The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has adopted two position statements toward the promotion of sustainable practices and resource conservation, calling for a minimum reduction of 50 percent of current consumption levels of fossil fuels used to construct and operate buildings by the year 2010. In order to accomplish this goal, the AIA has established within its position statements conditions for Sustainable Architectural Practice and Sustainable Rating Systems. While many firms are already focused on sustainability, there is no set date for the AIA practices to go into effect. As R.K. Stewart, AIA president-elect (2007) and facilitator of the AIA Sustainability Summit Task Force, says, 'What the positions are intended to do is to set some benchmarks, some targets for what we hope to achieve, to get the organization moving in a more accelerated fashion.'
The two position statements (which can be viewed by clicking here in pdf format) set out to define the organization's stance on sustainable architectural practice and rating systems. By doing so, the AIA hopes to alter the profession's actions and encourage clients, and the entire industry, to join them in changing the course of the planet's future. As part of its outreach effort, the AIA plans to collaborate with other national and international groups, the scientific research community, and the public health community; those, says Stewart, that 'have important information as we look at this evolution.'
The first of the two statements focuses on Sustainable Architectural Practice and is made up of nine efforts. As well as the aforementioned reduction of fossil fuel consumption and collaboration with industry organizations and communities, the AIA plans to promote the integration of sustainability into design school curricula and the continuing education resources for registered architects, 'so that this core principle becomes a guiding mindset for current and future architects,' as well as the documentation of contributions resulting from sustainable design and construction approaches. By assuming a global role as advocates for sustainable design and sharing its knowledge, the AIA plans to actively promote sustainable practice throughout the world.
The second position statement concentrates on Sustainable Rating Systems and comprises 16 desired features of the AIA's 'green building' rating systems, standards, or regulations for the design and construction of the built environment. In drafting the statement, the AIA spoke to many organizations about their own rating systems, including the U.S. Green Building Council, the Green Building Initiative, and the National Association of Home Builders. The result, says Stewart, is 'intended as a statement of desire on our part.' Without favoring any one standard system available today, it is 'an aspiration we have for what a complete and comprehensive system might entail, and how it is developed and used.'
In addition to required validation by an independent third party, and specific goals for significant reductions in energy use, the Rating Systems will be developed and renewed on a regular basis still to be determined through a consensus-based process, in which all interested parties can participate. 'What we're trying to do here,' explains Stewart, 'is to send some signals about where we intend to participate in the evolution of, and the development of, standards.'
While the AIA position statements are not specific to the lighting industry, it will, says Stewart, 'be something that we'll be talking about.' As lighting will play a significant role in the reduction of energy consumption, the AIA has included a few familiar requirements, such as improved indoor environmental quality through daylighting and building system controls. Stewart also speaks about the overall economic cost of a project's life, rather than first costs, where 'things like lighting come into play.'
For more information about the AIA Committee on the Environment, visit