As green building becomes the standard in residential and commercial construction, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the professional association for licensed architects, is now requiring its members to perform several hours of education in sustainable design as part of its existing annual requirements.
Though sustainability has been a focus of architecture practice for more than 30 years, the board of directors of the Washington-based organization “recognized the need to again help prepare their colleagues and fellow practitioners respond to the latest challenge and opportunity facing the profession,” the group says.
“The issue of climate change and the impact of buildings on carbon emissions created a new expectation among clients and the public to look to the expertise of architects for solutions that can help them leave a greener footprint,” AIA adds.
AIA members are required to do 18 learning units per year as part of the association’s continuing education policy, which “enables the architect to keep current, master new knowledge and skills, plan for the future, and responsibly meet the role society entrusts to a professional,” AIA says.
The total number of learning units remains unchanged, but now licensed architects must perform four hours of education in sustainable and green design as part of the total yearly requirement.
Scott Frank, AIA’s director of media relations, says there is no way to quantify what the new change will mean to residential single- and multifamily housing, but he believes “it is likely to result in more residential architects that are qualified to design energy-efficient homes, as well as employ sustainable design approaches to remodeling and renovation projects.”
Having more architects educated in the ways and means of building green could also simply result in better buildings. According to Santa Monica, Calif.-based Global Green USA, buildings in the U.S. account for 36% of total energy use, 65% of electricity consumption, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, 30% of raw materials use, 30% of waste output, and 12% of potable water consumption used in the country. Even with these numbers, the group says we are not constructing enough sustainable and green, healthy buildings.
“By the year 2010, another 38 million buildings are expected to be constructed in the U.S., bringing our country’s total to over 100 million,” Global Green says. “The challenge is to build those new buildings and renovate the older ones, in ways that reverse these unhealthy trends.
“Fortunately, there are ways we--as consumers, designers, builders, and product manufacturers--can respond to this challenge,” the group continues. “By building green, we can assist in preserving natural habitats, watersheds, and ecosystems, protect air and water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste, all while conserving natural resources and creating healthier indoor and outdoor environments.”
AIA’s sustainable design requirement became effective in calendar year 2009 and extends through 2012.
Nigel F. Maynard is a senior editor with Builder magazine.