AIA Board strengthens “Obligations to the Environment” for members


By @Michael R. Davis FAIA

In their September 2018 meeting, the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects approved a number of amendments to AIA’s Code of Ethics. Among them were changes that make sustainable design more explicitly an ethical imperative for all AIA Members.

The newly adopted version of Canon VI, Obligations to the Environment, describes sustainable design in more specific, compelling, and actionable language and helps frame the topic as the defining challenge for Architecture today. It includes separate Ethical Standards for energy conservation and greenhouse gas emission reduction, water conservation, building materials content and waste reduction, ecosystem health, and climate change adaptation.

The new Canon VI, plus a new Ethical Standard in Canon II, Obligations to the Public, titled “Environmental Equity and Justice”, and the subsequent new Rules require Members to discuss mitigating the potential environmental and social impacts of their projects with their Clients. The changes build upon an Architects’ well-established obligation to protect public health and safety by leverage the Membership’s growing expertise and awareness of the relationship between the built environment and our world. It advances sustainable design from something Architects should do to something they must do.

For example, here are three of the eight new rules:

  • When performing professional services, members shall make reasonable efforts to inform their clients of the potential environmental impacts or consequences the member reasonably believes may occur as a result of work performed on behalf of the clients (Rule 2.401).
  • Climate change: members should incorporate adaptation strategies with their clients to anticipate extreme weather events and minimize adverse effects on the environment, economy and public health (Ethical Standard 6.5).
  • Members shall consider with their clients the environmental effects of their project decisions (Rule 6.501).

The idea to propose these changes to the Code of Ethics was launched at the June 2017 conference of the AIA COTE New England. The initiative was conceived by David Pill, AIA, facilitated by Nadav Malin, Hon. AIA and me, inspired by conference keynote speaker Clark Brockman, AIA, and supported by 2018 AIA Vermont President, Megan Nedzinzki, AIA. Endorsed by 2018 National AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA, the amendments were presented to the AIA National Ethics Council and unanimously approved by the Board of Directors.

1 comment




10-19-2018 17:51

I'm thrilled to see the AIA define climate change response and sustainable design as ethical issues rather than 'optional services.'

Thanks to Mike Davis and all who championed this.