Policies and History

Because we believe in the importance of  sharing information and other viable resources on what it means to create and construct an energy-efficient building for an energy-efficient society; and because we advocate for review of knowledge and procedure when it comes to this topic, we determined it was time to write and publish a policy stating exactly this. But then we thought, why stop there? Why not make easily available many polices which affect the design professional? In this section, that’s what you will find—not only our policy adopted in November 2013, but several others as well. However, first, we thought it important to give a little informed history.

The AIA Energy Committee was founded in 1973 by members who were known for their work in energy, architecture, and building research, publishing among others, the paper A Nation of Energy Efficient Buildings. Their work became effective AIA tools for lobbying Capitol Hill and gained the attention of the Carter campaign in 1976, which adopted language from the AIA energy position papers into the Democratic platform. The Carter administration founded what became the US Department of Energy which funded building research, focused on energy. The AIA, too, advocated building energy research and collaborated with government and with many organizations for more than a decade.

In California, the state legislature established the California Energy Commission in 1974 as the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency. Californians have saved more than $74 billion in reduced electricity bills since 1977 by the Commission’s energy efficiency standards.

By the end of the 1980’s, after years of lower energy prices and lower interest in the AIA Energy Committee, the AIA was challenged by Senator Jack Danforth (R-MO) to document that environmental concerns were shared by architects nationally. At the 1989 AIA Convention in St. Louis, Critical Planet Rescue (CPR) was presented, a measure calling for the Institute to sponsor research and to develop a resource guide to help architects and their clients to be environmentally responsible. CPR found broad support and was assigned to the AIA Energy Committee, which in 1990 became the Committee on the Environment.

A multidisciplinary focus and holistic viewpoint and Environmental Protection Agency funding drove the development of the Environmental Resource Guide (ERG), introduced in 1992. Prior to the ERG, building design professionals were very uncomfortable addressing key issues of human health and well-being. While architects may have instinctively made environmentally supportive decisions, the ERG was designed to develop and disseminate reliable and scientifically sound knowledge and insights needed within the profession.

By this time, the perspective was beginning to be integrative, going far beyond energy. From 1990 through 1993, years of intense development of the ERG coincided with the growth in expertise of AIA/COTE: the “biology” of environmental design was being identified for the profession, using site, water, energy, materials, and waste as a basis of measurement. In 1993, the AIA National Convention in Chicago was the first to focus on sustainable design, and while several people suggested that no one would come, it was a big success. More than 3,000 AIA members signed the Declaration of Interdependence for a Sustainable Future, a document placing “environmental and social sustainability at the core of our practices and professional responsibilities.” A current AIA Public Policy states, “The creation and operation of the built environment require an investment of the earth’s resources. Architects must be environmentally responsible and advocate for the sustainable use of those resources.” Alvar Aalto articulated this in the 1930’s, “The responsible designer must inflict no harm.”

The AIA resolved in 2001: “To acknowledge Sustainable Design as the basis of quality design and responsible practice for AIA architects, and therefore, to integrate Sustainable Design into AIA practices and procedures.” The first part of that statement of intent is extremely important – to acknowledge that Sustainable Design is basic and fundamental to quality design and responsible practice. The Institute believed that it is useful to explicitly state that our responsibility as professionals extends to building performance, life cycle cost, the health and productivity of interior environments, and a focus on the connection between individual building projects and their communities and regional ecosystems.

In 2003, the AIACC adopted a policy statement, “Principles for Advocating a Sustainable Future,” which supported a balanced State energy policy, a further commitment to energy and environmental issues historically contributed to by architects and the AIA. This policy sunset in 2006, the same year California Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, was passed. In addition a state executive order calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It is recognized that a significant component of those emissions is attributable to the built environment: how we build buildings.

The AIACC 2013 Board of Directors determined that an AIACC energy/sustainability policy should be re-established to support members before the Legislature, CEC, CPUC, utility companies, and the public. “Principles for Advocating Energy, Water, and Resource Efficient Design”, was adopted by the Board at its November Annual Board Meeting.