AIA Declares 8 New Principles to Face Climate Change Prior to Earth Day

With just a few days separating us from Earth Day 2017, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has released a statement on the serious consequences of climate change and the role of architects in facing it. The statement starts by referring to the dangers and natural catastrophes caused by the rising carbon dioxide levels then concludes by describing climate change as “one of the biggest global crises of the 21st century.” Afterwards, the statement moves to the role of architects in facing the crisis, referring to buildings as a major source of carbon emission. The AIA, finally, declares to accept the challenges induced by climate change, referring to them as “both major obstacles and opportunities for the profession.” The declaration is followed by the announcement of eight principles to be adopted by the AIA which urges policymakers to follow in its footsteps. Here are the eight principles:

•The United States must lead the fight against climate change. The federal government must maintain America’s global leadership in the design and construction of carbon neutral buildings. Current federal policies that set goals by 2030 for carbon neutrality in federal buildings are already creating major advances in energy efficient design.

•We believe that the business case for reducing the carbon footprint of buildings is stronger than ever before. Studies show that sustainable and energy efficient buildings command rent premiums of 2 percent to 8 percent, occupancy increases of 3 percent to 10 percent and sales premiums of 3 percent to 12 percent. High performance and sustainable homes in the Washington, DC market command sales premiums of 3.5 percent. (Source: Energy Efficiency in Separate Tenant Spaces – A Feasibility Study)

•We know that carbon neutral design and construction is a growth industry. Employers from roughly 165,000 US companies doing energy efficiency work expect employment to grow 13 percent over the coming year, adding 245,000 more jobs. (Source: Energy Efficiency Jobs in America) In Philadelphia alone, 77 percent of the city’s buildings need energy retrofits, supporting the creation of 23,000 jobs. (Source: Energy Benchmarking and Transparency Benefits- June 2015). We call on policymakers to protect financing and incentives to help communities design, build and retrofit their building stock.

•We believe that the climate change battle will be won or lost in cities. Three-quarters of global carbon emissions come from the 2 percent of the Earth’s land surface occupied by urban communities. While architects can drive greater efficiency and performance from urban areas, we need municipalities and urban design financiers to work as true partners in the climate change battle.

•We understand how buildings contribute to climate change. Almost 40 percent of all US energy is consumed by buildings, which produce carbon through heating, cooling, and lighting and through their construction. Architects can reduce such operational and embodied carbon production with passive design techniques, energy efficiency measures and low-impact building materials, which increase human health and productivity. Architects also integrate renewable energy sources into buildings, making them more sustainable, resilient and economical. We call on lawmakers to retain and extend tax incentives that underwrite such energy-efficient design and construction.

•Designing and building resilient buildings is not a choice, it’s an imperative. As temperatures and weather become more extreme and severe, four global warming impacts alone—hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy and water costs—will come with a price tag of 1.8 percent of US GDP alone or almost $1.9 trillion annually (in today’s dollars) by 2100. (Source: NRDC Climate Change Costs Study Estimates 3.6 percent of US GCP in 2100)

•Codes, standards and evidence-based rating systems are essential to creating a high-performing, resilient built environment. We stand for the development, adoption, and enforcement of comprehensive and coordinated building codes that mandate energy efficient design and construction.

•Collaboration is the key to climate change mitigation. Architects have the skills and experience to help protect the planet from the effects of climate change. But only by working and communicating globally with policymakers, the building industry and the general public can we effectively address the climate change challenge.

In relevance to this topic, the current US president Donald Trump has stated multiple times his disbelief in climate change and global warming. He, even, claimed, before his election, that the concept was invented by China to “to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Trump has also been trying ever since his election to negate the climate regulations issued by former president Barack Obama. That attitude towards climate change has been condemned by many architects and architectural organizations. It has, also, been a cause of dispute in the AIA, following the US president’s election in December 2016.

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