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.



(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.



There’s a reason you became an architect. It wasn’t just about buildings. It was about people; it was about making communities more livable.

Inscape Publico awarded Joel Mills, the Director of the American Institute for Architects’ Center for Communities by Design, with an Excellence in Social Impact Design Award. This arm of the AIA has worked with cities nationally to address all sorts of issues like density, livability, and resiliency, through their Sustainable Design Assessment Teams and Regional/Urban Design Assessment Teams. They organize week-long community engagement workshops with experts and stakeholders to analyze urban conditions and design ways to address them.

The Center is a leading provider of pro bono technical assistance and participatory planning for community sustainability. Through its design assistance programs, the Center has worked in over 200 communities across 47 states. 


See more about Communities by Design here.