Here’s How Architects Are Pushing for Safer Design Policies

Architects and Designers Urge Action on Healthier Policy Priorities

In the wake of the pandemic, designers and architects are inventing new solutions for nearly every sector of design. According to the World Health Organization, 19% of factors that affect our health and well-being are directly related to the built environment, making architects and designers key to protecting public health.

Metropolis Magazine recently wrote about three recent initiatives that introduce new building standards to help mitigate COVID-19 exposure and create healthier (and more sustainable) spaces during and after the current pandemic.

Built Environment Experts Petition the WHO, Urging Enhanced Guidance on the Role of Buildings in Addressing COVID-19

In a recent petition, more than 790 architects, engineers, and interior designers from over 50 countries have joined forces in a statement to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, urging the WHO to advance best practices in indoor environments to protect from the spread of COVID-19.

“If the WHO recommends best practice air standards now before vaccines and therapeutic solutions are available, it will have a strong effect towards raising the public’s awareness of places where they spend time,” the statement reads, noting that air pollution affects our most vulnerable populations.

Approximately 70 percent of The Ng Teng Fong General Hospital by HOK is naturally ventilated, representing 82 percent of inpatient beds. The building uses 38 percent less energy than a typical Singaporean hospital and 69 percent less than a typical US hospital. Courtesy Rory Daniel

So far, the petition has gained the signatures of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), and the World Green Building Council, to name a few. “We hope that this global call to action will demonstrate that our buildings, our businesses, and our communities can be at the frontlines of this fight if we deploy them wisely,” says Rachel Gutter, president, IWBI.

USGBC Creates New LEED Safety First Pilot Credits + Healthy Economy Commitment

Back in June, the U.S. Green Building Council released guidance to address the pandemic and support buildings with reopening strategies. Four new Safety First Pilot Credits outline best practices that are both sustainable and align with public health guidelines related to cleaning, re-occupancy, HVAC, and plumbing operations. The credits are a part of a USGBC strategy released in May titled, Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy.

“These new credits are a first step in helping the building and construction industry demonstrate its commitment to sustainable strategies as part of building a healthier, more resilient future,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president & CEO of USGBC in a recent press release.

In addition to the credits, the USGBC also released a Healthy Economy Commitment, urging public health officials and elected leaders to take action on green building policy priorities.

AIA Launches Policy Platform 2020

Earlier this month, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) launched the inaugural Policy Platform 2020 that serves as a statement on the organization’s policy priorities for U.S. presidential candidates and Congress.

Embodying the idea of “Building a Healthy America,” the platform focuses on three key areas: Economy, Climate Action, and Healthy and Equitable Communities. Committing to zero carbon practices, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, promoting toxin-free living in affordable housing, and strengthening water and air quality policy are a few highlights.

“AIA supports strong and unequivocal policies that ensure that urgent climate change issues, including those that disproportionately impact communities of color, are immediately addressed,” stated AIA EVP and chief executive officer Robert Ivy, in an August 6th official press release.

*The full version of this article was originally published on

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Advice for Recent Graduates & Young Professional Architects

Last week, Chicago-based architect John Ronan wrote a wonderful article full of advice for young designers starting their careers. Below is a “short-attention-span friendly” version that you can skim during lunch (or in the bathroom - no judgement).


Architecture school teaches you how to be a good student, but it doesn’t teach you how to be a good architect. Your first job in architecture is critical because it shapes your understanding of the field when you are most impressionable. The habits you pick up there will serve you (or dog you) for a lifetime.

Here are suggestions to help you avoid some common missteps and hopefully make seeing your path a little easier.

Passion is overrated. 

About 90 percent of cover letters we get from entry-level job applicants include something like “I am passionate about architecture.” Frankly, I don’t care about your passions; I care about what you are good at. It’s better to say that you are passionate about a hobby, but that your talents lie in architecture.

Avoid goals.

Conventional wisdom says you need goals to be successful. But if you always strive for specific outcomes, you will live your life in partial failure every day until you reach that goal (or don’t). It is better to develop good habits that move you in a positive direction, while staying open-minded about what success might look like.

Failing is good.

Just as a good design is the result of many discarded inferior versions, your life should be a trial-and-error process. Each failure brings you closer to what you were supposed to be doing anyway. So fail early, fail often.

Be an onion.

Someone good at a variety of things is more valuable than one who is only good at one thing. Your chances of success increase with each new skill you develop (as long as those skills are complementary), so become good at other things (speaking, writing, technical knowledge) and layer your skills like an onion.

The path you travel is not an easy one, but life is less about what happens to you and more about how you respond to what happens to you; persevere. Our world is changing rapidly, and soon we will need you to lead the way. We’re counting on you.

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Looking Forward: Architecture in a Post COVID-19 World

In an effort to give you a break from the negative news cycle, we want to look forward toward the future and the many possibilities it brings for architects.

In recent weeks, the Moving Forward Act has made its way through Congress. Late last month, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced their support of the bill. AIA President Jane Frederick said “Passing the Moving Forward Act is a necessary next step that we must take as a nation in order to deliver the opportunities that American workers—including architects—desperately need.”

The proposal allocates billions of dollars for infrastructure improvements such as:

  • The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which would provide funding for improvements to school infrastructure, especially those in high-poverty areas, and upgrading child-care facilities.
  • Encourage the rehabilitation of historic buildings through the temporary increase of the Historic Tax Credit
  • Improve affordable housing infrastructure by creating and preserving 1.8 million affordable homes
  • Establish a new Neighborhood Investment tax credit that would subsidize certain development costs to encourage the rehabilitation of vacant homes or construction of new homes in distressed areas

As architects, you’re responsible for much more than just designing safe and beautiful structures; your work can make a positive difference in communities around the country. The schools you help build or renovate (especially in lower income areas) bring opportunities for success that weren’t possible before. Working to increase affordable housing works toward lowering homeless rates and gives families a sense of security.

When it comes time to rebuild the nation (financially and literally), we are proud to help architects like you make positive changes in your local community.

Is it almost time to renew your license?

The following states have continuing education deadlines approaching:

7/31/20 - WI

8/31/20 - MA

10/31/20 - MI

11/31/20 - IL

12/31/20 - AL, AR, DE, FL, KY, LA, MO, MT, NC, NE (L-Z), NM, NV, OH, OR, TX, UT, WV, WY



ICC vs UpCodes

The International Code Council has filed suit against San Francisco based company UpCodes.

UpCodes is a software firm that is utilizing the ICC’s building codes in an AI program which helps architects review their plans in comparison to the building codes. Architects can upload the plan models and the program will flag areas in the design that are not up to code, saving valuable time and money when it comes to design errors. While the program is not fool-proof, many say that the low cost makes it worth the investment if it catches even one costly error.

According to the Architect’s Newspaper, UpCodes believes their use of the codes are fair, as there is precedent that once copyrighted material becomes law it passes into the public domain. Court cases dating as far back as 1980 have been cited by UpCodes founder in defense of their use of the codes as public domain material.

The ICC argues differently, however, citing that “loss of copyright could impair code development” (ArchPaper). The ICC is a non-profit organization, and the codes are developed essentially by volunteers from multiple industries. The Code Council recoups the cost of the production of the codes through sales of code books, as well as training and consulting programs. Their claim is that they make the codes transparently available, whether online or in print form, and that UpCodes should not be utilizing the codes in order to turn a profit.

Essentially, these two companies are on opposite sides of the same coin. They both want to ensure that buildings are being built up to code and are therefore safe for the public. UpCodes feels the ICC has a monopoly on the printing of building codes, while the ICC feels their control over the codes is important to the integrity of the code itself. Time will tell which side prevails, as the decision now lies with the courts.

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Thermoset Technology – Stronger & Lighter Than Steel

Stronger and lighter than steel, Thermoset technology may be the future of architecture. According to an article by Arch Daily, this revolutionary material solves many common structural and construction problems while simultaneously allowing architects a new freedom with their designs.

Originally created as aerospace technology, advanced fiber-reinforced materials are now being used in the manufacturing of new buildings, opening new and exciting design possibilities for architects.

Makers of these materials can manufacture building components off-site, and the light-weight material is then shipped to the construction site where it can be put together quickly and easily by smaller crews of contractors, thus cutting down on construction costs.

Additionally, the strength of Thermoset materials far out-weighs steel, by nearly 6 times. This strength has immense applications for building considerations, allowing for more structural freedom while still providing protection from environmental hazards like earthquakes.

Another benefit is that these materials can be molded into literally any shape, giving architects open concept freedom when it comes to building design--fantastic shapes can be brought to life on a huge scale while still maintaining structural integrity. The possibilities are quite literally endless.

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New Course Snippet: Aging in Place-Eliminating Pitfalls

Here is a snippet from our new, fully narrated course: Aging in Place-Eliminating Pitfalls. All our courses are AIA and state approved for continuing education credits to help satisfy architect renewal requirements.


We have a long history of aging, pretty much since the beginning of time. It is no longer difficult to predict what will happen in our lives and bodies as we add to our years.

Balance will become a significant issue. This problem can arise from a loss of physical strength, effects of different medications, cognitive and visual impairments. Without thinking through a strategy to prevent or at least minimize falls, an issue with balance can become a significant health hazard. It’s a really good idea to periodically determine if loved ones (or you) can safely do these:

  • Climb up and down stairs with confidence
  • Stand and sit down again on chairs, beds, toilets, etc.
  • Get into, bathe and safely exit bathtubs and showers
  • Drive and return from destinations, from a standpoint of both physical and cognitive capability
  • Bend down and pick up items from the floor or lower shelves
  • Easily carry items like grocery bags and laundry baskets
  • Successfully use public transportation
  • Keep the home and property clean
  • Properly use all appliances
  • Manage personal health

A consequence of deciding to stay at home, whether alone or not, is the strong possibility of home accidents. Depending on the severity of the accident and whether injuries occur, if someone falls, they may not be able to get back on their feet. Cognitive issues like dementia can lead them away, but not necessarily back home. Extended periods of solitude, especially around holidays and in periods of inclement weather, can foster feelings of depression. In the presence of confusion and absence of assistance, medication use can turn dangerous when ignored, taken in excess or inadvertently combined with other medicine. Limited mobility leads to other issues like avoiding grocery shopping or failure to make scheduled health appointments. There are also various health conditions like strokes or Parkinson’s disease where the victims can simply no longer function alone.

Even if your loved one will allow you to make changes, it’s a very good idea to ease into them gradually. Prioritize the changes you (and they) feel will be beneficial and set a time frame to implement them. Discuss options and let the resident choose which ones will best meet their needs. Then accomplish agreed upon tasks in portions. Give those you love a chance to adapt to a few changes, before the next set is implemented. If all that sounds like it will be easy, it won’t.


Don’t Expect Gratitude. Sometimes we just do what we have to do, regardless of the resistance faced. But don’t expect aging loved ones to be grateful when we suggest or implement changes in their lives.

  • No one likes to change, not even us. We have set routines, set ways to do things, habits we cannot break if we tried, and even ways we’ve developed to do things based on many, many years of experience learning to get it right. Regardless of whether another way seems like a better choice to you, if we haven’t decided on the necessity of change ourselves, nothing will be done.
  • No one likes to admit they can improve or be improved, not even us. If we felt like there was a better way to accomplish something, we would already be doing it that way. What we generally don’t care for, is someone younger than we are, telling us how much better they can make our lives. Especially when they are our children. We don’t really intend that anyone should decide for us which of our possessions we will need to eliminate in order to declutter. What we own, we own for a reason. We’d rather take chances with falling than give that priceless item away. Store it in another place for a while? That’s ridiculous. Why pay for storage when we can just keep storing it here?
  • No one likes role reversals, not even us. When we have been in charge our whole adult lives, we don’t expect to have anyone dictate anything to us. We are the decision makers and problem solvers in our relationships. We have years of experience and hard-earned wisdom on our side. If we want your advice, we will ask for it.
  • No one likes admitting they need help, not even us. We have spent lifetimes helping others who need it. We have little interest in feeling helpless, tired, weak or damaged. Because in our minds, we are still strong, twenty-year-old problem solvers. To admit otherwise will be to acknowledge the coming end of our time. Do we need help? No, but thank you anyway.

Graduated Change. The best proven approach on how to get aging loved ones to let others help is to implement changes in phases. Really! These are based on stages and correspond with phases of the aging slowly coming to terms with the idea that, somewhere along the line, agility has been traded for wisdom.

Phase 1 – Fairly Unaware: At this point, while others may see problems developing, the resident does not. There is no motivation for them to live any differently than before. They won’t discuss the issue, seek out information or acknowledge any need. At this point, there is no point in attempting to implement any changes.

Phase 2 – Pondering: The resident is becoming aware that maybe, just maybe, problems are surfacing that it might be possible to counter. Maybe something should change. This realization is often triggered by a bad event, like a fall with injuries. Now the resident is at least open to discussing options and specific solutions to the things they now perceive to be issues.

Phase 3 – Implementing: At this point, residents are ready to make changes and modifications. If changes are implemented gradually, resistance to them will be lessened. No more changes than are absolutely required should be made. It’s not a bad idea to discuss beforehand what trigger events should precipitate which changes. Everyone should be aware that sometimes, necessary changes in one space may involve taking room from one that is adjacent.

Phase 4 – Maintenance: Residents are beginning to even make changes in their behavior. Whatever will be necessary to maintain their status quo and remain at home. They realize a worsening of their situation might make that impossible. At this point, they will accept almost any changes that hold out hope. This is usually a point no one wants to reach. Winning probably wasn’t worth it."

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