Greg Powers

Social infrastructure—which includes public buildings such as schools, courts, libraries, affordable housing, and community centers— reflects our compassion, creativity, and sense of equity and justice. In the near term, the social infrastructure we create fulfills presentday needs by providing places to learn, heal, live, work, and relax. In the long term, the social infrastructure we leave behind tells the story about the values and priorities of our society and our time.

Realizing the lasting, equitable, and sustainable solutions we seek in key policy areas such as affordable housing and school safety—as well as the mitigation of climate change by reducing the impact of the built world on the environment—requires that the voice of architects be central to the discussion.

It is clear to me that the architects’ mixture of technical expertise, innovative spirit, dedication to good design, and desire to advance the common good are essential to achieving the solutions our society needs to advance and to grow.

The ability of architects to produce dramatic reductions in the carbon footprint of the built environment is one good example. In the decade preceding the Paris Agreement on climate change, the United States added 20 billion square feet of building stock; yet thanks to smart energy-efficient design, total energy consumption remained mostly flat. That’s an essential piece of achieving a more sustainable and just future.

There is another part of achieving this future: managing the ongoing global trend of urbanization. Four decades ago, a little more than a third of the planet’s population lived in cities. Two decades later, 45 percent of a larger world population lived in cities. Today, a majority—54 percent—of the world’s even larger population lives in cities. By the end of the century, some estimates are that almost nine in 10 people will live in cities—making it clear that the demand and the need for smart, safe, sustainable, and equitable social infrastructure will significantly grow.

That places architects at the center of efforts to improve safety, increase social mobility and economic opportunity, and secure basic human dignity for all, no matter the country, continent, or hemisphere.

Our focus—as a profession and as global citizens—should be to use our unique skills to improve the common good, and to inspire and elevate the human experience through the power of design.

While architecture and architects alone cannot solve all the issues of our time, we can use our dedication to creative compromise and constructive collaboration to provide leadership towards lasting, positive, and meaningful change in our communities, country, and global society.