Where Does Resiliency Fit in the AIA?

Winning board of the B|MORE Resilient Design Competition

Winning board of the B|MORE Resilient Design Competition by Virginia Tech and BCT Architects Team.

Washington DC (October 26, 2015) – Architects and advocates of resilient design from across the country gathered at the National Building Museum in Washington DC for the very first AIA Resilience Summit. Speakers presented a call to action for the promotion of resilient design in the face of climate change, sharing lessons learned from Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, mitigation of seismic risk on the west coast, and strategies for risk management. AIA National organized small group discussions to gather ideas for member education and knowledge sharing, advocacy, and public outreach. One of the main things discussed by these groups was the importance of developing a unified definition of resilience that can be shared by the AIA and disseminated through the professional network of its members.

Education about resilience in the architectural community is just beginning. Many have a hard time differentiating it from sustainability. While resiliency and sustainability go hand in hand, they are very different. Not every sustainable strategy is resilient and not every resilient strategy is necessarily sustainable. Many at the conference argued that the two should be kept separate; that a new national committee for resiliency should be formed in addition to the National AIA Disaster Assistance Committee. Coming away from the summit I began to ask myself, where does resiliency fit?

Finding the right fit for the concept of resiliency and disaster assistance has been something we at the Baltimore Chapter have struggled with over the past 3 years. We started with forming a Disaster Assistance Committee at our local chapter here in Baltimore in 2012, but the work our members wanted to do goes beyond just being ready to help with disaster assessments. We wanted to do more. We wanted to make our buildings more resilient so we can prevent damage from a disaster in the first place. We saw the need to help educate and outreach not only to architects but the community at large. As a result, we changed our name to be the “Resiliency Committee”, where we felt we could not only expand our scope but also have a name that might appeal more to new members in an effort to grow the committee. Attendance however, continued to be low. Finally, we decided to combine our Resiliency committee with the Committee on the Environment to become COTE + Resiliency.

So far, we have found the synergy between COTE and Resiliency at the Baltimore chapter to be very advantageous. Sustainability and resiliency share so many ideals that, for us, it made sense to combine the committees to share resources, contacts, members, and leadership. Additionally, it has reduced the number of committees at AIA Baltimore, which, in turn, has helped reduce the burden on our chapter staff. Overall, the both committees have not only become more sustainable, but more resilient as well.

However, what works in Baltimore, may not work nationally. Will a separate national resiliency committee be formed in the next few years? Only time will tell.

Regardless of how the field of resiliency grows nationally, we are committed to make the AIA Baltimore COTE + Resiliency grow stronger and develop programs that will attract new members, educate architects, and promote the work of AIA to the community at large. Our next committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 24, 6pm at the Owl Bar; please join us to learn more about what we plan for the coming year.

Martina D. Reilly AIA, Reiliency Subcommittee Chair of the AIABaltimore Committee on the Environment (COTE)

About AIABaltimore

We are third oldest chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and have over 1,100 members creating and advocating for great, sustainable design in Charm City!
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