Climate Action, Relevance|

The AIA California (AIA CA) sponsored the 2020 Carbon Positive Conference at the Intercontinental Los Angeles. CarbonPositive is a project of Architecture 2030, and hundreds of architects, activists, and experts from all over the world shared insights gathered to share information and strategy.  Sessions, speakers, and exhibitors showcased today’s most effective building materials, construction methods, design tools, architecture planning and strategies, and policies in order to dramatically reduce the embodied and operational carbon emissions. Michael Malinowski, FAIA was on hand participating, listening, scribbling copious notes to share with the membership. And, AIA CA was also represented by a few social media influencers. Follow their content using #iamclimateaction.

As an added bonus to this partnership, multiple sessions were filmed and will be made available at no cost to AIA CA members over the next few months.

Thoughts from Michael Malinowski, FAIA:

As Covid19 shifted handshakes to fist and elbow bumps, the urgency of climate action was palpable and constant.  Over the three days, Mike Malinowski, FAIA, attended  the speakers uniformly expert and compelling; the topics spanning the breadth and depth of the crisis ahead that calls us to action.

A sampling from my notes and scribbles:

“As an organization, we’ve pivoted and are addressing Climate Action as both a FOCUS and a FRAMEWORK to guide our efforts. We’re weaving this important issue into everything we do …”

Debra Gerod FAIA  AIACA President

The climate crisis is daunting, but it is also a call to action … a reminder of the fundamental duty of architects to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. There is no greater threat, and therefore no greater opportunity to do what we do best …”


“Don’t ask what will happen. Be what happens”  …  quoting historian and activist Rebecca Solnit

Jane Frederick, FAIA       AIA 2020 President

“The most powerful instrument for change on the planet … is the stroke of a designer’s pen”

Ed Mazria FAIA Founder Architecture 2030

“A 0.2% difference in the loan rate from one bank for a green construction loan was enough incentive to influence the carbon outcome and shift the marketplace”

(referencing the margin supported by the innovative and comprehensive EDGE software developed by IFC and used worldwide

Paeshant Kapoor IFC at the World Bank Group

Forest provide 73% of the mitigation from natural climate solutions. 

Mark Wishnie, Nature Conservancy

‘Using timber actually incentivizes forest stewardship.  For every tree cut in north America, three trees are planted”  (Referencing the carbon sequestration benefits of Mass Timber)

Jennifer Cover Woodworks

“Growing up, who would have thought we’d be attending a conference about saving the world”

Ned Cramer Architect Magazine

“Natural Gas is the number one driver of climate change.”    

(Methane is 84 times more potent than CO2 for climate degradation, and gas leaks from the distribution system are endemic, averaging one leak per mile in Boston, for example.)

Panama Barthomay, Building Decarbonization Coalition

“.. the way we now typically design large buildings, they become uninhabitable when disconnected from fossil fuels” …  “most buildings that will be here in 2050 are here right now”…  “let’s do what MASS Design does in Africa right here: love the buildings we have”

Carl Elefante FAIA Quinn Evans

“We need new disruptors … Business as usual is killing us …

It’s both system change and personal change.  We must all rebel.

Being professional does not mean being indifferent…

2030 is the new 2050 …

COVID19 shows what an emergency response looks like …

We are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making”

Farhana Yamin Track 0


Malinowski’s Takeaways:

Remove Less:   Reuse buildings must be prioritized over demolition fix broken things, buildings, places to keep embodied carbon investments intact

Move Less:    Develop further the many robust tools we have to allow virtual meetings, to avoid the carbon costs of flying and transit

Use Less:  Increase efficiency of our building and fabrication process to eliminate waste)

Emit Less:  Learn to make the smart carbon choices; research and apply the growing body of tools and resources that can support daily climate action in practice

AIA California
AIA California
Celebrating over 75 years of service, the AIA California actively promotes the value of design and advocates for the architectural profession. AIA CA is an association of 11,000 dedicated and passionate members who share a commitment to design excellence and livability in California’s natural and built environments.

One Reply to “Notes from the 2020 Carbon Positive Conference”

  1. Anni Tilt says:

    I enjoyed this inspirational conference very much, but I take issue with the following:

    “for every tree that is cut, three are planted…” These are not carbon equivalent at all. In addition to the carbon sequesterated in the tree itself (think of the volume of a growth ring of a sapling compared to a 2′ diameter tree!), logging can be extremely destructive to carbon in the soil. Good forestry practices are critical, and must be specified – this point was not emphasized enough.

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