On behalf of the AIBC, it is my pleasure to wish you a happy, healthy, and hale 2020. With the promise of a new year and decade, we also bear witness to another important milestone: the next century of regulating the profession of architecture on behalf of the public.
The AIBC was incorporated in April 1920 and the first annual meeting occurred later that same year. In 2019, the 100th annual meeting delineated the beginning of AIBC’s centenary. To mark the occasion, a commemorative annual report was published and a reception was hosted featuring inspiring speakers including the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, the Honourable Janet Austin OBC. On a monthly basis since, I have enjoyed the AIBC 100 campaign facts in Connected also shared via social media and posted on the AIBC’s web-based timeline. Both illuminating and entertaining, I suggest you take a few minutes to scroll down memory lane if you haven’t already.
For 100 years, the AIBC has been the public-facing regulatory body of the profession of architecture, fulfilling its government-defined mandate to register, license, and ensure compliance under the Architects Act. As myself and my predecessors have observed in this space previously, in that 100 years both the environment and regulatory landscape in which the AIBC operates has seen dramatic change.
Broadly, the most significant change in the regulatory landscape is increased attention on public-focused protection. Since my last President’s Message “Sweeping Changes in Regulation”, a cross-party government committee published a report on the health professions’ regulatory framework and recommended substantial changes to the Health Professions Act. Many view this direction as a dramatic recasting of the regulatory landscape and architects in B.C. should inform themselves of the implications. An informative summary, posted at aibc.ca in December, is well worth the read.
This, of course, will have a direct impact on how architecture is practiced and, importantly, how the regulation of architecture engages with the daunting challenges arising due to the impacts of climate change. That architecture and the built realm have a significant impact here is beyond dispute – 40% of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to buildings is the oft quoted figure. This is hardly news and most practices will have had to confront these issues either directly or indirectly.
But, what is the role of the regulator? This is a question I have been asked in a variety of ways over my tenure as president thus far, and as the challenges related to climate change are complex and interconnected, so too is the AIBC’s role and scope of agency within its mandate. Nevertheless, the AIBC has played and continues to play an integral role in the development of policy related to climate change and the environment, as well as nurturing relationships with aligned stakeholders in areas within its focused, public-facing mandate.
- The AIBC was an active participant in the development of the BC Energy Step Code and is a founding member of the award-winning Energy Step Code Council, the advisory board that supports local government and industry in implementing the Step Code. This is one of the primary means by which the provincial government will meet its target of transitioning to net-zero energy ready buildings by 2032.
- The AIBC is an active participant in the development of CSA standards on building energy use, including the new commissioning standards that are referenced in order to verify whether a building achieves its designed energy utilization performance, as well as the new standard expected in 2021 on energy modeling, an essential tool in designing and assessing high performance buildings. AIBC involvement in developing these standards facilitates and supports the work of registrants in combatting climate change through reducing energy use in buildings.
- A regulator with whom the AIBC liaises regularly is Engineers and Geoscientists BC. Together we have developed a comprehensive joint practice guideline on Whole Building Energy Modelling Services, issued in 2018. The purpose of this document is to guide architects and engineers in appropriate professional practice when a design team is collaborating on projects that utilize energy modeling. Currently under development is a new joint guideline on Encapsulated Mass Timber Construction which will assist architects and engineers in the design of more sustainable seven to 12-storey mass timber buildings. This guideline should be of particular interest to architects in B.C. given the province’s building traditions.
- Other stakeholders with whom the AIBC is engaged include the Canada Green Building Council and Passive House Canada, with many architects LEED certified, Passive House certified, or both.
- Finally, the AIBC has also endorsed the Architecture Policy for Canada, which was spearheaded by the Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities (CALA), and, encouraged by the enthusiasm and support received thus far, looks forward to the realization of its full potential. All four of its themes – place, people, prosperity, potential – are in part concerned with architecture’s impact on the natural and built environments. This approach holds that while often viewed as a singular challenge, climate change in fact exists within a constellation of dynamic and interconnected phenomena. I should note that B.C. has been a strong leader in developing this national document and that its existence is a testament to the broad, strong interest across the country in a coherent approach to its themes, and in particular, environmental concerns.
In addition to developing policy and working with stakeholders, the Institute provides and facilitates the delivery of educational programming. This commitment to education is a key component of the AIBC’s 2019 Strategic Plan Goal 2: Registrant Competency and Professionalism which speaks to supporting “registrants to adapt to changes in the needs of society, driven by external changes in technology, climate change, government, and public policy and other influences.”
Course offerings are delivered throughout the year, including the bi-annually held conference and the smaller, one-day confab event, both packed with continuing education learning units. The Institute’s course schedule is supplemented by an ever-growing Registered Educational Provider (REP) program. As the regulator, the AIBC supports registrants through professional development so that practitioners are informed and equipped to speak with clients about crucial choices in the selection of designs and materials leading towards higher performing buildings.
In addressing emergency management as a consequence of climate change – resiliency as applied to buildings – here too, the AIBC is playing an active role. The partnership between the AIBC, BC Housing, Engineers and Geoscientists BC, and the Justice Institute of BC, yielded the creation of the Post-Disaster Building Assessment Framework which is used in disaster management by allowing trained professionals to rapidly assess building safety, and determine if structures can be re-occupied. Through a one-day training course offered by the AIBC, participants can earn their PDBA certificate of completion and apply to join the Building Assessor Roster.
Beyond the world of policy development and education, the Institute, as an organization, supports green initiatives “at home”. Employees are issued monthly transit passes; an organic compost program is in place as well as the encouraged use of reusable containers; and, for years, the Institute has ordered FSC Certified forest-free paper. The building itself is equipped with sun-shades, dimmers and motion-sensor lights; and low-energy consumption thermal blankets are worn in lieu of power-hungry, under-the-desk heaters. Finally, staff and council are accommodated when they work remotely, an increasingly common but important operational choice. Our view in this respect is that small actions matter as they both have impact, even if modest by themselves, but they also set an example and help to frame our view of the world.
In close, and on a more personal note, I was greatly moved by the Vancouver Climate March in October. The number and variety of participants, as well as the tenor of the event, was evidence of a near critical mass of broad support for issues related to climate change and its impacts. To me, it seems obvious that architecture is an intrinsically hopeful act, and it is in this context that the profession moves forward into its next century, in step with and in service to an informed and engaged public.
Ian Ross McDonald Architect AIBC AAA NWTAA OAA