For the third straight month, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has gone up. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate 9- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported that the April ABI rating was 48.5, up from a reading of 46.1 the previous month. The score is the highest since January 2008, when revenue at architecture firms headed into recession.
AIA Introduces New 2030 Information
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has set an example for its members. A number of architectural firms have signed on to the challenge to eliminate fossil-fuel consumption in buildings by 2030, even though some have said that the path is a bit murky. Now, AIA is promoting a more nuts-and-bolts approach to the goal through its AIA 2030 Commitment, and close to 50 firms have already signed on. The commitment offers firms step-by-step guidelines for achieving carbon-neutrality in building design and lowering a firm’s own environmental footprint through operational changes.
The AIA has entered into an agreement with The Green Building Initiative to jointly promote sustainable building design and construction practices. The agreement will allow the two organizations to:
- Provide education and training to promote the design of buildings that are energy-efficient, healthier and environmentally responsible.
- Offer educational opportunities on subjects such as Life Cycle Assessment, the Green Globes New Construction (GGNC) program, and the Green Globes Continual Improvement of Existing Buildings (GGCIEB) program.
- Encourage or conduct research toward identifying strategies for enhanced economic and environmental performance of green buildings.
Executive VP and CEO of AIA, Chris McEntee, said, “ The GBI’s engagement in life cycle assessment and promotion of post construction third party review in Green Globes illustrates GBI’s commitment to the creation of high performance buildings and supports the role of the architect in creating them.”
The AIA has joined with other organizations to issue a proposal to Congress on how climate change legislation can promote energy efficiency in the built environment. The debate in Congress over climate change is expected to resume this spring, after attempts last year failed to establish cap limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
This new coalition is proposing that revenue from a cap and trade policy could be used to fund energy efficiency initiatives for buildings, appliances and transportation. Their proposal includes incentives for designers of new buildings and contractors involved in retrofitting to meet targets aimed at reducing energy consumption. This includes ways to reduce the embodied energy of construction materials and processes.
Other organization who have joined with AIA in this effort include the American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, the National Association of Energy Service Companies, the Alliance to Save Energy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Real Estate Roundtable, Environment Northeast, and Johnson Controls.
- Starting January 1, 2009, all AIA architects will be required to take four Learning Units of Sustainable Design coursework to meet AIA continuing education requirements and retain AIA membership. At least 75% of the course content must relate to the topic, in particular carbon reduction/energy efficiency in support of AIA’s Sustainability 2030 goals.
- AIA released a publication titled “Local Leaders in Sustainability – Green Incentives”. The document provides information on green building policies throughout the country’s communities and jurisdictions. The incentive categories include tax incentives, bonus density, expedited permitting, net metering, grants, loans, technical assistance, permits/zone fee reductions, rebates and discounts, and leasing assistance.
- AIA’s Center for Communities by Design selected Detroit, Tampa, New Orleans, Fort Worth, Windsor (CA), Morristown (NJ), Parma (OH), Fellsmere (FL), Kauai, and Leon Valley (TX) to receive technical assistance under the Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) program in 2008. A team of professionals, planners, hydrologist, economic development specialists, and others will work with local stakeholders to help develop the communities’ strategies to increase sustainability. (www.aia.org/liv_sdat)
- AIA and the US Green Building Council have developed a strategic alliance to advance the organizations’ efforts in education, advocacy and research on sustainability. Both organizations share the goal of making buildings carbon-neutral by 2030.
- AIA’s Committee on the Environment (COTE) has begun educating communities about biomimicry in architecture. Biomimicry is a new discipline that imitates nature’s best ideas in designs and processes that help solve human problems.
- AIA continues to work through their government relations and advocacy groups to convince Congress that energy efficient building provisions are needed in proposed climate change legislation, America’s Climate Security Act (S.3036). AIA is also supporting the Green Resources for Energy-Efficient Neighborhoods (GREEN) Act (H.R. 6078), which is Congress’s effort to promote energy efficiency in the residential construction sector.
- AIA introduced a new publication titled “50 to 50” as a resource intended to assist architects and the construction industry in moving toward a minimum 50% reduction in fossil fuel consumption in buildings by 2010 and carbon neutrality by 2030. The 50 strategies described in the publication were selected to provide readily available tools and techniques that can have an immediate impact on significant carbon equivalent reductions. The strategies range from general site and planning objectives to specific building practices. The document is downloadable at http://www.aia.org/fiftytofifty.