COTE Network: A Community of Architects and Advocates / Q4 2020 Call
By Kira Gould
The COTE Network is the term we use for the groups within local and state AIA components who call themselves Committee on the Environment (or something similar). There are at least 44 chapters that we know of (and we know for sure that there are more!). The chapters range in scale, purpose, and habit; this diversity reflects the needs of their component constituents. Some focus on education or guest lectures, some have advocacy aims, and others are social groups that migrate content every year.
On November 9, 2020, we held our fourth quarter COTE Network call. At our quarterly call, we were fortunate to have two guest speakers, Simona Fischer, AIA, with MSR Design (and she is the AIA Minnesota COTE incoming co-chair for 2021), and Alicia Belton, AIA, with Urban Design Perspectives, both from Minneapolis. They presented in October at AIA Minnesota’s virtual conference. Their session, entitled The Ethics of Environmental Justice: Architects’ Call to Action, explored perspectives and actions they are taking to accelerate racial justice and climate action. Fischer introduced the topic, and Belton talked about the remnants of redlining in the 1930s and how that translates to inequity in distributions of resources including parkland, shade trees, and community amenities. Its impact continues today as communities of color disproportionately experience higher temperatures due to these policies. She discussed her firm’s creation of Camp SEE Architecture, a one-week youth STEM program for students of color that piloted in 2019 and ran in a distance learning format this summer.
Kendall Claus, Assoc. AIA, the COTE Network Leader and co-chair of AIA Austin COTE, led the call’s roundtable discussion; this is our chance to hear from chapters about what they are working on, challenges they are facing, or recent milestones or successes. We heard from a number of chapters, including Aelan Tierney, AIA, from AIA Western Massachusetts COTE, about a scholarship for students of color and young women; from Katherine Ruiz, AIA, from Houston COTE, about a guide they are working on for homeowners about energy efficiency; from Ganesh Nayak, AIA, from AIA Atlanta COTE, about working with NOMA to explore issues at the intersection of sustainability and affordable housing; and from AIA North Carolina COTE’s Richard Alsop, AIA, who noted that his chapter had created a board seat for a leader from NOMA this past summer. Several other COTE chapters were present and contributed, too.
Claus and a number of other COTE chapter leaders are working on a COTE Chapter Best Practice Guide, which will be out in the new year.
Also: If you are a part of or know about a COTE chapter at a component that is not showing on our map (and you are not looped into our Basecamp community), please reach out to Kira Gould (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get connected to the Network and share what you are doing.
(This article is part of COTE news November/December 2020.)