I’m writing this post from Burlington, Vermont, at the 2012 AIA New England conference. I love Vermont, it’s my getaway state. Like a second home. My blood pressure always goes down when I’m in the Green Mountains.
Which is good, because David Brooks made my blood boil this morning with his New York Times Op-Ed titled “A Sad Green Story”. Yeah, I know, it’s his job to piss me off, but c’mon. Why this insistence on making renewable energy into a political “wedge” issue? Obama Administration subsidizes green tech industry that crashes and burns and produces very few jobs. In 2030, the world-wide fuel mix will look exactly like it does today. “All in all, the once bright green future is looking dimmer.”
Well, I have A Happy Green Story to tell. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling lately and met a lot of architects from other AIA Chapters across the big USA, and nobody is quitting on the AIA 2030 Commitment. Our projects are getting continually more energy efficient thanks to good old-fashioned professionalism.
What makes me say this? I just listen and take notes.
Some months ago, an architect from the AIA San Francisco COTE (Committee on the Environment) stopped by BSA Space. He was in Boston to visit friends and had been reading my blog. Like my firm,Bergmeyer, his firm signed the AIA 2030 Commitment and was motivated to get better chapter-wide participation. We compared notes on what AIA SF was doing, and I was impressed. I had the feeling that California architects were making real progress against AIA 2030 goals.
More recently, I was in Houston, Texas, at the annual confab of the AIA’s biggest chapters called – affectionately – “the Big Sibs”. I spoke with Rand Ekman from AIA Chicago who reinforced my sense that Chicago is now the AIA 2030 capital of the USA. I picked the brain of Joe Aliotta, AIA, President of AIA New York who couldn’t say enough about Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC and their new building energy use reporting and disclosure ordinance and how outrageously successful AIANY had been in recruiting AIA 2030 firms (but gosh, too bad about those Yankees, Joe!). Rico Quirindogo, AIA, from AIA Seattle was there proudly telling the story of the extraordinarily successful AIA+2030 Professional Series that they piloted and launched – and that we are now offering at the BSA. And there were more and more success stories from far and wide, Philadelphia, Atlanta, LA.
And our host city, Houston? Yeah, it felt a bit like being in enemy territory. Giant glass skyscrapers built by (and guzzling the product of) the big oil companies – oh, excuse me, we are now calling it “the energy industry”. But yet, AIA Houston is full of smart, capable, hard-working architects who have signed and are doing their level best to meet the energy use reduction goals of the AIA 2030 Commitment.
Here’s a true story. I split the conference one night to see some of the City’s urban neighborhoods. Surprise: a whole lot of young people live in Houston. At a funky, cutting-edge seafood restaurant in Midtown, this conversation ensued between your humble blogger and a young woman bartender:
Her: “New in town? Business or pleasure?”
Me: “My business is a pleasure.” (My standard answer!)
Her: Laughing, (Works every time!) “And what do you do for work?”
Me: “I’m an architect.”
Her: “Oh cool! Do you design green buildings?”
Boom. There you go. Unprompted in a bar in Houston. The young people of Texas want green buildings.
And meanwhile, back in Vermont, we have architects doing a seminar right now on Passive House Energy Standards who know more about zero-energy housing and ecologically-driven design solutions than I thought was possible to know. Sustainable design –sustainable living – is in the air up here on the shores of Lake Champlain.
So here’s what I think, Mr. David Brooks. Architects across America refuse to accept renewable energy and green building and sustainable design as having anything to do with a media-fueled political hot button issue. The bright green future of architecture is right here, right now.
Red states? Blue states? They all look like Green states to me.
This post originally appeared on the blog of Principal Mike Davis, FAIA.