February 2016

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Committee on the Enviroment

Letter from the Chair

Hello COTE Community!

Last December at the COP21 climate talks in Paris, 195 countries, including the United States, promised to do their part to fight global climate change. But the Paris Agreement won’t be official until at least 55 of those 195 countries have ratified it, with the 55 ratifying countries accounting for at least 55% of global emissions. President Obama called the Agreement “a turning point for the world” and pledged the United States’ support.

Paula McEvoy, AIA, LEED Fellow

The cornerstone of the Obama administration’s pledge in Paris was the Clean Power Plan, the EPA rule that forces massive cuts to coal power plants. Several states and coal companies, however, say the Plan violates federal law and are suing. On February 9, 2016, the late Justice Antonin Scalia and four other justices ruled to block the Clean Power Plan and let the lawsuit be heard by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. If the EPA rules are upheld in the Appeals Court, the case may be sent back to the Supreme Court. With only 8 justices currently, the previous 5-4 vote could become a 4-4 tie, upholding the Appeals Court ruling. And things just got more interesting.

The Clean Power Plan would reduce US CO2 emissions from the power sector by almost 32% over 2005 levels. A vacant Supreme Court seat, or one filled by the Obama, Clinton or Sanders administration would move the United States closer to achieving that goal and upholding our pledge. But we don’t have to wait for the courts. As citizen architects, we can design to make a difference.

Want to know more about COP21? Check out a first-hand account by Payette’s Chris Mackey. Thanks for reading!

Paula McEvoy signature

Paula McEvoy, FAIA, LEED Fellow
2016 Chair, AIA Committee on the Environment Advisory Group

In this issue

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Reflecting on COP21

By Chris Mackey, Building Scientist, Payette


Photo Credit: Chris Mackey; Payette.

For over two decades, the annual COP Sustainable Innovation Forum has gained notoriety as an event where activists and energy companies vie for attention from both policy-makers drafting new agreements and the media covering the event. However, the proximity of this conference to the recent tragedy in Paris created a unique situation that illustrated what happens when a third entity is more deeply involved – the military.

Read more

Integrating Research into Practice

By Jeff Abramson, AIA, LEED AP, Associate, Payette; Jenny Ratner, LEED AP, Designer, Payette and Lynn Petermann, AIA, LEED AP, Architect, Payette


Photo Credit: Payette.

Incorporating a scientific process into architectural practice leads to higher performing buildings that embody sustainable design. Using research to inform design decisions can have far-reaching impacts on the built environment. At Payette, our research not only serves as a useful PR tool, it also becomes part of our internal firm-wide education. The topics and methods we use in our research fundamentally shape the way in which the entire design staff thinks about and approaches architecture.

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Mainstreaming Air Tightness and Thermal Comfort in Wood Construction

By Cheryl Smith, AIA, LEED AP | Originally published in the TDBP newsletter

Wood construction for 40 room hotel

Wood Contruction: new 40 room hotel on a local college campus. Photo Credit: Cope Linder Architects LLC.

I attended a Greater Philadelphia Passive House Association (GPPHA) presentation by a Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC), who is also a wood fabricator and high performance builder of wood construction. He spoke about how wood framing, heavy timber framing, and cross laminated timber are suitable for almost every building type; how cost-effective wood can be; and how wood’s less embodied energy has a lighter carbon footprint than many other building materials.

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Women in Green: Expanding Diversity for Design in the Climate Change Era

women in green video

Last month, we ran a piece about the Women in Green panel at Greenbuild in November (the Metropolis POV blog). If you are interested in the topic and would like to see the video, it is embedded in the Metropolis blog, or you can find it directly here.

Upcoming Events

Register for COTE and Related Sessions at the 2016 AIA Convention in Philadelphia!

WE304- Energy Modeling for All: 2030 Commitment for Small Firms!
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM | Earn 3.75 LUs/HSW/RIBA | $225

Interested in energy modeling but don’t know where to start? This comprehensive session will help you incorporate energy modeling into your design process and explore benefits and resources available to firms through the AIA 2030 Commitment. 

TH301- Social Media: Get Strategic
Thursday, May 19, 2016 | 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM | Earn 1.00 LU/RIBA

Social media can have a powerful impact on your firm- but are you taking full advantage of it? Transform your organization's culture and give it the boost it needs to succeed with this interactive session. By the end of this session, you'll be prepared to adapt your firm's work to support a successful social media marketing strategy.

TH303- COTE Top Ten: Performing Beautifully...a Restorative Future
Thursday, May 19, 2016 | 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM | Earn 1.00 LU/RIBA

The AIA COTE Top Ten and Top Ten+ Awards are the profession's foremost recognition for integrated, holistic design. This program celebrates projects that exemplify high-performance architecture with stories from the winning design teams. Join your peers in celebrating how beauty and performance create holistic architecture.

EV217- COTE Top Ten Reception
Thursday, May 19, 2016 | 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM | $35

Join the AIA Committee on the Environment as we honor the 2016 recipients of the prestigious Top Ten Awards. Celebrate practicing architects and emerging student talents, as well as the 20th year of COTE's Top Ten Awards and the tail end of COTE's 25th anniversary.

FR218- Transparency vs. Efficiency: Overcoming the Performance Challenges of Glass Facades
Friday, May 20, 2016 | 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM | Earn 1.00 LU/HSW/RIBA

There's no denying that glass looks good, but it often means a sacrifice of performance. Glazed facades provide transparency, daylight, and connection, but can drive up energy consumption and utility costs. This session will explore a real project where architects, consultants, and engineers collaborated to benefit both the design and performance of facades.

SA102- The Transparent, Glass Facade: Is Sustainability Possible?
Saturday, May 21, 2016 | 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM | Earn 1.00 LU/HSW/GBCI/RIBA

Even as glass buildings continue to rise throughout cities, sustainability questions abound. What are the varying perspectives on the future of these buildings? This discussion will ask the difficult questions about the glass facade trend, and see where conflicting perspectives will take the conversation.

SA105- Lessons from the Leading Edge: COTE Top Ten Research Project
Saturday, May 21, 2016 | 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM | Earn 1.00 LU/HSW/RIBA

The highly anticipated Top Ten Research Project illuminates the work of nearly 200 Green Projects Awards winners, and the Committee on the Environment's groundbreaking report sets the stage for a new era in design. Extraordinary things are happening in sustainable design, and this session dives into a whole host of them.

SA214- Building Energy Literacy: The 2030 Commitment's Transformation of Firm Culture
Saturday, May 21, 2016 | 8:30 AM to 9:30 AM | Earn 1.00 LU/HSW/GBCI/RIBA

The AIA 2030 Commitment has impacted both how architects design and how firms practice. Come explore the impact on firm culture as experienced by four different firms. See the 2030 Commitment through a new lens - and envision your role in its future.

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