2013 Sessions of Interest: AIA National Convention

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2013 AIA COTE Agenda


We are delighted to report that the AIA Committee on the Environment is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year – over two decades of promoting design thinking that deeply engages the natural world.  We remain passionately committed to the belief that now, more than ever, architects have an historic opportunity to employ the transformative power of design to help lead our society to a just, sustainable future for all.

Many of you know us for the AIA COTE Top Ten Green Projects award program, which honored its 17th annual class of exceptional architecture on Earth Day this April www.aiatopten.org. We'd like to briefly share our other efforts that provide strong support for the AIA Repositioning effort:

►  AIA COTE Scholar: Engaging bright young minds in important research

This is the sixth year of the AIA COTE Scholar program, which challenges promising young COTE Research Fellows from across the nation to make significant contributions to knowledge in the area of high performance architecture and sustainable communities. Past white papers on topics ranging from water conservation and renovation/adaptive reuse to sustainable community planning and post occupancy evaluations can be found online.

View the white paper archive »

►  AIA 2030 Commitment: Designing toward carbon-neutral architecture

While the number of firms signing on to the 2030 Commitment is growing each year, less than 1.5% of the AIA's total member firms have done so to date. We have more work to do. AIA COTE is continuing our efforts to make reporting more accessible and manageable for firms of all sizes.

►  AIA COTE Top Ten + Award: Celebrating excellent architecture that performs excellently

This year we are excited to announce the first COTE Top Ten + Award, recognizing the next phase in the evolution of our shared design aspirations: proof that exceptional architecture can also be regenerative and resource-efficient in use over time. Open to past COTE Top Ten honorees, this award requires submission of a year's actual energy and water use that meets or exceeds predicted design-phase goals.

►  Design Awards Initiative: Matching our concepts of design excellence to the pressing realities of our time

21st century architecture isn't truly excellent unless it deeply engages the natural world. This means far more than counting points and complying with third-party certifications. It means creatively embracing the rich opportunities for meaningful design expression that present themselves when we anchor our buildings in the authentic character of each site and circumstance. It means evolving our design awards programs to make them consistent with the stated values and goals of the Institute by requiring sustainable design narratives and metrics as an integral part of "design excellence."

We advocate the following:

  • National AIA Honor Awards: The 2014 Honors Awards program should "require" the basic sustainable design narratives and performance metrics that were "requested" in 2013. The jury panel should include at least one member who is a proven leader in the advancement of integrated sustainable design practice. As these values become more embedded within common professional practice, the COTE Top Ten program will evolve to celebrate the cutting edge of net-zero energy / carbon neutral design.
  • Local and Regional AIA Design Award programs: "Green" design is simply good design. The current common practice of organizing separate design awards programs for architecture and "sustainable architecture" makes a false distinction that the Institute should be moving away from. We urge all local AIA chapters and components to require sustainable design narratives and metrics as an integral part of all design awards programs.
  • AIA Twenty-Five Year Award: As the window of eligibility approaches the 1990s, the AIA's prestigious Twenty-Five Year Award should reflect our evolving concepts of resilience, health, and resource-efficiency over time. AIA COTE plans to renew a past tradition of nominating deserving projects for this distinguished honor.

►  AIA COTE Top Ten for Students: Preparing the next generation

As today's architecture students move into the profession, they will inherit a rapidly changing world, both in terms of the physical contexts of their work, and the tools, materials and processes available to create it. Preparing students for this challenging, dynamic future calls for greater integration of innovative ecological design thinking within the design discourse of universities across the country. To help meet this need, AIA COTE is organizing a new national recognition program for architecture students: AIA COTE Top Ten for Students. Each year, this program will recognize ten exceptional studio projects that seamlessly integrate innovative, regenerative strategies within their broader design concepts.

►  AIA Sustainable Design Continuing Education: Communicating the Institute's ongoing commitment to sustainable design education

As many of you may know, the AIA National Board recently determined that the sustainable design Continuing Education Units requirement should be allowed to sunset this year as previously scheduled. AIA COTE has offered our assistance to the Board to help ensure that opportunities for continuing education in advanced sustainable design topics continue and increase as a robust expression of the Institute's core values and mission.

We stand at a pivotal moment in the history of architecture — a momentous opportunity for our profession and our Institute to take an even stronger leadership role in promoting better ways to inhabit our earth. This issue isn't just about engineering and building codes; it isn't just about sustainable strategies and metrics; it's definitely much more than simply "checking the boxes" — it's fundamentally about innovative design. How can we evolve our shared concepts of design excellence to embrace a deeper, more meaningful and restorative engagement with the rapidly changing world around us? In an age of advancing climate change and diminishing resources, how can we offer a hopeful vision of inspiring, nurturing and sustainable communities to younger generations?

We need your help: We extend our heartfelt thank you for your leadership within your communities and regions. We also extend a sincere call for collaboration in broadly promoting the efforts outlined above that will benefit our profession, our Institute and most importantly, the communities we live in and serve:

  • Let us know how the 2030 Commitment can be made more accessible and broadly accepted.
  • Lend your voice and the voices of your firms and chapters to the call to include sustainable design narratives and metrics as a requirement in all national AIA Honor Awards programs.
  • Incorporate a requirement for sustainable design narratives and metrics within your local and regional design awards programs.
  • Suggest an inspirational project to be nominated by AIA COTE for the Institute's 2014 Twenty-Five Year Award.

We welcome all suggestions, ideas, reactions, critiques, and continued dialogue on the COTE Discussion Forum.

2013 AIA Committee on the Environment Advisory Group

William Leddy, FAIA LEED AP (Chair)
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

Filo Castore, AIA LEED AP BD+C (Past Chair)

Rand K. Ekman, AIA, LEED Fellow
Cannon Design

David Herron, Assoc. AIA (AIA/BEC Liaison)
Herron + Partners

Scott Shell, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C
EHDD Architecture

William D. Sturm, AIA (Vice Chair)
Serena Sturm Architects

Carl Elefante, FAIA, LEED AP O+M (AIA Board Liaison)
Quinn | Evans

Robert Harris, FAIA, LEED Fellow
Lake | Flato Architects

Lisa Fay Matthiessen, FAIA, LEED Fellow
Integral Group

The American Institute of Architects
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