AIA plans for a greener future
A variety of knowledge communities meets the needs of all architects. Plus, AIA grows its focus on sustainable practice.
RK Stewart, FAIA, president of the American Institute of Architects, answers several questions from Residential Design & Build about the architecture profession, the health of AIA, and what’s in store for the next 150 years of AIA.
Q: You were elected twice as vice president. How were these terms successful?
In my first term, I was focused on issues of emerging professionals. In that capacity, I worked with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and our memberships to deal with issues of the internship process. We developed the Emerging Professionals’ Companion as a case study document that interns and young people in the profession can use to gain experience and move forward in licensure. We also dealt with issues around scholarship and mentorship.
In my second term, I was lucky enough to be chair of the Advocacy Committee. We focused on the issues of government affairs and legislative initiatives, primarily at the federal level but also supporting those efforts at the local and state levels.
Q: What do you plan to do differently as president of AIA?
I’m continuing my interest in emerging professionals and the way we attract people to participate in the profession. And, how we move them through education and licensure to join us in creating the built environment and creating wonderful
I’m also interested in how we can change the diversity of the profession so that going forward, the profession reflects the communities we serve in terms of ethnicity, gender and age. We have a broad spectrum of people contributing to the creation of the built environment.
And lastly of course is the issue of sustainable design. We’ve come past the tipping point where the general public understands that the way we inhabit the planet is threatening the future of humanity. I’m spending a lot of my energy on trying to get the general public to understand that it’s buildings, and not what they drive, that pose the greatest threat to the issues of climate change.
Q: Please expand on what AIA is doing in regard to sustainability.
AIA’s position is that we as architects really need to change the way we practice our craft. We’re working hard to develop the necessary tools for our members to be able to do that; to take on that challenge as we continue to get people’s understanding that buildings are important. We’re finding some great allies in that effort.
Last year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed their Resolution 50 which recognizes AIA’s position. It calls for a 50 percent reduction in carbon and use of fossil fuels, and the design, construction and operation of buildings, and the continual reduction in fossil fuel use so that we become carbon neutral by 2030.
We’re working with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, supplying them with resources — as we’re also supplying our members with resources — to be able to address those things as they move forward to work on that reduction goal. We’re also going to Congress, and lobbying for legislative and regulatory changes that will help our cause.
Q: How is AIA educating and supporting residential architects?
We have 26 knowledge communities that come together around certain issues and areas of practice. In fact, we have one that is specifically organized around housing and the custom residential community. Within that knowledge community there are five networks: affordable housing, custom architects, green housing, production housing and multifamily housing. All this information is available on our website at aia.org.