Committee on the Environment


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Who we are

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- August 2020

By Julie Hiromoto AIA posted 08-12-2020 11:43


Dear COTE members,

Every year, AIA convenes all 21 Knowledge Communities (KCs) with the Board and Strategic Council in late summer to stitch together all the activity and great ideas bubbling up across our ecosystem.  It’s an opportunity to build collaborative relationships, cross fertilize ideas, and align KC strategy with larger AIA goals and priorities.  It’s called Knowledge Leadership Assembly (KLA).  Instead of meeting physically in North Carolina the first week of August, we experimented with a completely virtual meeting, hosted in the zoom webinar platform.  The three-day event was kicked off with two keynotes on Monday, focused conversations in smaller groups on Tuesday and a wrap up with President Jane Frederick and President-Elect Peter Exley and BoKnoCo (the Board level committees focused on the KCs) and Strategic Council representatives. It was clear that the AIA leadership understands that the 2019 “Big Move” and our aligned push on urgent and sustained climate action shares the stage equally with social equity and justice.  The two are inextricably linked and we must make significant strides in both.

If you haven’t heard Dr. Chris Luebkeman speak before, go find yourself one of his online videos!  He’s a futurist, formerly with Arup, and now leading strategic foresight for his alma matter ETH in Zurich Switzerland.  He opened his talk with a quote from the graffiti artist Banksy: Keep your coins, I want change.

I was really impressed with Renée Cheng, FAIA.  Dean of the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments in Seattle, she was also pivotal to the creation of the AIA’s Guides for Equitable Practice.  Most of them focus inwardly on a firm education, culture, and recruitment/retention potential, but #8 Engaging Community is an excellent resource for project best practices.  You’ve heard of the golden rule: treat others as you’d like to be treated.  Renée advocated for the platinum rule: treat others as they want to be treated, not what you assume based on your experiences.  She shared some examples that opened my eyes: commonly accepted good, green design strategies can be inequitably implemented, be perceived negatively in some communities, or have disproportionate hardship effects: shade, bike lanes, a plastic bag tax. 

There were also several breakout sessions to cross-fertilize ideas and build collaboration opportunities across the KCs.  More coming soon on next steps from these conversations addressing the future, lessons learned from the pandemic, policy influence, mindset shifting, missing knowledge, and what AIA can do to create more equitable communities.

Current and former COTE AG members also met with the Strategic Council working group focused on equitable housing.  They are working with the Housing and Community Development KC to make recommendations to the Board on needs and leadership opportunities in this realm.  COTE shared some ideas, and we will reconvene to review a draft of their proposal before it is presented to the Board in the fall.

Two more announcements I want to call your attention to: the AIA Policy Platform and our long-awaited celebration of the COTE Top Ten Awards and Student Competition winners.  The Advocacy team has been hard at work preparing for the national republican and democratic conventions.  Earlier this month, AIA published our 2020 Policy Platform.  Citizenship and the election of our government’s leaders is even more important in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the societal breaking points it has revealed.  The document reinforces our commitment to building a healthy America, a future economy, climate action and healthy communities.

We typically have a dedicated session at conference to share COTE TT Awards jury comments and the perspectives of winning teams.  This year, we’ve pivoted to an AIAU training module, combined with a live COTE TT Toast 10/29 at 3:30 ET/ 12:30 PT, where you can engage in direct conversations with the winners. I hope you will all be able to join me, Bob Berkebile, and Marsha Maytum to learn more about these amazing projects.  Promotional materials are forthcoming so that you can help us spread the word.  And if you cannot make it, it will be available later on-demand, with free CEUs included!


1 comment


08-20-2020 17:23

Mahalo for this update.
I am so encouraged by the meaning in:

Keep your coins, I want change.

and the platinum rule: treat others as they want to be treated, not what you assume based on your experiences.