Many architects are still not addressing the environmental impacts of their buildings, claims the
American Institute of Architects, in response to Aaron Bestky's recent critique of its COTE Top Ten sustainability awards.
Mary Ann Lazarus, the chair of the
AIA Committee on the Environment Advisory Group, wrote a letter to Dezeen after Betsky advocated that awards should not be bestowed on buildings that are sustainable but ugly.
Lazarus said the aim of the
COTE Top Ten Awards is to encourage architects to consider the environmental impact of their projects holistically, but not enough are doing so.
"Mr Betsky states that great sustainable performance should not be recognised without great design," she wrote. "In fact, the COTE Top Ten Award program was founded 21 years ago by AIA's Committee on the Environment based on this exact premise – that great design must perform beautifully."
"While the Top Ten was originally conceived to last only a few years as a way to transition all
AIA Honor Awards to integrate performance outcomes, the design world hasn't caught up with this goal yet," she added.
Betsky, who is dean of the
recently renamed School of Architecture at Taliesin, used his Opinion piece for Dezeen to call for more adaptive reuse projects and less new, mediocre buildings.
Echoing his sentiment, Lazarus stressed the importance of sustainability in architecture, particularly as its impact on the environment is "becoming increasingly critical".
But she added that convincing architects to consider a building's appearance and its eco credentials together remains a challenge.
"It's still very hard to get many design firms to reconcile their aesthetic aspirations with performance outcomes," she said.
Here's the full letter:
I am writing on behalf of AIA's Committee on the Environment in response to the May 9 Dezeen article by Aaron Betsky.
Mr Betsky states that great sustainable performance should not be recognized without great design. In fact, the COTE Top Ten Awards program was founded 21 years ago by AIA's Committee on the Environment based on this exact premise – that great design must perform beautifully.
The goal of the award program is to motivate all architects to recognize environmental responsibility as an integral part of their design solutions, not add-ons or certifications. Though results may vary from year to year, these projects showcase that this goal is possible.
The Top Ten award has consistently been AIA's most popular design award program, widely covered by national media beyond the traditional architectural press. While the Top Ten was originally conceived to last only a few years as a way to transition all AIA Honor Awards to integrate performance outcomes, the design world hasn't caught up with this goal yet.
There's been some notable progress – the AIA Honor Awards now require some fundamental sustainable performance data, and a growing number of Honor Award projects are also Top Ten winners (two this year).
But it turns out it's still very hard to get many design firms to reconcile their aesthetic aspirations with performance outcomes, even while the need for a carbon-neutral, resource-efficient, resilient, and healthy built environment is becoming increasingly critical.
AIA, in its recent
sustainability and climate change statements, recognizes the importance of this mission. We hope that architects do too and start submitting more stellar Top Ten Award entries each year that will set a whole new standard for what great design can really mean.
Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA LEED AP BD+C
2017 Chair, AIA Committee on the Environment Advisory Group