Committee on the Environment

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Who we are

The Committee on the Environment (COTE®) is an AIA Knowledge Community working for architects, allied professionals, and the public to achieve climate action and climate justice through design. We believe that design excellence is the foundation of a healthy, sustainable, and equitable future. Our work promotes design strategies that empower all AIA members to realize the best social and environmental outcomes with the clients and the communities they serve.

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Engage in our advocacy efforts. Enjoy our latest on COTE news (and follow us on Twitter).

To learn about the Framework for Design Excellence (formerly the COTE Top Ten Measures), click here.

Did you miss the 2021 Top Ten Toast, download a recording here.

Check out COTE's history and timeline. 

Starting a local COTE or sustainability group and need some guidance? Check out the AIA COTE Network Guide here.

A big thank you to our partners: 
Founding partner: Building Green
Premier partners: Kingspan, Sherwin-Williams
Sustaining partners: GAF Roofing, Kawneer, Milliken, ROCKWOOL
Green partners: AutodeskEPIC MetalsHKSThornton Tomasetti, Skanska
Allied partners: TLC Engineering, Sierra Pacific Windows

GAF x COTE: Looking at the Future

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

COP26 Updates

By Julie Hiromoto FAIA posted 12-20-2021 12:02 PM


In 2021, AIA was recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with non-governmental observer status for the first time.  Our first COP delegation included national member volunteers, President @Peter J. Exley FAIA, @Michael R. Davis FAIA  (Bergmeyer) and myself (HKS). UK member Dr. Mark Breeze, AIA, also represented the AIA international region. @Lisa Richmond Hon. AIA also traveled to Glasgow with us, along with AIA staff Derek Washam and Paula Seidel.

Every five years, “Parties” (the approximately 200 nation states that signed the Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2021, have a milestone to ratchet up their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs- or what we will DO). AIA prioritized this global event for recognition as designers, thinkers, and advocates critical to solving the climate crisis- approximately 40% of global emissions are attributed to buildings. We went to build relationships for urgent and comprehensive change, to learn from others, and to be exposed to new perspectives and ways of thinking. It was exciting to be among 30,000 delegates so committed and passionate about our collective need to act and not leave anyone behind. Some people left frustrated (or even despondent) that the negotiations did not keep us within the 1.5°C emissions and global warming potential limit, but there is too much at stake to slow down, disengage, or give up! It will not be easy, substantial change will be required, and we must prioritize this one thing: climate action for human health and equity.

However, I’m emboldened and optimistic. The USA was “#AllinAtCOP26” after rejoining the Paris Agreement with 18 U.S. Senators, 3 Presidents and Vice Presidents (Biden, Obama and Gore), 17 Cabinet members, and more Governors, Mayors, City Councilors and policy makers than I could count. Our global youth and indigenous peoples were present and people wanted to hear what they had to say: Tibetan culture is being threaten with extreme ice melt equivalent to the north and south poles; Samantha Power (USAID) hosted a conversation entitled Our Climate Future is Female with speakers from the global south.

My personal thoughts on where architects, designers, and leaders need to dig in for impact and influence:

  1. Whole-life carbon. Are we transitioning fast enough from (incremental) efficiency to zero-emissions? Can we adopt embodied carbon and life cycle assessment much faster than the 2030 Commitment and DDx annual reporting?
  2. Reuse and retrofit of existing buildings. According to the International Energy Agency, two-thirds of the world’s buildings in 2040 already exist today. Many are in dire need of upgrades that target not only efficiency, comfort and functionality to remain viable but also require critical emission reductions like refrigerants and blowing agents used during renovation construction. The AIA HQ building in Washington, DC is in the midst of a carbon makeover.
  3. It is no longer enough to design energy efficient buildings. We must phase out fossil fuels and eliminate on site combustion, for economic, climate and air quality concerns. A fully electric building also provides resilience and agility in terms of renewable energy, storage, and balancing peak loads.
  4. Advocacy and activism. Drive changes in policy that make it easier for us and our clients to act. Not everyone has the opportunity to testify before Congress, but we can all engage with our elected officials and policy makers, like writing a letter in support of parking ordinance reform in Dallas, TX.

We often think of our footprint as a way of signaling to the world our virtues and priorities through our lifestyle choices. Our daily habits, like turning off the lights, cycling instead of driving, what we eat, and where we spend our money, can make a difference by creating market demand. It feels good, and this action is solely within our own control. But our handprint, or professional decisions and advocacy, have a far greater impact. 378 firms reported 2030 Commitment metrics on 3.8 billion square feet of buildings in design across 102 countries in 2020.  Our code of ethics notes our responsibility to talk to our clients about the climate emergency and the impact of their physical assets. Think about the impact and influence of our 94,000 members, working across disciplines and industries to collectively solve one of the biggest challenges of our time.  What will you change today?

photo credit: Julie Hiromoto
photo credit: Julie Hiromoto
photo credit: Derek Washam

Julie Hiromoto, FAIA
Principal | Director of Integration, HKS
2020 AIA COTE chair

The world is looking to you, COP26​​​​​