Architects are in a position to lead the conversation on sustainability, building materials, and public health. Before it can be a design challenge, however, it must first be a consumer issue.
As Mad Men’s Don Draper once noted, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Now, perhaps more than at any time in the history of the profession, architects are engaged in high-level research and discussions about sustainability, resilience, and public health—things that have far-reaching and long-lasting ramifications for our species and our world.
If that sounds hyperbolic, think again: For those who have worked to rebuild in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, the threats are very real. Architects now have an unprecedented opportunity to change the consumer conversation about design and building in profound ways.
Over the past couple of years, the AIA has been engaged in this work through the development of four action plans on sustainability and resilience, energy, design and health, and materials, all of which came out of a report, “Sustainability Leadership Opportunity Scan,” developed by Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA, a resident fellow at the AIA. “What we’re trying to do is create initiatives to promote architects’ awareness of these issues,” says Melissa Wackerle, the AIA’s director of sustainable practice and knowledge. “The public at large is part of that audience. Right now, there’s a gap in understanding of how big an influence architects can be.”
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