Letter from the Chair - March/April 2021

By Elizabeth Rupp del Monte FAIA posted 02-22-2021 12:29 PM


Now that the new year of 2021 is fully underway, we can take stock of the situation for the country, for architects, and specifically for COTE.

Consider that in the first week of the new administration these things happened:

  • A pledge to rejoin the Paris climate accord
  • Cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline
  • A temporarily pause on leasing federal lands for fossil-fuel production
  • Speeding up the process of permitting renewables.
  • A plan for the federal government to buy electric cars in volume.
  • An order to strengthen the EPA, Justice Department, and Energy Department’s focus on environmental justice.
  • An announcement that climate change would become a national-security priority for the Pentagon

This is not a statement of politics, but it is an acknowledgment of the positive impact of these policies from an environmental perspective. For those of us who are concerned about the environment, this could be a turning point.

Where does this put us? Now that climate action and an equitable society are AIA’s driving missions, our advocacy efforts at COTE are closely aligned with those of AIA generally.  We find ourselves in close collaboration with GAC (Government Advocacy Committee) and the incredible staff at AIA focused on advocacy. Check out the update from Mike Davis, chair of GAC.

Some of you may have seen, or signed, a letter from architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms addressed to the Biden administration asking the administration to provide leadership in six areas:

  1. Enhance federal building standards
  2. Stimulate building reuse and upgrades
  3. Promote healthy housing and resilient communities
  4. Electrify to achieve a carbon-free grid
  5. Promote materials health and product transparency
  6. Promote healthy schools for all

It’s important to note that, while this letter was endorsed by the AIA, it is not from the Institute. It is from AEC firms doing business in the built environment realm whose success depends on a functioning economic system. These are the folks asking for these changes.

In fact, the organizers are still gathering signatures, now from all corners of the industries working in the built environment. The letter will be sent back to the White House with the expanded list and made public. The cut-off for those new signatures is March 10; you can use this link to sign, if your firm or organization hasn’t already. And feel free to share.

These issues sound familiar, right? Some of these are nearly direct quotes from the Framework for Design Excellence. Others follow logically from it. They are all related to the issues COTE has been championing for years. So, now that our basic issues have been recognized as top priorities for the profession, does this mean we’re done?

Obviously not.  There is so much more to do. Just stating that things should happen doesn’t mean they will happen, but it’s a start. At the COTE Advisory Group we will be continuing to push forward with the message and the tools to continue these great changes. We will also stay coordinated with the new board committee CCADE, which will be moving the Institute forward. Learn more about that here.

Meanwhile, the COTE Network, the affiliation of all the amazing COTE chapters in local and state components, is off to a fabulous start. For just one example, the LA COTE chapter has its 1.5C Symposium (March 5 and 12, more here). And AIA Houston/COTE will have its annual Gulf Coast Green later this year. So many chapters are doing amazing things -- the Network is thriving.

We also want to say thank you to all who submitted for the COTE Top Ten Awards and the COTE/ACSA Top Ten Student Competition—and to our amazing jurors and technical reviewers. We anticipate announcing the winners on Earth Day.