Architect Magazine

Candidate Questions
Why do you want to lead the AIA, and how will you engage the membership?
 

Over the past three years, AIA has marshaled it's resources to reposition the Institute, streamlining national governance and realigning components. AIA membership is at an historic high. AIA is strong. Together, let's seize the day.

 

It is time to look outward to reposition the profession. I want to be AIA President to assure Repositioning is rapid and purposeful. AIA needs leaders who understand how AIA can best support practice today while also assuring our relevance and prosperity over the next generation.

 

My experience both as a practicing architect and AIA leader at local, state and national component levels has prepared me to lead the Institute as it moves forward. It has afforded me a deep appreciation for the evolving value of architecture, the opportunities for innovating practice, and the importance of strengthening our profession's diversity.

 

Engaging membership must occur at many levels. As a voice for AIA, I am prepared to effectively articulate the aspirations and concerns of members. Working with the Board, Strategic Council, and component leadership, I will continue to activate your representatives and strengthen communications. Every week I will participate in national, state and local conferences and chapter events which will provide many opportunities for face-to-face engagement.

 

As a candidate, making calls to hundreds of members has been energizing and informative. As AIA President, it will remain a priority to stay in touch with members everywhere. To assure this, I will implement monthly conference call and/or online chat sessions to provide a direct line of communication to me open to all AIA members.

 

What is the role of architects and the AIA among the greater public?

 

Architects shape the built environment. We are drawn by the gravitational pull of materiality and form. Yet, on a whole, the "greater public" sees our work differently. They appreciate the impact our work has on their lives: staying dry while opening an umbrella under a sheltering overhang; enjoying a sunny corner over a cup of coffee with co-workers; trading a white-knuckle commute for the pleasant walk from a new condo in town.

 

Architects shape lives. Increasingly, the human dimensions of our work are gaining currency with the greater public, and also with decision-makers. School boards want to know how our work will improve educational outcomes. Corporate boards want to know how our work will increase productivity and wellbeing. Public health boards want to know how our work will reduce the causes of obesity and heart disease.

 

Understanding the human dimensions of our work is fundamental to our future relevance and prosperity. It is AIA's role to compellingly demonstrate the human benefits of well-conceived and beautifully-executed architecture. It is also AIA's role to articulate the value proposition of those benefits.

 

What is the biggest challenge facing the profession today and how can firms and individual practitioners respond to it?

 

On April 22nd, 175 nations including the United States of America signed the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. The Paris Agreement will shape our profession for the next generation at least. Rather than being anxious about the new requirements this may impose, our profession will be better served to proactively embrace the design challenge it presents.

 

If we rise to the challenge, the Paris Agreement could become a tremendous "jobs program". Let me cite one example. U.S. targets include a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for the existing building sector by 2050. To meet this target, millions of buildings will have to be retrofitted. The numbers are mind-blowing. Every architect will need to implement at least one energy retrofit project each year between now and 2050. (Check out the website of architecture2030.org for more information on the Roadmap To Zero Emissions.)

 

To make the most of this opportunity, we need to step outside our comfort zone. Improving building performance must become a core competency for all archtiects. Each of us will be called upon to contribute regardless of firm size, project type, community context, and region.

 

I'll cite another example. This year, AIA released the Digital Data Exchange (DDx) developed with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). While designing, architects enter project data into the DDx website. The DDx "benchmarks" against DOE's entire database, millions of buildings. This simple tool makes performance-based decision-making possible on even the smallest projects.

 

Together, we can do this. In the U.S. over the past decade, 20 billion square feet has been added without increasing operational energy consumption across the building sector. This amazing achievement was possible because architects have done a terrific job reducing energy in existing buildings over this same period. We have the technology and know-how. As AIA President, I will work with you to confront climate change opportunistically. It is essential to our profession's future.

© 2019 Carl Elefante