Message From AIA-NJ Regional Director

David DelVecchio, AIA, LEEDap
AIA-NJ Regional Director

Joint AIA-USGBC Task Force Issues a Letter to their respective Boards

I have been asked to share with you the good news on the work of the Joint AIA-USGBC Task Force. The co-chairs of the AIA-USGBC task force, (Gail Vittori, Immediate Past Board Chair, USGBC and Clark Manus, FAIA, 2011 AIA President) and the chief executives of the American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Green Building Council (Christine McEntee, EVP/CEO, The American Institute of Architects, and S. Richard Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chairman, USGBC) have provided a report on the priorities that define the scope and nature of our common agenda and the progress made in 2010.

The Task Force reports that, “We are uniquely aware of how our organizations depend on each other’s success for the achievement of our respective missions. We are very excited about the potential of our strengthened relationship for engagement and collaboration….”

It continues, “… We believe that our inter-dependence is both essential and desirable. It has served as the catalyst for the first of what we anticipate will be annual working sessions to assess our collaborative accomplishments and develop a common agenda for the year ahead.”

Rick and Chris, along with senior staff of both organizations have developed a strong plan for action guided by the strategic framework developed by the AIA-USGBC Joint Task Force. This letter will explain the next steps for the Joint Task Force, and the “Action Plan” they have developed provides a roadmap for collaboration within this framework.

First Annual Senior Executive Meeting; Overarching Goals:
On January 13, the CEOs met to begin implementing the Joint Board Task Force’s recommendations initiated in 2009 for new and continuing collaboration. This “nuts-and-bolts” working session engaged the most senior members of our education and public policy advocacy staffs. Joining the CEOs were AIA Managing Director for Professional Development and Resources, Carolyn Snowbarger; AIA Vice President for Government and Community Relations, Paul Mendelsohn; USGBC Senior Vice President for Global Policy and Law, Roger Platt; USGBC Senior Vice President for Education, Rebecca Flora; and USGBC Director of Continuing Education Systems, Thom Lowther.

The meeting focused and distilled the work of the Joint Board Task Force to two basic charges:

– Create a unified advocacy platform aligned with AIA-USGBC common goals to advance sustainability initiatives and practices in the built environment; and,

– Create market capacity to implement sustainable design and practices.

In the view of the staff of both organizations, each of these overarching goals must be supported by ongoing collaboration around research and communications. The outcome of the meeting was a recommendation that:

– A common and/or coordinated research agenda should support the development of a credible knowledge base that informs the implementation of sustainable practices; and,

– Collaborative and coordinated communications strategies should ensure both informational and educational materials are supported by robust and accurate data.

Haiti Relief:
One of our first opportunities for unified action was borne out of the Haitian earthquake disaster. The Task Force issued a joint letter to Former President Bill Clinton in his role as the United Nations’ Special Envoy to Haiti, offering assistance from both our organizations as the situation moves from immediate relief to rebuilding efforts. Both organizations and our members have significant interest in, and expertise to offer Haiti as it begins to rebuild. Our collaboration will help inform our organizational responses to future disasters.

Unified Sustainability Advocacy Agenda:
As set out in more detail in the attached Action Plan, our respective advocacy executives, Roger Platt and Paul Mendelsohn, met to discuss common objectives for our organizations and outline the strategies to advance policies that support more sustainable building practices. The goal is to ensure that both the AIA and the USGBC enjoy a relationship that is visible within our organizations, to our members, and to policymakers.

The Action Plan specifies that in each of the next three years, we will develop a joint advocacy and communications plan that can be championed in conjunction with the President’s State of the Union address. Specifics include joint “issue briefs” using the AIA’s excellent model as a framework, as well as joint action on other topics of common concern, such as green affordable housing, green schools, and green healthcare facilities.

Unified and Coordinated Educational Activity:
The need to expand the market’s capacity to implement sustainable design practices was also discussed. Rebecca Flora, Carolyn Snowbarger, and Thom Lowther explored the mechanisms for more joint education projects and for moving quickly toward “reciprocal credit” for educational sessions that support each group’s credentials.

Immediate opportunities include the creation of a joint speakers’ bureau, creating a common calendar, and exploring LEED credits for sessions at the AIA’s upcoming 2010 convention in Miami as well as AIA credits for sessions at Greenbuild. Other possible opportunities could be showcasing the AIA’s R-UDAT and SDAT programs at the respective 2011 conferences in New Orleans (AIA) and Toronto (USGBC).

Unified and Coordinated Research Opportunities:
Additionally, Rebecca and Paul will follow up to identify and jointly solicit funding for research of common interest that supports our common agenda.

In the end, Rick and Chris realize that they, with guidance from each Board’s leadership, need to be communicators-in-chief regarding the importance of collaboration among our two great organizations. “We hope this letter ensures your understanding of our Boards’ commitments in this regard. We also anticipate making brief appearances at each other’s Board meetings as appropriate to underscore the collaboration that is happening and to holding an annual joint leadership meeting to report on our progress and discuss other strategic opportunities. This will enable us to better understand, and more fully use the synergies between the two organizations and their Board leadership. Most importantly, however, we will look for ways to highlight our collaboration with external audiences through joint announcements and statements in newsletters, on web sites, and in other visible ways.”

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