Committee on the Environment

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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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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
Sustaining sponsors: GAF Roofing, Milliken, Andersen Windows,
BlueScope Buildings
Green sponsors: EPIC Metals
Allied sponsors: TLC Engineering, Sierra Pacific Windows

COTE book REVIEW: People Planet Design by Corey Squire

By Lyndley E. Kent AIA posted 12-13-2023 05:28 PM

People, Planet, Design by Corey Squire

A new book by Corey Squire, AIA -- People, Planet, Design: A Practical Guide to Realizing Architecture’s Potential -- is truly a Practical Guide to Architecture practice—as the subtitle states. 

The book is illustrated by Helena Zambrano, AIA, and published by Island Press (2023). Squire steps through each stage of design to lay a framework for how architects can achieve design excellence. Using real-world situations and common examples of where project paths diverge, he outlines how practicing professionals can better guide outcomes. With the lessons and tools highlighted in the book, architects can cultivate an intentional path toward design excellence, even when the obstacles of current practice stand in the way.  

Squire breaks his guide into three sections Theory, Practice, and Design — and defines Design Excellence as a shift in the goal of architecture toward holistic outcomes and impacts. The first section on Theory describes what constitutes good and bad design and how the two types come to be. It reviews a brief history of design and motives, explores why subpar buildings are common, and makes the case for changing how sustainable design is discussed within the industry and presented to clients with simple communication strategies. While readers actively engaged with sustainable, holistic design practices will agree with Squire’s points, those struggling to start their pursuit of “human-centered, climate-aware, and equitable design” will discover a solid footing from which to proceed 

The second section, Practice, gives architects perspective on the current design industry and where it needs to be pushed back against and changed. It dives into how even well-intentioned architecture firms fall short and gives simple strategies for effectively pursuing high-performance design, such as crafting an inspiring, shared vision as the main driving motivator toward design excellence. A clear vision, Squire argues, should take precedence over typical project motivators like checklists, metrics, and percentage-based goalsThis idea is driven home with Zambrano’s illustration of a highly detailed heating degree map compared to a simplified version showing general hot and cold regions (p. 142). Rather than get lost in the details, designers should maintain focus on the big picture. The section provides strategies that work with our natural human instincts, breaking down an intimidating sea of databases, baselines, modeling software, and reports. 

The final section, Design, explores specific building systems within an architect’s purview that have the most potential to impact design outcomes, such as windows, roofing, access, and user behavior—to name a few. Squire provides a detailed overview of each topic, specific information and data to consider, examples of industry norms and pitfalls, and a summary of best practices to tie each section to the big picture of human-centered, sustainable design. For architects experienced in sustainable design, these sections are a reminder of many good rules of thumb, providing a renewed focus on the everyday potential for impact. They also serve as important lessons—Best Practices 101, if you will—for professionals aspiring to be more environmentally focused. 

People, Planet, Design can be read without fear of getting lost in the technical aspects of high-performance design. Not knowing technical terms, not understanding the interrelation of systems, or not being familiar with what design excellence means today are non-issues. Using plainspoken, everyday language, Squire brings a renewed perspective to the architectural practice that has the potential to transform built and experienced outcomes. 

SAVE THE DATE: We’ll have our inaugural COTE book TALK on 8 February (virtual), at which Squire will talk about his book and I will ask questions and lead a discussion of the topics. We’ll share details about the event on social media.