Photo Jul 17, 10 37 14 AM

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.


On my way home from work yesterday, an elderly gentleman asked me for directions. Pointing at the metro map we realized that we were going to the same stop. I asked where he was from and he said Afghanistan. He came to the USA as a refugee after losing most of his family in the war. “Peace and health,” were most important in life, he said.

Strangest thing is that I was refugee from Afghanistan just two days prior, as part of the Doctors Without Borders Forced From Home interactive exhibit on the national mall. The exhibit immerses you in the experience of a refugee. First you are handed a card with a nationality and then your journey begins. There was an amazing 360 video that sets you right in the middle of refugee camps in Lebanon, Tanzania, Mexico, and Greece. You can see some of them on their website, such a powerful exhibit.

Then you line up at  your given country, learn a bit about the history, and are asked to pick 5 items you would take with you on a treacherous journey if forced to leave your home as an army is approaching. I picked a motorbike, water, blankets, clothes, and cell phone, realizing only afterwards that a motorbike was not going to fit on the boat piled full of others also fleeing. “Over 100 people were found on a boat slightly larger than this one,” our guide, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders said, to our group of roughly 20 people who were not even able to find a seat in tiny boat we were looking at wide-eyed.

Once making it through your journey you learn what it is like to live in a camp. How heavy a jug of water is to carry for even a short distance, how small a tent can be, how a short time turns into a long time for many refugees, how the sick receive medical attention in these challenging settings, and how common it is to fall sick when your are forced from home.

The traveling exhibit will be in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia over the next month. I highly recommend registering for a tour. Learn more about Doctors Without Borders and their traveling interactive exhibit Forced From Home.



Paul David’s “Inverted Ruins” (Italo Rondinella) courtesy of LA Times website.

Heading to Italy? Well this year you should check out the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale directed by Pritzker prize winning architect Alejandro Aravena. Aravena is a Chilean architect known for his affordable housing projects and activist architecture.

“The only animal that can defeat the rhinoceros is the mosquito, or a cloud of mosquitos, actually. Architects often think they are too small to make a change, but together they can smother the big animal,” says Alejandro Aravena.

The beast in question is the capitalist machine, responsible for the slew of “banality and mediocrity” in our built environment. It’s one of the battlegrounds Aravena’s biennale aims to tackle, along with migration, segregation, traffic, waste and pollution, and a host of other “urgent issues facing the whole of humanity”, as he puts it, “not just problems that only interest architects”.

Continue to read more here from Oliver Wainwright’s article from the Guardian.


The Architecture firm that I work for, ZGF, participated in PARK(ing) Day this year. Here are some photos from our ‘Perspective Park’ and my lessons learned from participating in PARK(ing) Day:

  1. It is fun!
  2. DDOT has created event guidelines for DC. Register under your company and follow the event guideline instructions or else your park may not end up on the DC PARK(ing) Day map. (That is what happened to us…sad face.)
  3. Permits are between $50 and $80.
  4. Citizens in action – people will call the cops if you are painting a parking space…even with chalk paint. Luckily cops are aware that chalk paint washes away and that PARK(ing) Day is an awesome event!!
  5. It qualifies for the 1% Program! If your company is a member you can put time towards this.
  6. Get ready for 2015 starting…now!


Journeyman International website

Journeyman International is an organization which partners design students with local and global humanitarian groups. They offer two programs that students can apply for, a 9-month, full time University Thesis project for seniors, or a 10-week long Internship program for upper level students.

Not a student? No problem! JI wants to meet design professionals who are interested in helping out with the student programs. Not a designer? No worries! See if your organization can partner with a design student.

Find out more by attending the JI happy hour Thursday, September 25, 2014 in Washington DC. See the AFH-DC website for details.





Image from the 1% Program

The 1% Program just announced that 1,300 design firms have signed up. These firms have pledged to donate 1% of their time annually, to providing pro bono services to nonprofits and communities in need. Combined, that is $50 million worth of design services provided at no fee or reduced fee. Nonprofits can register with the 1% Program to receive these free or reduced design services. Design firms can register and make their pledge.

Read the Handbook for Designers and the Handbook for Nonprofits. See more announcements on the Public Architecture blog.


PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks.”

The annual PARK(ing) Day is just one month away, on Friday, September 19th, 2014. It is easy to participate. First, sign up for a permit through DDOT. Then follow the PARK(ing) Day manual. You can create a park for just an hour, a few hours, or the entire day. DC’s Office of Planning participated last year along with environmental groups and design firms. The project started in San Francisco in 2005 by Rebar and has grown internationally. Don’t forget to add your park to the 2014 map!

Read articles about PARK(ing) Day 2013 in the Washington Post and Greater Greater Washington. Register  for your DC permit. See the manual to create your park.



Check out the beautiful new Impact Design microsite created by the folks from The latest news is that they will be rebranding their current blog to become the Impact Design Hub. The Autodesk Foundation is supporting this effort along with providing their software to nonprofits for free. Nonprofits can qualify through an online grant.

Learn more about the Autodesk Foundation.