AIA Report Examines Resiliency, Sustainability in the Built Environment

Washington – A study published by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), in partnership with Owens Corning, is shedding light on resiliency and sustainability in the built environment.

The study, entitled Resiliency in the Built Environment, assesses the current state and best practices for increasing resiliency and sustainability in design and construction. The report also provides actionable insights into how to best improve resiliency and sustainability from design through construction by surveying three key audiences: architects, general contractors, and clients, including owners and developers.

“Successfully addressing the threat posed by climate change requires a comprehensive and coordinated effort that is informed by the best data available,” said AIA EVP/CEO, Lakisha Ann Woods, CAE. “This report is part of AIA’s ongoing commitment to supporting our members by providing economic and market research that helps them navigate challenging times as well as help them lead efforts to address the climate crisis.”

Areas of focus include:

  • The role of building codes, clients’ expectations, and specification requirements that drive resiliency in design.
  • How is resiliency reinforced through practices like material replacement strategy and resilient design strategies?
  • Where are the biggest gaps in expertise about resiliency in construction, and how can they be filled?
  • How do long-term and short-term incentives determine the level of resiliency for a given project?
  • How is resiliency considered when selecting building products and materials?
  • Which hazards and risks are most commonly taken into account in design?

Key findings of the report include:

  • Few projects and properties are reported as being built beyond code: Only a little over a quarter of architects and contractors report their projects are going beyond code. Even fewer clients are reporting the same. In fact, most projects and properties are being built to the codes that were adopted at the time of the project.
  • Contractors and clients believe that building to code is sufficient to ensure resilience, but architects disagree: In one of the starkest areas of disagreement in the study, contractors and clients firmly believe that building to the current code will ensure resilient properties. This may explain why few of them have built beyond code despite concerns around hazards reported in this study. Architects, however, see how insufficient codes are in ensuring that a building will be able to withstand all the hazards that it may be exposed to. This gap provides notable room for architects to influence their clients, if they can convince them that code is not sufficient to ensure the resilience of their buildings and properties.
  • Up-front costs are deemed important considerations to project design decisions and product selection, particularly for architects and developers. However, building owners diverge in perspective: The drive to a more resilient built environment will start with building owners who have long-term investments in mind.
  • Stronger building codes and standards will drive resiliency, but so will making the business case to clients: For nearly all study respondents across industry audiences, codes and standards are influencing resiliency in projects and properties. However, clients are as influential in architect and contractor decisions on whether to design or build with increased resiliency. And for clients, other than codes, a strong majority of them also consider reduced liability, increased market value, and end-of-life concerns when thinking about levels of resiliency in their projects. Architects and contractors can use these influence points to help make the case to their clients to move beyond code, while at the same time working to strengthen those codes and standards.