Greg Powers

Every day, the impacts of climate change become more evident, which makes designing for resilience a more urgent issue in the architectural profession. The unique skills we have as architects, starting with design thinking, are essential to helping find solutions to mitigate the impacts of a rapidly changing climate, and the inherent danger to life and property that comes with it.

Unlike almost any other problem we will confront in the next 10 to 20 years and beyond, climate change requires a holistic approach that addresses the interdependencies among people, buildings, infrastructure, and the environment. Our training allows us to look for solutions and ways to mitigate climate change comprehensively and creatively, which we do every day.

But, more than our design and technical abilities, our commitment to better environmental stewardship is vital to reducing the built world’s impact on the environment.

Our voice as experts at all levels of government is also essential. For our society to successfully address the challenges presented by climate change, architects have to go beyond our traditional comfort zone as trusted advisers and admired designers and become directly engaged in our communities as civic leaders and advocates for positive and lasting change.

For example, we should lend our voices and focus our talents to help achieve the emissions mitigation and reduction targets envisioned by the Paris agreement, which require that every aspect of a building’s design, construction, and operation be retooled to reduce its carbon footprint, with the eventual goal of carbon neutral or carbon-zero buildings.

To that end, AIA is engaged in helping the profession lead in the four elements of achieving the Paris agreement’s targets in the building sector: designing high-performance buildings; renovating existing buildings to meet high-performance standards, addressing embodied carbon in building materials and construction processes, and promoting renewable energy on-site and off-site.

We can advance those goals by making the business case to clients and elected and civic leaders for more sustainable design, and by pushing for quick and aggressive action that promotes carbon-smart building best practices and policies.

Our profession’s commitment to responsible environmental stewardship is unmistakable. To date, approximately 550 firms have joined the AIA 2030 Commitment, which provides a way for architects to publicly show their dedication and track their contribution toward our shared goal of a carbon-neutral future. Those firm’s designs achieved energy savings equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by 21 million acres of forest in just one year.

As policymakers and the public see the level and the results of our commitment to carbon-neutral design, our voice in the broader public policy debate becomes stronger. And that is vital.

Because, ultimately, designing for resilience is about more than good design. It is about articulate advocacy, informed by our unique expertise and rooted in our passion for a better, brighter, and fairer future through the power of design.