2020: A Critical Year for Action

By Karen Lu, AIA, AIA Minnesota President

”Because the future’s here and we can’t go back…”           — Sleater-Kinney


It is 2020 already and we are ten short years away from the 2030 Challenge goal for all new buildings and major renovations to be carbon neutral.  This is only one of the many challenges ahead of us as we begin a new decade.  From our local municipalities to our global communities, in our education and in our practice, we are faced with an urgency to address the multiple causes and effects of climate change and social inequities for the health and well-being of our communities and our planet. 


Two years ago, the AIA “committed to broadening equity, diversity, and inclusion to create a stronger profession.”  This past June, AIA National passed a resolution to “prioritize and support urgent climate action as a health, safety, and welfare issue.”  Equity and environmental stewardship are inextricably intertwined and they both clearly demonstrate that our actions greatly impact others.  To further emphasize these relationships and their significance, AIA National adopted an overall Framework for Design Excellence previously known as the COTE Top Ten – these measures of sustainable design include, among others, designing for economy, energy, and equitable communities. 


As architects, we are well-equipped to help tackle complex, multidisciplinary problems that do not have simplistic solutions. AIA Minnesota is leading by example, not just in discussion and ideation around complex and difficult issues, but in concrete action and implementation.  Long-term special projects include the 21st Century Development model (addressing both people and the environment), the Culture Change Initiative (improving the culture of our profession), and multiple Intercultural Development programs (growing the ability of our members to interact across differences).


In the past few weeks, there has been significant progress nationally and locally.  AIA National released the last three of nine chapters of the Guides for Equitable Practice – a positive direction further strengthened by its first ever female-majority board of directors.  And the City of Minneapolis declared a climate emergency calling for immediate action “that demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse and address the consequences and causes of climate change” and “recognizes that climate change is already affecting people’s lives, health, livelihoods, and access to food and shelter.”


In recognition of the challenges and opportunities ahead of us, AIA Minnesota is planning A’20 MN, our annual conference, to be focused on climate action; registering to be a JUST organization, transparent in social equity and employee engagement; and growing our legislative advocacy work on affordable housing, energy efficiency, sustainability, and resilience.  It is 2020 already and the future is here – there has never been a more important time to make an impact.

View the full January issue of Matrix.