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Every architect I know wholeheartedly believes in climate change. Most feel a responsibility to stop it. Perhaps that is because they know the building sector is responsible for 75% of carbon emissions in Washington DC. That number is even higher if you consider that transportation decisions are greatly influenced by the built environment.

At the 2019 American Institute of Architects national conference this past June, members overwhelmingly voted to pass a resolution for “urgent and sustained climate action…to exponentially accelerate the decarbonization of buildings, the building sector, and the built environment.”

Yes, it’s about time. Now how do we make it happen? The biggest step will be by designing all new construction and existing buildings as net zero energy (or zero-net-carbon). Basically, this means that the energy a building and its occupants need will be from renewable sources (no natural gas or fossil fuels). The ZERO Code, developed by the nonprofit Architecture 2030, has free tools for architects and clients to calculate energy consumption and provides carbon free options. You can be a net zero hero starting today!

“The ZERO Code provides AIA’s members a straightforward and cost-effective path for designing buildings that are zero net carbon today.” – Ed Mazria with Architecture 2030

Read more about the ZERO Code in this AIA article. Read more about the AIA resolution here.



Social Design Insights is a podcast of conversations with leading designers who discuss innovative projects and practices that use design to address pressing social justice issues.

Eric Cesal, former director at Architecture for Humanity and author of “Down Detour Road, An Architect in Search of Practice,” has joined forces with the Curry Stone Foundation, best known by public interest designers for their highly sought after Curry Stone Design Prize, as host of the Social Design Insights Podcast. Episodes are half an hour and focus on a specific topic, currently “Engaging + Reframing the ‘Refugee’ Crisis”. I cannot wait to hear more!

Listen now to Episode 110 | Cities of the Future, Cities of the Past with Kilian Kleinschmidt, a humanitarian expert who has worked with UNHCR and as Director of one of the largest Syrian refugee camps in Jordan.



(Image courtesy of Community Forklift blog)

Know the old saying, reduce, reuse, recycle? Well the nonprofit, Community Forklift, has been a leading organization in the area for reducing the amount of construction waste from commercial and residential renovations. Plus they stock a ton of vintage items perfect for your older home or just easier on your pocket.

Community Forklift is a nonprofit reuse center for home improvement supplies. We pick up donations of unwanted and salvaged building materials throughout the metro DC region.  Then, we make the building materials available to the public at low cost, and provide vintage materials for restoring old homes.  We also offer public education about reuse, and distribute free supplies to local nonprofits and neighbors in need.

See upcoming events on their website Community Forklift.


Wish it were spring already?! Here is some inspiration for your outdoor space. This creative placemaking project, the Art Walk at Discovery District, is located in the University of Maryland research park. It’s a natural and inviting oasis in the middle parking lots and office buildings. More of these please! Here is your springtime outdoor checklist:

  1. Bright Birdhouses
  2. Shady Hammocks
  3. Tree Trunk Seating
  4. Live Music
  5. Colored Glass

There is even a huge communal table with food trucks! Not sure that would work on a deck but a birdhouse is a good place to start.

See more at the Discovery District.




(Image from WTOP/Dave Dildine)

In an article in Washingtonian Magazine this past summer, How DC’s First Chief Resilience Officer is Planning for Disaster, Kevin Bush was interviewed about his job. As the DC’s first Chief Resiliency Officer, he works to strengthen the different systems in the city so that if we are faced with a catastrophe we can absorb the shock and/or have a plan in place to respond effectively. Here are some interesting excerpts from the article.

What types of risks are you looking at in Washington?

Shocks and stresses. Shocks are the big, acute, sudden things. A terrorist attack, a hurricane, and also non-emergency-management shocks: If there is a 2½-week federal-government shutdown, that’s a major shock to the system. The stresses are things you might think of as the everyday disasters—things that weaken our fabric. In DC, that’s the high cost of housing and stressed transportation networks.

What about flooding?

I don’t think most people in DC realize this, but we are a deltal city, so we have to deal with sea-level rises. The Potomac and the Anacostia are tidal rivers, and 70 percent of the land is coastal plain. Because DC was developed along a major fault line, we have a rate of soil subsidence. Those factors come together, and we actually have the fastest rate of sea-level rise along the East Coast. That’s important because if a hurricane makes a westward turn, like Sandy did, that would mean that storm surge would come up the Chesapeake and into all of the tidal rivers.

What’s your personal emergency plan? Do you have some kind of bunker under your house?

No, but when we bought our house, the first thing I did was air-seal and insulate it with R60 insulation. We also put in a wood-stove insert. The most common thing that might happen, perhaps during a derecho storm, is that the power would go out. If the power goes out in the winter, you’re welcome to come over to my house. I have a fully stocked liquor cabinet and plenty of heat.

Want to find out what you can do? Attend the Designing for Extremes: Building a Resilient City symposium, Feb. 07, 2019, at AIA|DC.

Visit Washingtonian Magazine for more articles about the area.


Rachel Preston Prinz

(photo from EntreArchitect)

If you have ever thought about starting your own nonprofit architecture firm you should listen to this amazing story. Rachel Preston Prinz is a public interest architect who shares her experience with launching her nonprofit as well as directing her first documentary! Listen to her story in this podcast by EntreArchitect, Building a Successful Nonprofit Funded by a For Profit Firm.

Rachel Preston Prinz is an architecturally trained American designer working in architecture and design, place-making, cultural and historical preservation and community engagement. Rachel promotes the craft of architecture and the genius loci – spirit of place – as told through photography, publishing, marketing, and design. In addition to running the consulting firm Archinia and a non profit Architecture for Everybody, Rachel has served as a preservation commissioner in Taos, New Mexico, as a host of the University of New Mexico Taos Sustainability Institute, and as co-host of the TedX ABQ Women.

Listen to more podcasts on EntreArchitect.


The University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation is currently hosting a new exhibit in partnership with ArtPlace America at the Kibel Gallery in College Park, MD.

10 Sectors, 10 Solutions: Artists and Community Change highlights 10 creative placemaking projects from around the country, each addressing a community in need, and each working within a traditional community planning and development sector.

Don’t miss the gallery talk, Creative Placemaking in Context on Monday, October 29, 2018 from 12pm-2pm, moderated by Adam Erickson with ArtPlace America. The conversation will include local artist Cassie Meador with Dance Exchange in Maryland and Carlton Turner with the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, both who have creative placemaking projects in the exhibit.

The exhibit is free to the public and will run through January 1, 2019.



This post is the third and last in a series on the Venice Architecture Biennale. These photos and previously posted trip planning tips are inspiration for you to attend the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy, which is currently going on through November 25, 2018.

This post shares older photos specifically from the Giardini section of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale including the country pavilions so you can get an idea of the amount and variety of exhibits available for attendees.

See more details for the current 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale here. See more details for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale here.


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After taking a dip in the Snarkitecture ‘ball’ pool at the National Building Museum, take an educational walk through ‘Evicted’.

…an immersive new exhibition based on Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer prize-winning book. Using recently released data researched by the Eviction Lab, the first nationwide database of evictions, Evicted brings visitors to the intimate, frustrating, painful, and often repeated process of losing everything—furniture, food, heat, school supplies—as a family starts all over, over and over again. Evicted opens April 14, 2018 and runs through May 19, 2019…

Located on the first level near the bookstore, this exhibit has free admission and is open to the public. See more at the National Building Museum.


The 2016 Biennale, titled Reporting From the Front, focused on public interest design and featured exhibits by big names in the field such as Alejandro Aravena, Sanaa, Francis Kere, and Rural Studio. Honestly, each exhibit could be an entire post! If you are interested in learning about each exhibit you can purchase the Reporting From the Front books online. There are three areas of the Biennale, the Arsenale, Giardini main building, and the country pavilions within the Giardini. This post shares photos from the Arsenale section of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. The last few photos show recycled building materials from previous Biennales.

Interested in going? The 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale is now open. This year’s theme is Freespace, see details here.