2017 AIA Board of Directors (Photo: AIA)

Although the Trump administration expresses skepticism in regards to human-induced climate change, architects know better – as does the AIA. Just in time for Earth Day on 22 April, the American Institute of Architects has released a list of principles that serve to highlight architects' role in combating climate change.

Although the AIA's actions since Trump's election victory have been less than stellar – recall it's tone-deaf statement on working with the president and their later apology – these principles should be ones that most American architects (AIA or not) should get behind. Reports as of today indicate that the United States may remain in the Paris climate agreement, even though Trump promised during his campaign that the country would pull out of it. If it remains, the AIA's principles will that much easier to implement, if still an uphill battle.

The list, in edited form, is below; visit the AIA website for more information and links to reference sources.

  1. 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.

  2. 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. 

  3. 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. We call on policymakers to protect financing and incentives to help communities design, build and retrofit their building stock.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.