Did you wish the planet well last week on Earth Day? The Earth Day 2021 theme, Restore Our Earth, is half call-to-action and half optimism. During the past year, with a global pandemic and climate-induced catastrophes like a ferocious hurricane season and raging wildfires, Mother Earth can use some restoration right now. Architects are stepping up to the challenge.
Since that first Earth Day in 1970, AIA members began mobilizing around the topic of energy and early research into efficiency. The AIA Energy Committee was founded in 1973. Its work caught the attention of the Carter campaign, which incorporated some of the language in their Democratic platform. Carter went on to create what became the U.S. Department of Energy, which funded energy-focused building research. The AIA Energy Committee morphed over the following decades and in 1990 became the AIA Committee on the Environment (AIA/COTE). COTE is now leading the charge to achieve climate action and climate justice through design. The mission states in part, “We believe that design excellence is the foundation of a healthy, sustainable, and equitable future.” COTE annually recognizes the top ten buildings that demonstrate design excellence and advancement in environmental performance. The 2021 winners each represent achievements in zero-carbon, resiliency, equitability, and overall health for occupants.