Committee on the Environment

 View Only


Quick Links

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.

Enjoy our latest on COTE news (and follow us on X and LinkedIn). 

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

A big thank you to our 2024 sponsors: 
Founding sponsors: Building Green
Premier sponsors: Sherwin-Williams, Stantec
Sustaining sponsors: GAF Roofing, Milliken, Andersen Windows,
BlueScope Buildings
Green sponsors: EPIC Metals
Allied sponsors: TLC Engineering, Sierra Pacific Windows

COTE History: Practice Transformation for a Climate Imperative

By Kira L. Gould Hon. AIA posted 01-05-2021 03:22 PM


The AIA Committee on the Environment History:  

Practice Transformation for a Climate Imperative  

By Kira Gould 


The AIA Committee on the Environment turned 30 in 2020, a year that our founding chair, Bob Berkebile, FAIA, reminds us, was supposed to be “the year of perfect vision.” He didn’t know that 2020 would offer us a pandemic and an equity awakening as ways to sharpen our understanding of the climate challenge ahead, but here we are. COTE and its leadership, with 2021 Chair Betsy del Monte, FAIA, at the helm, are starting 2021 with a renewed commitment to accelerating the transformation of the profession as it rises to meet the unified challenge of climate action and climate justice. 


And as Berkebile has described, it’s going to take all we have: “Buckminster Fuller taught me that the greatest access to breakthrough success is through failure. I have found that to be true. I see this situation as the greatest failure in human history. If we can acknowledge this failure, we can change the course of human history by designing a regenerative future for all life. We can meet this challenge with opportunity, collaborating, caring, and creativity. It will take all of that.” 


In 2020, COTE retooled its mission, promoted the AIA Framework for Design Excellence (adapted from the COTE Measures), shared the Toolkit and Super Spreadsheet, and supported the AIA as it stepped up, embracing the Framework principles and some metrics for the 2021 Honors & Awards; issuing its first ever Climate Action Plan; approving a 2021-2025 AIA Strategic Plan with a priority of “climate action for human and ecological health”; and debuting its Blueprint for Better manifesto and campaign about climate action, equity, and human health. 2020 COTE Chair Julie Hiromoto testified at the US House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Energy Subcommittee (on aspects of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act). As part of the mission exercise this year, COTE has considered its own history of diversity. While it has been a beacon for gender diversity at the AIA since its early years, and its 2020 leadership group (of 12) includes two people of color, the group is looking closely at how to attract more ethnic, cultural, and racial diversity.  


In 2019, COTE’s Resolution 19-11 at the AIA conference (for urgent and sustained climate action and to adopt the COTE Top Ten Measures as the AIA’s definition of design excellence) passed overwhelmingly by member delegates. AG member Betsy del Monte, FAIA, was the measure’s sponsor, and it was championed by 2019 COTE Chair Marsha Maytum, FAIA; Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA; Carl Elefante, FAIA; and Berkebile. In September, the COTE Top Ten Measures officially became the AIA Framework for Design Excellence. COTE launched the Common App this year, a way for AIA components (and, initially, other AIA Knowledge Communities) to adopt the Top Ten measures and metrics in their awards programs, and to assist juries with a graphic representation of performance achievements.  


Marsha Maytum, FAIA: “Building upon the 30-year legacy of action, COTE brought the Resolution for Urgent Climate Action to the membership with overwhelming success, just as Bob Berkebile and others took to the convention floor in 1990 to establish the Committee on the Environment. This is a time of great challenge but also great opportunity for our profession ... to apply the transformative power of design to help create a just, healthy, carbon positive, resilient, and hopeful future. 


In 2018, the AIA board committed to a “big move” toward climate action across the Institute. COTE and AIA spoke up at the Climate Action Summit in September of that year. This year, COTE engaged dozens of members on the COTE Top Ten Toolkit and Super Spreadsheet, under the lead authorship of Corey Squire, AIA, and Tate Walker, AIA; these tools were launched and spurred workshops and presentations all over the country, many of them hosted by local COTE chapters. COTE was also mining data from the Top Ten, which would become the Design Datamap.   


Angie Brooks, FAIA: Using the 10-measure framework developed for the Top Ten awards program, the Toolkit was developed for use by architects and their clients for use on any project, in any region, by a team of any scale. Our advocacy work at the Federal level and the sharing of best practices helped us reach our goal of expanding knowledge and supporting our industry as we move towards a carbon neutral future. 


The year before, in 2017, COTE had retooled and relaunched the Top Ten Measures, the backbone of the Top Ten Awards program. COTE also published the research report, “The Habits of High-Performance Firms,” examining the lessons of repeat winners of the COTE Top Ten Awards, authored by Lance Hosey, FAIA, and Sandra Montalbo, Assoc. AIA. This year, advocacy included 775 member firms signed the EPA call to action letter to protect programs and funding. 


Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA“After the 2016 election, COTE became a catalyst for members to become much more engaged in advocating for the vital federal and state programs they had been counting on to drive sustainability performance. COTE also began actively engaging with other Knowledge Communities to find synergies in design goals that laid the groundwork for the Common App effort, and others, that followed.” 


Since AIA/COTE’s inception, collaboration within the AIA and far beyond it has been an important part of the recipe for success, and this approach to environmental leadership is particularly evident with respect to the USGBC. Many COTE leaders have served as USGBC leaders and in the development of the LEED program, a crucial elements of U.S. market transformation. Key collaborators are also active leaders within the EPA, the DOE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Architects Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the American Planning Association (APA), the ULI, the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), the American Water Resources Association (AWRA), the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Carbon Leadership Forum, and many other groups. Within the AIA, the committee collaborates closely with other knowledge constituencies, especially the Center for Communities by Design and the Diversity Committee, and with several other knowledge communities, especially the Committee on Design, the Regional/Urban Design Committee, the Housing Committee, the Public Architects Committee, the Center for Building Science & Performance, the Educator/Practitioner Network, and others. 


In 2016, COTE published an important research report, “Lessons from the Leading Edge,” in which Hosey surveyed trends among winning projects of the Top Ten Awards. This same year, advocacy efforts are picking up pace; COTE leadership visits the Hill, coordinates efforts with AIA Government Advocacy, and names Mike Davis, FAIA, as COTE Advocacy Ambassador. COTE also hosted its first Hackathon ahead of the AIA Conference on Architecture (2016, Philadelphia) at the offices of Kieran Timberlake.  


Leading up to 2013 there was much discussion within COTE about the need to change our national design culture to embrace building performance as an integral part of design excellence. COTE’s work on the AIA Design Awards Task Force to introduce sustainable design narratives and metrics into the AIA Honor Awards submission was a hard-won step in that direction. But we also understood that the instilling of design values starts in our schools.  At the time, there were only a small handful of architecture schools in the country that provided an integrated curriculum in building performance. Even where they existed, such courses were often regarded more as dry engineering than design.   Many design professors were either uninformed or resistant to engaging the topic as a part of a serious design process.  Students, on the other hand, were eager to know more.    


The 2013 COTE Chair Bill Leddy, FAIA, introduced the idea of a national design competition for students based on the COTE Top Ten Measures to accelerate the change of studio culture. COTE AG members Bob Harris, FAIA, and Alison Kwok, FAIA, created a robust program with curricular guides and bibliographies. ACSA joined forces with COTE as the manager of the competition. It launched in 2014 and by the 2020 cycle, the program had engaged 95 national and international schools of architecture and more than 2,600 students (in the 2019-2020 cycle alone, 41 schools and 600 students participated.)  


In 2013, the AIA board endorsed recommendations from the Sustainability Leadership Opportunity Scan, authored by Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA (then serving as a consultant to the AIA as the Resident Fellow for Sustainability) and supported by COTE leaders; it identified four key priorities for AIA sustainability leadership efforts. This year, COTE also introduced the Top Ten Plus Award, as an augmentation of the Top Ten Awards. Updates to the AIA Code of Ethics to include obligations to the environment were made in 2012 and again in 2018, after a sustained effort that was spearheaded by COTE members in New England and supported by COTE national leadership and others throughout AIA.   


COTE partnered with AIAS in 2008 (thanks to leadership of then-president Andrew Caruso) to create the COTE Research Scholarship. The same year, the COTE Founders received a leadership award from USGBC, while an ongoing effort to encourage a formal relationship between the AIA and USGBC was under way. In 2007, COTE expanded its leadership group with an adjunct Advisory Group, and also identified regional team leaders (typically past local/state chairs). This year, we had contact with 75 chairs of 52 state and local COTE chapters.  


After 2005, COTE expanded its leadership framework beyond the five-person national advisory group.  

While Vivian Loftness, FAIA, was chair, sustainability was gaining momentum at the AIA and she was a vocal advocate for funding for sustainability and building research. The AIA’s Center for Communities by Design expanded the successful Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team program to include Sustainable Design Assessment Teams (SDATs). The Government Advocacy department began to weave sustainability into its focus areas and it became a theme of Grassroots as hundreds of regional leaders visited Congressional representatives in Washington in 2005 and 2006.  


COTE has served as a critical advisor to AIA for many years. Berkebile and Sandy Mendler, AIA, represented COTE at the AIA’s Green Building Summit in July 2005, which resulted in two position statements adopted by the board later that year. AIA presidents, including Thom Penney, FAIA (2003); Gene Hopkins, FAIA (2004); Doug Steidl, FAIA (2005); Kate Schwennsen, FAIA (2006); and RK Stewart, FAIA (2007), have helped to champion the subject as a potential transformer of the profession and related industries. COTE leaders have served on the Sustainability Task Groups; the third in 2006 was chaired by Williams. That group’s September 2006 report to the board was unanimously approved. And in 2005, the AIA was an early adopter of the Architecture 2030 Challenge, which would later (2009) become the AIA 2030 Commitment. (Its Design Data Exchange, or DDX, launched in 2015, and at the close of 2020, there were 759 signatory firms.) 


In 2004, COTE issued its Writing the Green RFP tool and secured a significant grant from the Tides Foundation’s Kendeda Fund to pursue the Ecological Literacy in Architecture Education project. This research effort included a number of gatherings, a review of leading academic programs, and a published report, Ecology and Design: Ecological Literacy and Architecture Education (AIA, 2006). Mark Rylander, AIA, helped push the board to appoint the first of a series of sustainability task groups and for refinement of the Top Ten measures, honing the qualitative measures and quantitative metrics. COTE advocated the greening of the AIA convention and awards.  


Daniel Williams, FAIA: “The ecological model illustrates that we are nature and that all communities of all things are connected. A sustainable society designs and builds sustainable structures and communities. This is not a ‘business as usual’ period in professional design practice. Today’s opportunities will define the profession for the next century.” 


By 2003, COTE leadership had further developed the COTE Sustainable Design Measures and Metrics—the framework for the Top Ten Green Projects Program—to fully include issues of site, watershed, urban design, and regional issues and to distinguish between “green design” and “sustainable.” At this time, COTE was pushing to bring the issue of sustainability back into the forefront at the institute. 2003 AIA President Thom Penney, FAIA, appointed Dan Williams. FAIA (2003 COTE Chair) and William McDonough, FAIA, to be the AIA liaisons to the Union of International Architects for the Sustainable Design meeting in Barcelona. Williams also helped lead the Greening of the AIA Headquarters charrette in 2003, which also included Dan Nall, FAIA; Vivian Loftness, FAIA; Mark Rylander, AIA; and others. The report was provided to the Institute and is a foundation for current greening efforts. 


Donald Watson, FAIA: “After 50 years of practice, I continue to be inspired by the contribution of AIA members, colleagues, and staff. The combined and continuing efforts of all who have raised, carried, and gathered behind the banner of architecture and environmental quality for all of life have made a lasting impact on the values, principles, and practices of architecture worldwide. The simplest statement for this banner was articulated by Alvar Aalto in the 1930s: ‘the responsible designer must inflict no harm.’ COTE is one part of the dialogue built upon this precept.” 


In the early 2000s, COTE was pushing broad engagement on codes and also working to influence culture and content in schools of architecture. During this time COTE explored ways to team with groups to make effective appeals to legislators and others to help codify green design goals. Lee worked with the Institute to renew a critical Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE and to initiate a new one with the EPA. (The EPA MOU yielded important efforts such as the 2006 Water + Design Conference and research collaborations with the USGBC.) Lee’s work as chief architect with the Office of Management and Budget for the City of New York helped spotlight green cities initiatives. COTE also held its first Dean’s Roundtable on Sustainable Design at this time. 


Vivian Loftness, FAIA: “The story of COTE and its energy and research initiatives precursors at AIA illustrates the strong, continuous dialogue of energy and environmental advocates in the architectural community for more than 60 years. This had its underpinnings in the early 1900s.” 


In October of 1999, AIA/COTE cosponsored a conference in Chattanooga that became an important milestone for many in the movement. Mainstreaming Green: Sustainable Design for Buildings and Communities, which also involved the USGBC and DOE; the other PIAs involved included Public Architects, Building Codes & Standards, and Specifications and Building Technology. Martin recalls the “extraordinary” contributions of AIA staff member Chris Gribbs. Keynote speakers included Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry, and architect William McDonough, FAIA. 


Nadav Malin, Hon. AIA: “COTE was involved in making the Chattanooga conference happen in 1999. And AIA/COTE and the Committee on Design collaborated on the Architecture of Sustainability conference in May 2006. These collaborative conferences were important moments for many people.” 


Recognizing that practitioners need to study exemplars, COTE introduced the Top Ten Green Projects program on Earth Day in 1997 under Gail Lindsey’s leadership. The program, which pioneered a blend of qualitative and quantitative assessment, is now in its eleventh year. The involvement and support of the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program have been important to the growth and strength of this program and Energy Star is the current sponsor. Strong juries are another distinction; they have been multi-disciplinary and diverse, including engineers, architects, and young practitioners. The Top Ten program has a sophisticated online submission process, developed with Nadav Malin’s team at BuildingGreen and the DOE’s High Performance Buildings Database (managed through the National Renewable Energy Labs). While relying on the display board to give a first impression to the jury, the online submission provides detailed metrics, giving this program its unique qualitative and quantitative framework and providing a critical web site resource. 


Gail Lindsey, FAIA: “We called it ‘Earth Day Top Ten’ when we started the Top Ten Green Projects program. I was interested in case studies and thought that a top ten would be a great way to start a database of the very best.” 


In November 1997, COTE was a co-host of the Environmental and Economic Balance: The 21st Century Outlook, which also involved the US Green Building Council and the DOE. Several other AIA professional interest areas (now known as knowledge communities) were also involved. Later, there was a meeting in Maho Bay that included the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). Present for this meeting were, among others, Berkebile; Rick Fedrizzi; Rob Watson; Susan Maxman; Bill Reed, AIA; David Gottfried; Gail Lindsey; and Muscoe Martin, AIA. A similar meeting followed in Seattle. Martin served as chair in 1999, and in 2000 and 2001, Sandy Mendler, AIA, was chair. These were critical years for the COTE Top Ten Green Projects program, as it was gaining a more prominent profile and the number of entries was increasing.  


Bob Berkebile, FAIA: “We knew we couldn’t do this alone. We saw that this would have to be interdisciplinary and integrated.” 


In 1995, COTE organized the Environmental Design Charrette, held simultaneously in 12 U.S. locations; participants included Chris Gibbs at AIA and Gregg Ander, Berkebile, Fisk, Franta, Lindsey, Watson, Gastinger, Gordon, Jestena Boughton, Kristine Anstead, Rover Cevero, Anne Crawley, Elizabeth Ericson, James Franklin, Margaret Howard, David Lewis, Andrew Maurer, John Peers, David Sellers, Lynn Simon, and Elaine Stover. This was sponsored by the EPA and summarized in the Environmental Design Charrette Handbook (AIA Press, 1996). 


In 1994, a group of COTE leaders, including Franta, Fisk, Gastinger, Gordon, Berkebile, Lindsey, Watson, Gregg Ander, Lesley Brown, William Edgerton, and David Hirzel, hosted the Global Symposium on Sustainable Environments in New York.  


The 1993 AIA National Convention in Chicago was the first to focus on sustainable design, presided over by the AIA’s first woman president, Susan Maxman, FAIA. “We said we wanted the convention to focus on sustainability—architecture at the crossroads—and several people suggested that no one would come,” Maxman recalls. “It was a big success.” At that event in Chicago, more than 3,000 AIA members joined Maxman and the Union Internationale des Architects, in signing a Declaration of Interdependence for a Sustainable Future, a document placing “environmental and social sustainability at the core of our practices and professional responsibilities.” 


Susan Maxman, FAIA, in 1993: “We have the knowledge, we have the riches, we have the power. What is called for is a profound shift in the way we regard this planet and everything on it. Exploitation must be replaced by stewardship. And for stewardship to extend its healing hand, we must act responsibly.” 


In 1993, many COTE leaders were also involved in the high-profile Greening of the White House, including Berkebile, Gastinger, Franta, Robert Simmons, John Picard, Robert Gilman, Browning, Kathleen Cruise, Carl Costello, and others. In the same year, COTE hosted a three-part workshop series for architects and allied professionals on Design for the Environment.  


Bill Browning, Hon. AIA: “The process pioneered by the Greening of the White House charrette has become an integral part of the green building movement.” 


A multidisciplinary focus and holistic viewpoint—and EPA funding—drove the development of the Environmental Resource Guide (ERG). The manual was introduced in 1992. The ERG Review Council—Pliny Fisk III, Levin, and Bierman-Lytle—worked with dozens of AIA members and others to develop the detailed and comprehensive guide and to expand it in subsequent years. Joel Ann Todd did seminal work for this project, developing the technical reports on materials that are the ERG’s backbone. The project benefited from the support and leadership of the EPA’s James White and the AIA’s Joe Demkin. Alex Wilson and Nadav Malin (of BuildingGreen and Environmental Building News) developed the application reports based on a framework crafted by Gordon. Others provided critical input into this detailed resource. “The building professions were very uncomfortable addressing key issues of human health and well-being,” Croxton recalls. “The Environmental Resource Guide was designed to develop and disseminate reliable and scientifically sound knowledge and insights needed within the profession.” EPA funding also covered a group of non-architects who worked with the AIA/COTE in the early years; the Scientific Advisory Group on the Environment (SAGE) members included Amory Lovins, Patricia Hynes, Robert Gillman, Bob Simmons, Bill Browning, David Wann, and others. 


By this time, Gordon says, the perspective was beginning to be integrative, going far beyond energy: “We were talking about healthy environments for people. We were looking at waste, land use, ecologies, and water.” They were also having critical early discussions about life cycle assessment and how that framework related to specific regional characteristics. From 1990 through 1993 were years of intense development of the ERG and coincided with the growth in expertise of AIA/COTE: the “biology” of environmental design was being identified for the profession, using site, water, energy, materials, and waste as a basis of measurement.  


Randolph Croxton, FAIA: “We saw early on that one of the most valuable roles COTE could play would be in the development and dissemination of reliable, and scientifically sound knowledge and insights needed within the profession to pursue this deeper consideration of architecture and design. This eventually became the ERG.” 


A symposium on Designing Healthy Buildings: Indoor Air Quality was hosted by COTE in November 1992, following a successful conference on Energy, Environment and Architecture in December 1991. That same year there was movement within the AIA, too: James Lawler, AIA, the 1991 AIA president, had asked AIA board member Randoph Croxton, FAIA (who served as the board liaison to AIA/COTE for its first few years) and others, including Franta, Watson, and Sim van der Ryn, FAIA, to draft a position. The board passed a resolution that members should not specify materials with CFCs or HCFCs, which were rapidly being understood as contributors to ozone depletion. 


A think tank came together to develop these concepts. Berkebile, Fisk, Levin, Todd, Barbara Lippiatt, Greg Norris, and others were involved, as was the National Institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Lippiatt and Norris had been developing the Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) software package in collaboration with Todd and her staff. The Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems hired Levin, Todd, Norris, and Bill Bavinger to explore a country-wide life cycle analysis (LCA) approach—geographically “upstreaming” life cycle data and describing the inputs and outputs of more than 12 million businesses. Results showed that the architecture and construction industries were directly connected to one-twenty-fifth of all material flow activity. Their document, BaseLineGreen, was so called because users could “baseline” any generic building type against which to measure design work using regional parameters throughout the United States. (Eventually, the LCA approach found its way into BEES, which extends the early work of COTE using more formal and widely accepted practices for evaluating the environmental impacts of building products using life cycle assessment tools.) 

In 1991, President George H.W. Bush issued a National Energy Policy, and AIA President Lawler convened an advisory group to issue a response and resolution that was passed by the board one month later. The resolution, written by COTE members, Croxton, and Lawler, called on all AIA members to undertake environmental reforms within their practices, such as the immediate cessation of ozone-depleting refrigerants. 

COTE’s Founding & Roots 

The 1990 founding of the AIA Committee on the Environment grew from a series of conversations and events that date back nearly two decades before that. Today, COTE celebrates a robust definition of sustainability that frames the process of sustainable design as one that includes the full range of human settlement and ecological issues. In the 1970s, it started with energy. The AIA Energy Committee was founded in 1973 by a group that included Herb Epstein, FAIA; Richard Stein, FAIA; Ezra Ehrenkrantz, FAIA; and Leo Daly, FAIA, all known for their work in energy, architecture, and building research. The Energy Committee prepared several papers, including A Nation of Energy Efficient Buildings; these became effective AIA tools for lobbying Capitol Hill. The AIA’s Dave Bullen helped gain the interest of Jimmy Carter’s campaign, which adopted language from the AIA energy position papers into the Democratic platform of 1976. Carter’s administration founded what became the US Department of Energy, which funded building research focused on energy. Energy Committee members Donald Watson, FAIA, and Greg Franta, FAIA, were two of many active with the group in the late 1970s, when the AIA, too, was advocating building energy research. The committee collaborated with government and with many organizations for more than a decade. 

Donald Watson, FAIA:
 “Energy is a design topic, not a technology topic, and there are a few of us who have always believed this.” 

The AIA Research Corporation was set up in 1973 (a research committee within AIA had existed since the 1950s). President and organizer John Eberhard, FAIA, secured contracts with federal agencies; one for $10 million provided subcontracts to more than 300 firms and universities and support for key AIA Research Corporation staff (which included Vivian Loftness, FAIA). They engaged in an array of building and energy studies, including regional guidelines for passive solar design and Building Energy Performance Standards work intended to become energy codes. According to Watson, “The AIA Research Corporation can be credited with arguing effectively for the architectural focus of building science research—and for critical federal funding support of building science related to energy.” 

In the 1980s, the Energy Committee was fading and lower energy prices were lessening attention to energy-related issues, even as some sought to keep them on the AIA agenda. In the early 1980s, architect Bob Berkebile, FAIA, had a career-changing moment when a structural failure at a hotel his firm designed caused the deaths of 114 people. “I began to think in a new way about the real impact of our designs,” he says. “I asked myself, ‘Are our designs improving quality of life, health, and well-being, and the quality of the neighborhood, community, and planet?’ ” The Smithsonian magazine published an issue highlighting people its editors believed might change the outcome of human life on the planet; these included Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute, Wes Jackson at the Land Institute, and others. “I sought them out,” Berkebile says. “They opened my eyes to the need for expertise and diversity outside AIA membership. I realized that architects and the AIA were barriers to making the degree of change that was necessary.” 

At the AIA Grassroots Convention in the spring of 1989, Senator Jack Danforth (R-MO) challenged Berkebile and other Missouri architects who visited his office to document that environmental concerns they were expressing were shared by architects nationally. At the 1989 AIA Convention in St. Louis, AIA Kansas City Chapter president Kirk Gastinger, FAIA, and president-elect Berkebile presented Critical Planet Rescue (CPR), a measure calling for the Institute to sponsor research and to develop a resource guide to help architects and their clients to act responsibly. (This had earlier gotten a cool response from the AIA board, which suggested that it was an environmental problem, not a professional one.) At the convention, the effort had broad support, prompting the board to assign CPR to the dwindling Energy Committee. In 1990, a first meeting was in Kansas City, and a second, at the Mayflower hotel in Washington, brought together a large group of people to chart a path for what would become the Committee on the Environment. 

In the spring of 1990, Berkebile and AIA staff member Greg Ward visited New York to see projects that were beginning to illustrate what would come to be understood as an important shift in design practices. William McDonough + Partners’ headquarters for the Environmental Defense Fund addressed issues of daylight, energy, and materials and opened in 1987. Croxton and interior designer Kirsten Childs’ design for the Natural Resources Defense Council headquarters, also in New York, opened in 1989. They linked issues of energy, materials, air quality, and daylight and the client supported careful monitoring after occupancy so results could be documented; many people refer to this project as an important early exemplar of the shift from energy-driven design to a more full-spectrum understanding of ecologically informed design. 

About that time, a Kansas City Business Journal story about Critical Planet Rescue found its way to the desk of Bill Reilly, the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency, which eventually provided significant funding—more than $1 million—toward research. The AIA board endorsed the creation of the Committee, announced at the 1990 convention in Houston, to address a broad array of environmental concerns. Suddenly, the little committee had legs and a founding Steering Committee, chaired by Berkebile, of 10 (including some non-AIA members). According to a 1994 document, the members included Bob Berkebile, FAIA; Paul Bierman-Lytle; Greg Franta, FAIA; Kirk Gastinger, FAIA; Harry Gordon, FAIA; Hal Levin; Frederick P. Lyman, FAIA; William McDonough, FAIA; Christopher Stafford, AIA; and Kelly French Vresilovic, AIA. 


AIA COTE has involved dozens of passionate, committed people over time—AIA members, allied professionals, AIA staff members, and many others—not all of whom are named here. I talked with many, and several were generous with their time; they mined their memories and even recovered documents from basements to help me tell this story. Not all recollections aligned precisely; omissions or errors are unintentional. Please send corrections or comments to 

AIA COTE Advisory Group / Steering Committee / Adjunct Advisory Group

Elaine Gallagher Adams 

Gregg Ander  

Kjell Anderson 

Dennis Andrejko  

Bob Berkebile (chair 1990-1992)  

Albert Bicol  

Paul Bierman-Lytle  

James Binkley (chair 2006)  

Angie Brooks (chair 2018)  

Lesley Brown  

William Brown  

Bill Browning  

Filo Castore (chair 2012)  

Kendall Claus (Network Leader) 

Randy Croxton  

Lance Davis  

Mike Davis (Advocacy Ambassador) 

Betsy del Monte (chair 2021)  

Kristine Dombrowski  

William Edgerton  

Rand Ekman (chair 2015)
Carl Elefante  

Charles Eley  

Billie Faircloth (chair 2022)  

Lori Ferriss 

Thomas Fisher  

Pliny Fisk  

Greg Franta  

Kirk Gastinger (chair 1993)  

Harry Gordon (chair 1995)  

Kira Gould (chair 2007)  

Bob Harris  

David Herron  

Angela Heinze  

Anne Hicks Harney  

Julie Hiromoto (chair 2020)  

David Hirzel  

Stephanie Horowitz  

Lance Hosey   

Gunnar Hubbard  

Alexis Karolides (chair 2011)  

Varun Kohli  

Leonard Koroski  

Alison Kwok  

Mary Ann Lazarus (chair 2017)  

Patrick Lally  

Bill Leddy (chair 2013)  

Joyce Lee (chair 2002)  

Hal Levin  

Gail Lindsey (chair 1997-1998)  

Vivian Loftness (chair 2005)  

Andrea Love  

Frederic Lyman  

Stuart Magruder  

Muscoe Martin (chair 1999)  

Lisa Matthiessen  

Marsha Maytum (chair 2019)  

Susan Maxman  

William McDonough  

Paula Burns McEvoy (chair 2016)  

Greg Mella  

Sandy Mendler (chair 2000-2001)  

David Miller (chair 2010)  

Christopher Morrison  

Dan Nall  

David Nelson  

Victor Olgyay  

Jon Penndorf  

Emily Rauch  

Bill Reed  

John Rountree 

Mark Rylander (chair 2004)  

Vikram Sami  

Ken Scalf (chair 2009)  

Anne Schopf  

Whitney Schrum  

Scott Shell  

Henry Siegel (chair 2008)  

Z Smith  

Deborah Snoonian  

Julie Snow  

Corey Squire  

Christopher Stafford  

Drew Stelman  

Bill Sturm (chair 2014)  

Sharon Sutton  

Joel Ann Todd   

Billie Tsien  

Kelly French Vresilovic  

Tate Walker  

Don Watson (chair 1996)  

Dan Williams (chair 2003)  

Catriona Campbell Winter  

Helena Zambrano 

AIA Staff 

The work of AIA/COTE would not have been possible without the significant contributions of many AIA staff members. Today’s team includes Melissa Wackerle, Melissa Morancy, Paola Capo, and April Ovens. Earlier staff included Kathleen Lane, Marsha Garcia, Lisa Madison, Kelly Picard, Patrick Lally, Mielle Marquis, Carl Costello, Christopher Gribbs, Richard Hayes, Ed Jackson, Peg Hamill, Greg Ward, Patricia Lukas, Vanessa Williamson, Erika Taylor, and Doug Greenwood.  

CAPTION (1998 group photo) 

AIA Committee on the Environment, Vancouver BC, October 25, 1998—Clockwise: Bill Reed, Gail Lindsey (chair), Bill Bobenhausen, Muscoe Martin, Drew Stelman, Bob Berkebile, Joyce Lee, Chris Gribbs, Richard Hobbs, Dan Nall, Sandy Mendler, Charles Eley. photo credit: Doug Balcomb