Stilt houses in Ganvie, Benin.
Courtesy Iwan Baan Stilt houses in Ganvie, Benin.

Today, the AIA released a statement outlining eight key principles on how architects can help mitigate and combat the effects of climate change, while calling upon policymakers to continue incentivizing carbon-neutral goals for the AEC industry.

"Architecture and design can mitigate climate impact while simultaneously reducing operating costs for building owners," said AIA president Thomas Vonier, FAIA, in the release. "We need the federal government to keep and even expand incentives that are already producing major advances in energy efficient design and cutting the carbon footprint of buildings."

The construction and design of sustainable buildings has already left positive effects on the economy and the environment, according to the release. Green construction generated more than $167 billion with more than 2.1 million jobs created between 2011 and 2014, while energy-efficient structures command rent premiums between 2 and 8 percent, occupancy increases between 3 and 10 percent, and sales premiums between 3 and 12 percent.

The AIA's eight principles include: the U.S. must be a leader in the fight against climate change; sustainable buildings are desirable and therefore good business; carbon-neutral design is a growing industry; cities are key areas in the fight against climate change; lawmakers should protect tax incentives that underwrite energy-efficient design; negative effects of climate change such as real estate loss and rising energy costs will continue to deteriorate; building codes should continue to require energy-efficient design and construction; and architects and policymakers must collaborate to address the impacts of climate change.

"These principles reinforce our strong national position on how energy-conscious urban planning and appropriate building design can help meet global climate challenges," Vonier said. "In fact, the business case for meeting these challenges has never been greater."

Read the complete list below, as found in the AIA's press release:

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.