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Architects Respond to Climate Change Pullout

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

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The American Institute of Architects weighed in on the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, and insisted it would continue its practice of maintaining standards of conserving energy and using renewable resources.

President Donald J. Trump said Thursday (June 1) that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement—a worldwide effort to fight climate change—and would attempt to negotiate a new pact with what he deemed to be better terms.

Donald Trump
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Guerra/Released

President Donald J. Trump said Thursday that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, a worldwide effort to fight climate change.

Trump’s move was not a surprise; he had made campaign promises to exit the Paris Agreement, which was drafted in 2016, will take effect in 2020, and has been signed by 195 countries. The agreement seeks to limit global warming attributed to emissions. (The U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China.)

Growing Opposition

Trump’s decision prompted a swift response from the architectural community.

"The United States must remain a leader in the battle to cease harmful and needless practices that damage the planet and its climate," AIA President Thomas Vonier said in a statement. “Instead of helping our economy, as the Administration contends, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will put us behind our major global competitors."

Vonier said he will implore the 90,000 licensed architects who comprise the AIA to continue efforts to combat climate change.

"We will also urge our members throughout the United States and the world to assist cities, states, organizations and citizen groups in meeting the aims of the climate accord," his statement read. "By adhering to our values as a profession that is concerned with human habitat and the health of our environment, we will help to mitigate the harm this decision will do to our economy and to America's stature across the globe."

Future Concerns

Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the Living Future Institute, also condemned Trump’s action.

“Repeating a history that pillages the future for the next generation in the name of greed is not only short-sighted, it is also proven to cost more in the long term,” said Sturgeon, whose organization promotes the Living Building Standard.

American architecture firms attempted to take pre-emptive steps against Trump’s climate change platform. Days before the president’s January inauguration, about 700 architecture and design firms had representatives sign an open letter urging Trump to reconsider his stance. During his campaign, Trump called climate change a "hoax," though more recently, allies have said that he believes in climate change and that it is partly caused by man.

American Institute of Architects

President Donald J. Trump announced the U.S. would exit the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming attributed to emissions.

"Because buildings alone account for almost 40 percent of total U.S. energy use and 72 percent  of U.S. electricity use, America's architects are on the front line addressing climate change in a meaningful way," the letter reads.

Taking a Stand

Many in the architecture community may be dismayed over Trump’s decision, but the industry's ability to design sustainable, resilient, and energy-efficient buildings can continue to have an impact on emissions and climate change.

The U.S Green Building Council, which oversees the LEED certification program, vowed Trump’s decision will not affect its mission.

"While the pullout of the U.S. government from the Paris Agreement will be felt across the world, the surge of climate commitments and actions by the private sector, NGOs, governments, cities and states, will only serve to strengthen the green building movement and keep pushing us forward," USCBC president Mahesh Ramanujam said.

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Emissions; Environmental Protection; Government; Greenhouse gas; President Trump

Comment from carl massaro, (6/6/2017, 7:09 AM)

Hogwash, The AIA continues to pump out homes with no thought to Solar orientation, More bathrooms, and media rooms . Municipal building with excessive burden on the tax payer in Cities that already have unfunded pent ion obligations.


Comment from Jesse Melton, (6/6/2017, 9:41 AM)

The AIA doesn't build homes. They don't even design homes. They're a lobbying organization that represents architects.


Comment from peter gibson, (6/6/2017, 12:29 PM)

AIA more green sheep.Stating the obvious. They should study the accord more closely. Expected those statements. The greens think that everybody thinks like them. The US has done more for pollution control in the last 30 yrs than anybody else. Don't force feed us the Paris nonsense. Pack up the wind mills and panels, please .We have had enough.


Comment from Phil Kabza, (6/7/2017, 7:26 AM)

Last week Germany set a new record in providing 85% of its electricity energy demands through "green sheep" renewable energy sources that the nation has invested in; the US provided about 15% in 2016. The US spends 3.5% of its GDP on military expenses; Germany spends 1.5%. The US has 30 deaths per 100,000 per year attributed to lung disease; Germany has 15 deaths. Draw your own conclusions about what each country considers important. The AIA and its members are schooled, trained, and licensed to protect the public's health, safety, and welfare. We're also trained to study facts before arriving at conclusions. We can't solve everything, but we know how to build energy efficient buildings, provided the people paying for them care at all. One of our teams is working on a school that will contribute more energy than it consumes, poised to break ground this year. This investment is being made because the community cares enough about energy and the future to do so.


Comment from John Fauth, (6/7/2017, 8:37 AM)

I'm suspicious of those that equate statistics with caring. Or statistics with implied causation.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (6/7/2017, 11:08 AM)

John, I am also a bit of a stats skeptic (doesn't mean I won't use them to make a point, but I still take them with a grain of salt). I have on my desktop an image showing the # of cases of autism in the US and sales of organic food in the US from 1998 to 2007. The curves match extremely well...but I would doubt that organic food contributes to autism diagnoses. Stats can be made to say a lot...but it doesn't mean there is an actual cause-effect pathway there. As for the AIA, I think they need to be careful that they don't "paint themselves into a corner" with their position...my professional association recently floated some wording regarding protecting the environment and got an earful as it could have put a good number of members in a conflict of interest situation.


Comment from Andrew Piedl, (6/7/2017, 7:59 PM)

The AIA spends about 50 cents a year on lobbying. They are trying to catch up with the rest. Where I work, it is mandatory for single family homes to be 'solar ready'. I think Carl has the AIA confused with the NRA or the NHBA whatever...


Comment from John Fauth, (6/8/2017, 8:26 AM)

Mike, it's the linkage of a selected statistic (often with monetary component) with an emotion (in this case "caring") that is particularly offensive.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (6/8/2017, 10:58 AM)

John, I agree....using stats for emotional or economic blackmail is bad form. Adding stats that don't seem to follow a cause-effect relationship to the argument just make it worse. Sure, a more energy efficient building will help with the energy used for lighting and heating, but has no impact on what goes into the building (computers, appliances, process machinery and so on). I highly doubt that the AIA and their policies can put a significant dent in the 40% and 72% figures they quote...a more efficient building might be great for their clients pocketbooks, but it is a pittance when it comes to doing something about climate change. I suspect it's a little more about "green washing" the AIA so they appear to be "good guys" in a marketplace where enviro green is starting to have some impact like cash green.


Comment from John Fauth, (6/9/2017, 8:24 AM)

That's an astute observation..."I'm a good person for making this meaningless contribution". It would explain the viral use of #'s in social media as if the sentiment was somehow synonymous with action. Maybe it allows people to feel less helpless?


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