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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Advocacy Update: AIA Congressional Testimony for Decarbonization

By Michael R. Davis FAIA posted 09-17-2019 12:46 PM


On September 20, Carl Elefante, FAIA, testified before the House Energy and Commerce (HE&C) Committee’s hearings on “Building America’s Clean Future: Pathways to Decarbonizing the Economy” on behalf of the American Institute of Architects. The AIA has been granted “stakeholder” status by HE&C in regards to these hearings which were announced earlier in the summer.


In a memo to its Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change, HE&C Chair Frank Pallone (D, NJ) framed this initiative as a “bold new plan to achieve a 100 percent clean economy by 2050.” He cites the Obama Administration’s 2016 Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization, a comprehensive plan to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 and put the US “on a path to reach net-zero emissions” soon thereafter. Included under the heading “Pathways to Deep Decarbonization”, Chairman Pallone charges the Subcommittee with studying emission reductions in the US economy’s “transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors”.


Given the AIA Board’s recent adoption of Resolution 19-11, the member-led “Resolution for Urgent and Sustained Climate Action,” participation in these Congressional hearings is significant to the AIA’s public advocacy agenda. It is critically important that we be part of any study of decarbonization and emission reductions in the design, construction, and operation of buildings. Our expertise – and our political “clout” – will be necessary for any such initiative to succeed. In addition, COTE Advocacy references the recently-released report from the advocacy organization “Capital E” titled “CO2toEE” that seeks to substantially increase funding for deep energy retrofits by proposing mechanisms that would allow building owners to participate in a carbon valuation market. These Congressional hearings have the potential to invite such a proposal.


The AIA has worked very recently with several Members of this Committee. The Chair of the HE&C Subcommittee on the Environment, Representative Paul Tonko (D, NY), approached the AIA last year for ideas on how buildings and building design could be included in potential climate change mitigation strategies. Another Member of HE&C, Representative Kathy Castor (D, FL) chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. AIA Government Relations staff are working in close contact with Representatives Pallone, Tonko, and Castor among others on this important Congressional committee. 

Mike Davis, FAIA, is president at Bergmeyer in Boston, and he services as the AIA COTE Advocacy Ambassador, and on the AIA Board Government Advocacy Committee. He served as 2013 President of the Boston Society of Architects, has led multipled AIA SDATs, and served on a national AIA Materials Knowledge Working Group. Mike tweets (@MikeDavisFAIA), and blogs.about architecture and climate change, the AIA 2030 Commitment, materials transparency, and gender equity.