you think? Do you disagree? Do you think that architects should stay out of politics? Think I’m an alarmist? We have more important things to worry about? Or maybe we’re better off without government support and the “free” market will take care of all our needs? I welcome differing points of view. Please post. And thank you.

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4 Comments on “The AIA 2030 Commitment: One Architect’s Opinion”

  1. papeschaia says:

    Hi, Mike:

    I tried to post the following, but was told by WordPress that the comment couldn’t be posted … perhaps due to my use of the old version of a smile.

    In any case, congrats once again.

    Have a splendid holiday season, and a gratifying New Year.

    Peter

    Here’s the censored comment:

    Often the messenger is shot … especially when he invites disagreements! 😉

    My awe for your insights, reasoning and now warnings is just another building block in my esteem of you! You make us architects proud to have you as a colleague.

    >

    • Mike Davis FAIA says:

      Thank you, Peter! I’m thankful to count you among the co-conspirators. No shots have been taken yet! I hope to see you in 2017 sometime, probably in a marchsomewhere carrying a sign! – MD

  2. Kenny Isidoro says:

    You’ve pointed to a lot of resources that are backed by public agencies. I don’t disagree with you and I think it’s important that these agencies continue to exist to address climate change. But, in the circumstances we find ourselves in today, we will have to rely less on our government and look to the private sector to drive change. I think companies like SolarCity, along with new technologies coming out of Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, will play an important role in how our future shapes up.

  3. Mike Davis FAIA says:

    True. And its not either/or. But a private company’s job is to drive profits, and lot of the stuff the Feds do now is not profitable. So although the “free market” (and NGOs) will be part of the solution, that does not in any way let the US Government off the hook.


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