Dezeen Magazine

AIA updates code to "end sexual harassment in the workplace"

The architectural profession "must redouble efforts" to improve safety and equity in practices, according to the American Institute of Architects, which has updated the rules in its members' ethics code in a bid to end sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has amended several rules in its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, which address sexual harassment and gender equality in the workplace, following an increased awareness of such issues in the workplace.

It has also made adjustments to clarify environmental and sustainable procedures. "The architecture profession is at a threshold moment," said AIA 2018 President Carl Elefante.

"The board's adoption of these changes provides us with another step toward ending sexual harassment in the workplace, advancing equity in our profession, and promulgating sustainable practices."

Updates that forbid harassment or discrimination, and call for the provision of fair working environments, come in light of international events like the International Women's Day and global marches, and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

These events in turn caused AIA members to question the organisation's stance on incidences of similar conflict and the industry's provision for female architects.

"I applaud the members who raised their voices to offer these improvements to the code, and the AIA delegates, Board of Directors, and National Ethics Council who acted on their concerns," said Elefante.

AIA responds to criticisms of profession

The organisation highlights its ambitions in a statement called Where we stand: Sexual harassment & the architectural profession, first published on 27 March 2018. In it, the AIA confirms that "the architectural profession has not yet attained the workplace culture that is required".

"While AIA has made significant progress in recent years in addressing these issues, we must redouble our efforts," it adds.

It also outlines a commitment to improving workplace culture and ethics, calling for the members of profession to work together towards these ambitions.

"Architects stand together to reject sexual harassment," the statement says. "Architects stand together to support those who are threatened or abused. Architects stand together to build a model profession that welcomes everyone to safe, healthy, and equitable workplaces."

"Architects stand together to create a profession that represents the strength and diversity of the communities we serve," it continues.

Spotlight on sexual harassment and gender equality turns to architecture

Both the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements were initiated after the New York Times and the New Yorker exposed film producer Harvey Weinstein as a serial sexual abuser in October 2017, following which Dezeen columnist Anna Winston wondered if there was a similar figure in the architecture profession.

Just five months later in March 2018, a major sexual harassment scandal led to Pritzker Prize-winner Richard Meier temporarily stepping down from his company.

The American architect was forced to take a six-month leave of absence from his eponymous firm after the New York Times published allegations from five women, including four former employees, and is still yet to return.

A number of female architects have also criticised the profession for not providing them with equal opportunities.

Billie Tsien made a call for better child care in the US to help more women remain in practice, rather than have to chose between work and family, while Elizabeth Diller highlighted the poor university-to-workplace ratio among women in interviews with Dezeen.

Dezeen also launched the Move the Needle initiative to help encourage diversity in the architecture and design, after its survey of the world's 100 biggest architecture firms revealed a "shocking" lack of women at the top tiers of management.

AIA updates sustainability procedures for members

The AIA's code updates also improve its sustainability measures on the recommendation of the National Ethics Council and the New England Committee on the Environment, including new performance goals for greenhouse gas and water conservation.

Professionals are also advised to chose materials that provide minimal exposure to toxins and pollutants, and promote environmental and human health, as well as design in preparation for "extreme weather changes" due to climate change.