This is a great time to be an architect. Before you shake your head and flip the page, hear me out.
Yes, I know we’re still getting adjusted to what some are calling the “new normal”—tight credit, historically high levels of unemployment, and a residential market still glutted by unsold homes. Because of our energy economy, Texas is one of the more robust regions of the country, relatively speaking. But let me assure you, this Dallas architect is working double-time to bring in the work. Our lifestyle as Americans has been built on the assumption of easy and unlimited access to cheap energy generated by fossil fuels. Those days are past, even in Texas. From the cost of gas in your car to your home or business utility bill to the challenges of restoring power after an extreme weather event, the public and our clients are aware that somehow we need to get greater control of how we use energy.
There’s a sea change transforming practice. Performance and value-based design and construction requirements are working their way into the design process. And this presents opportunities for every architect. How much so will soon become clear.
When the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) is published later this year, and jurisdictions and states begin their own processes to adopt the new code, it will begin to drive major changes in the design and construction industry. As the IgCC is published and subsequently adopted over time, it will become as enforceable as a written code. Unlike third-party rating systems created to celebrate a voluntary demonstration of sustainability, the IgCC offers a mandatory floor—a base from which we can improve all of our buildings—but also has the flexibility for jurisdictions to use the code to establish their own base level of green buildings with local conditions in mind. Licensed professionals who work under the code will be required to meet all of its requirements, just as they do with any other code.
How we respond to the challenge of energy management in buildings will, if we get it right, reinvent our profession in dramatic and compelling ways. Despite the inevitable bumps in the road as we retool, we are poised to take our firms, our clients, and our profession into an exciting new world.
Helping architects to get past those bumps and seize the opportunities to grow our profession and better serve our clients will be the job of the AIA. The outcome of our work—the projects we design—will take on even greater value as they actively help address some of the most important issues facing our planet.