Letter from the Chair: January/February 2021

By Elizabeth Rupp del Monte FAIA posted 01-08-2021 03:01 PM


I have the honor of chairing the COTE Advisory Group this year, and on behalf of COTE, welcome to 2021!

I think we’re all delighted to be here, mostly to get out of 2020, but also because this has all the makings of a great year for COTE and for the AIA. Peter Exley, 2021 AIA President, has written a wonderful letter outlining many of the reasons for this. Building on several actions from the last couple of years, the Institute is now aligned to make serious progress on issues that really matter. The newly released 2021-2025 Strategic Plan includes these goals:  

  • climate action for human and ecological health  
  • advance racial, ethnic, and gender equity  

As many people who work in both these areas have come to recognize, these goals are not separate, or even separable. The impact of climate change falls disproportionately onto non-white, lower income families, and these families are much less likely to have benefitted from the exploitation of resources leading to climate change. This double-whammy is just one indication of why we must address both crucial issues together. 

As we saw from the 2021 award selections, the AIA is using awards to give recognition to these goals. Ed Mazria, this year’s Gold Medal winner, has worked for decades to help our profession realize the dangers of climate change and the role we have is combatting it. He has created an organization that provides tools, resources, advocacy and data to anyone who can use it. His efforts are a big reason we have gotten to this point. 

We are thrilled to welcome four new members to the COTE Advisory Group for 2021. They are: Helena Zambrano, AIA, of Dept. of Sustainability, San Antonio, Tex.; Lori Ferriss, AIA, PE, of Goody Clancy & Associates, Boston; Kjell Anderson, AIA, of LMN Architects, Seattle; and Elaine Gallagher Adams, AIA, of LS3P Associates and SCAD School of Building Arts, Bluffton, SC.  

The goal of the COTE AG this year will be to continue to provide tools, resources, and inspiration to the AIA and its members as climate action is addressed throughout all programs and initiatives. The Framework for Design Excellence, based on the COTE Top Ten measures, is now the AIA’s basis for great design, merging the concepts of beautiful buildings with high performance. As architects, we know we can provide fabulous buildings that perform beautifully; we have 25 years of COTE Top Ten Award winners to prove it! Speaking of Top Ten winners, we are so excited to see what this year’s crop will be, selected by the amazing jury and crew of technical reviewers. Learn more about that jury, and the great jury for the Student Competition, here, and more about the AIA COTE/ACSA Top Ten for Students Competition itself here. 

Another reason for New Year Happiness is a new administration and renewed hope for environmental protections and climate action. Our COTE liaison to the Government Advocacy Committee, Mike Davis, gives a description of this, and of bipartisan support for building efficiency measures in his column. 

All in all, we are excited and optimistic that 2021 will be great, at least better than last year (the bar is low), but building on our 30-year history of leading practice transformation. We will be reaching out to COTE chapters all over, maybe starting some new ones, so that we can spread this excitement nationally. Let’s hope for great times ahead! 

Betsy del Monte, FAIA