AIA officials: Sustainability, high-performance design practices 'absolutely here to stay'

AIA officials: Sustainability, high-performance design practices 'absolutely here to stay'

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This spring’s annual American Institute of Architects convention in Philadelphia put a spotlight on sustainable planning and design. Many of the more than 500 sessions at the event, which hosted architects from around the world, focused on incorporating green solutions into varied commercial and residential projects, from rainwater collection to indoor air quality to building envelope design that spurs energy savings.

One notable message from AIA 2016: Green and sustainable approaches have quickly made their way to the industry’s forefront. And, officials with the organization say, they’re here to stay.

Matthew Tinder, senior manager of media relations, and Rand Ekman, chairman of the AIA’s Committee on the Environment, recently talked about the expo and the architectural impact sustainability will have in the future.

Proud Green Building/Proud Green Home: Sustainable design continues to be a growing part of the architectural industry. How evident was sustainability at this year’s convention?

Matthew Tinder: The convention had a curated collection of sessions and events for topics related to sustainable design. A Sustainability Journey Map (attached) highlighting events and activities was published to help people engage in the four topic areas.

PGB/PGH:What were a few key takeaways for designers who attended the AIA convention, from a sustainability/building performance perspective?

MT: The AIA has been working diligently with our members to advance awareness and implementation of our four sustainability initiatives: energy, materials, resilience and design and health. 

Energy: We launched the AIA 2030 Design Data Exchange (DDx) as a new reporting mechanism for the 2030 Commitment Program and completed the first full reporting cycle with the database. The DDx was designed to provide more value to both signatory firms and project teams in understanding their impact and progress.

Materials: We researched and published a white paper on materials transparency opportunities, risk and mitigation strategies. 

Resilience: We convened a Resilience Summit in 2015 and published the proceedings. We released a progress report on our continuing coordination with partner organizations from our Building Industry Statement on Resilience. We’re working with the Architects Foundation on a National Resilience Initiative, including three studios in partnership with academia.

Health: AIA, ACSA and the Architects Foundation held the first convening of the Design & Health Research Consortium and published the proceedings. The Consortium expanded, adding six new teams in 2016. The second convening was held in April 2016. The 2016 proceedings will be published in the next few weeks. 

PGB/PGH: How critical a role does design play in the sustainability and performance of commercial structures? Are you finding that building developers are demanding more from architects as it relates to building sustainability and performance? 

Rand Ekman: Sustainability and high performance have become the criterion of Class A space. Design quality and sustainability are becoming one and the same. Developers are demanding more and continue to seek the highest value for every dollar they spend.

PGB/PGH: Is sustainable design a current trend in the architectural industry, or is this something that is here to stay?

RE: Sustainability and high performance are absolutely here to stay. Unlike many issues with trends and “style,” there are extremely real external pressures (climate change, human health, resiliency, water quality and availability, operational efficiency) that will keep the industry focused on the subject.

PGB/PGH: With an increased focus on sustainability and performance, particularly when it comes to commercial structures, what does it say to those in the industry and those who hope to someday be designers? Do they need to look well beyond just straightforward design approaches? 

RE: The way to look beyond is to become familiar with the issues of good, responsible design appropriate to the place and context. How we assess the impact of a building does require familiarity with performance analysis and technical building science issues.

These are skills that are in increasing demand. We also need to engage with all project stakeholders and create truly integrative design solutions. This is not a technical issue; it is a people issue.


Topics: Building Green, Consultants, Going Green, GREAT GREEN HOMES, Healthy Homes, Indoor Air Quality, Interior Design, Sustainable Communities, Thermal Envelope, Ventilation


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