Committee on the Environment


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The AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE®) works to advance, disseminate, and advocate design practices that integrate built and natural systems and enhance both the design quality and environmental performance of the built environment. Expand your positive impact: Engage in our advocacy efforts. Enjoy our last newsletter (and follow us on Twitter). To learn about the Framework for Design Excellence (formerly the COTE Top Ten Measures), click here >

A big thank you to our partners: 
Founding partner: Building Green
Sustaining partners: Lucifer Lighting Company, Kingspan
Green partners: AutodeskEPIC MetalsHKS,  ROCKWOOL, WRNSSkanska, Thornton Thomasseti
Allied partners: BNIM, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, LMN David Baker Architects, Integral

Supporting partners: Humanscale, Mahlum, BPKC, Opsis

GAF x COTE: Looking at the Future

This 2019 video was compiled by GAF, a COTE sponsor. 

Letter from the Chair- July 2020

By Julie Hiromoto AIA posted 07-15-2020 10:43


Dear COTE members,

Last month, I noted that solidarity is not enough, that action is required to overcome systemic racial injustice.  Curious about where to start?  Consider the Framework for Design Excellence’s Measure 2: Design for Equitable Communities:

Design solutions affect more than the client and current occupants. Good design positively impacts future occupants and the larger community.

  • What is the project's greater reach? How could this project contribute to creating a diverse walkable (accessible), human-scaled community?
  • Who might this project be forgetting? How can the design process and outcome remove barriers and promote inclusion and social equity particularly engaging vulnerable communities?
  • What opportunities exist in this project to include, engage, and promote human connection?
  • How can the design support healthy and resilience for the community during times of need? / during times of emergencies?

As designers, we are often working on behalf many, beyond the entity that retained our professional services.  Because of our responsibility to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare, we must design for the larger community.  How do we know what the community needs?  Listening to learn is a good place to start.  Active listening involves trying to comprehend beyond the actual words being used, to ascertain the full picture.  This requires attention, empathy, and a proactive effort to understand other perspectives, instead of waiting to convince, educate, or defend your position.  Successful active listening also makes the other parties feel heard.

Last month, HKS hosted a listening session where three of our BIPOC colleagues shared their stories.  I was touched by the bravery of their vulnerability and the rawness of emotion that overcame them as they spoke.  My eyes were opened, yet again, to the privilege that I experience every day, even as a minority female.  How can we all be more sensitive and empathetic to the disadvantage others face every day?  How can we be more open and understanding to having those difficult conversations- to get comfortable with the uncomfortable?  We will reach our goals faster and more effectively if we are all working collectively (not for the marginalized or disadvantaged).  As Mark Chambers (NYC Director of Sustainability) so aptly stated during this Living Future 2019 15 Minutes of Brilliance keynote, "If you want people to fight with you, first you have to be willing to fight alongside them."  Unfamiliar with the term climate justice? Read more here from the NAACP.

Race and racism are not easy things to talk about.  Even scholars disagree on the appropriate definition and how we should talk about these challenges, as explored in this New Yorker article.  This is not a political issue, although it is being politicized.  Like design, where there is not one 'right answer,' an iterative approach may help us learn together.  Let’s try something different, be open to feedback, and try again.

This month’s chair letter is dedicated to two of my HKS colleagues who made the tough choice to openly share their challenges.  I encourage you to get to know these individuals, expand your perspective, and lead with love.  What are you going to do?

Keith Lashley, AIA, is a Principal and senior construction contract administrator based in Orlando.  After graduating from Howard University and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Keith has worked in the hospitality, mixed use and healthcare practice areas across the US and Caribbean.  Please read his story starting in public housing here.

Adaeze Cadet, AIA is a senior designer and Vice President.  Over the last 15 years, she has led hospitality and high-rise multi-family and mixed used projects from our Dallas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles offices. Please read her story of the unseen and marginalized here.