At the AIA 2015: A message of optimism!

A week ago (May 14-16,2015) I participated in AIA 2015, the American Institute of Architects annual convention, in Atlanta. What an excellent event it was!

The AIA 2015 was hosted at the state-of-the art Georgia World Congress Center, just a few blocks from downtown Atlanta.
The AIA 2015 was hosted at the state-of-the art Georgia World Congress Center, just a few blocks from downtown Atlanta.

I had the honor of contributing to AIA 2015 as a speaker, jointly with my colleague Rachel Minnery, FAIA, in delivering a seminar: Beyond Single Building Toward a Community and Regional Resilience Approach (TH302 – also offered online at AIAU) ). This is the second time I have been invited to contribute as a speaker to the AIA convention. My first time was for AIA 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida where I guided a tour and presented a paper: Characterization of Impact: A tool for designing for disaster.  [please click of the following link TECHNICALPAPERfor tour]

Anticipation and excitement mount as more than 7000 participants in AIA 2015 pack the main auditorium for the opening general session and keynote speaker Bill Clinton.
Anticipation and excitement mount as more than 7000 participants in AIA 2015 pack the main auditorium for the opening general session and keynote speaker Bill Clinton.

Let me say this, for an event organized by a 158-year-old institution this one really energized me. I came back with a sense that this venerable and aging organization is full of pep with a message of optimism, and ready to do well not only by its members but for the communities where they practice, in the U.S.A. and the world.

AIA 2014 President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA welcomes participants to AIA 2015
AIA 2014 President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA welcomes participants to AIA 2015
AIA 2015 VP and CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA reinforces the message of the AIA having a voice and making an impact!
AIA 2015 VP and CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA reinforces the message of the AIA having a voice and making an impact!

From the opening remarks by AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, and AIA Executive VP and CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA, to the inspiring contributions by AIA medal awardees Moshe Sadfie, FAIA and Edward Mazria, FAIA,

AIA medal winner Edward Mazria, FAIA for his work to combat climate change through the design of energy efficient buildings
AIA medal winner Edward Mazria, FAIA for his work to combat climate change through the design of energy efficient buildings
AIA 2015 Gold Medal winner Moshe Sadfie, remember 'Habitat' in EXPO 67 in Montreal?
AIA 2015 Gold Medal winner Moshe Sadfie, remember ‘Habitat’ in EXPO 67 in Montreal?

we heard words stated with forceful conviction about ‘doing things for a purpose’, ‘making and impact, and ‘having a voice’. I really believe that this institution that has done so well by its members, is now decidedly poised to take its rightful place in the national discourse and have its voice,  the voice of its 86,000 members, heard and listened to with the objective of tackling critical challenges we face as a nation and as humankind, riding our spaceship Earth. From climate change, environmental degradation, energy, to sustainability and resilience, the AIA intends to make a significant contribution in the search for and implementation of effective solutions.

Keynote speaker President Bill Clinton addresses the audience with a message that highlighted the tremendous opportunity that presents itself to the AIA moving forward
Keynote speaker President Bill Clinton addresses the audience with a message that highlighted the tremendous opportunity that presents itself to the AIA moving forward

This message of optimism was well-framed within the context of current world problems and future challenges, and the exciting opportunity these represent for the AIA, by an equally optimistic contribution by keynote speaker President Bill Clinton, during an opening general session attended by more than 7000 participants.

This sense of optimism is reinforced not only by what I heard from the AIA leadership and the members, but perhaps even more so by what I heard from and saw on the faces of the rather large contingent of young, new generation, architects and design professionals participating in AIA 2015.   During Q&A and in conversations with several of these young professionals after the conclusion of my seminar, I got the sense that they ‘get it’, they understand or know what the critical challenges are and they want an AIA that rises-up and confronts them effectively and with purpose. They do want an AIA with a voice that is not only heard nationally or worldwide, but that is sought by decision-makers here at home and elsewhere.

The AIA must follow these words and expressions of intent with actions. These actions must be based on a clear statement of  objectives, a well-defined strategy, and a simple and effective plan to execute initiatives on several fronts.  I trust the institute will open itself to new fields of action, beyond its trusted education and outreach activities. An example of such critically needed new fields is applied research; what I mean by this is research in the pursuit of effective solutions toward the attainment of sustainable and resilient communities in regions that are highly vulnerable  and fully developed, where we do not have the luxury of a clean slate to consider utopian design approaches, but where we must confront the reality of extensive urban development, a prevalent way of life and a standard of living, as well as critical environmental considerations to protect and take into account. While the AIA has no track record, to my knowledge, of engaging in or sponsoring this kind of research, I submit the time to engage in  it is now as this will contribute a foundation of support to the objectives of ‘making and impact’ and of ‘having a voice’!

AIA, I am ready to engage and do my part.  Where and how do I sign up for it? Thank you for an excellent AIA 2015 Convention and for the new and inspiring sense of purpose you have offered your members and friends.

Could that be Ana out there?

There has been so much foul weather and storms since the start of the year that most have failed to take notice that silently, almost stealthily, the ‘official’ start of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season has crept closer and closer, to the point that it may even get an early start.

GOES satellite image [NOAA] of 6 May 2015 showing a disturbed weather system, which may become the first tropical cyclone of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season
GOES satellite image [NOAA] of 6 May 2015 showing a disturbed weather system, which may become the first tropical cyclone of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season
A large area of low pressure and disturbed weather has moved over the Bahamas in the past couple of days and it is now located off the east Florida coast, getting more organized and looking cyclonic even as it tracks north by northeast in a mostly unfavorable ocean-atmosphere environment. This system is being investigated and followed by NOAA’s Tropical Prediction Center and the National Hurricane Center, which give it a 60% probability of developing into a tropical cyclone over the next 24 – 48 hours.  Should this come to pass this would become ANA the  first named-storm of the year, marking an early start for the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season.

Even if this system becomes nothing more than a large blob of stormy weather, it will generate an impact in the form of surge, wave action, rip currents, beach erosion, rain and gusty winds along the Atlantic coastal region in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas over the next 2 -3 days. All interests along this region must remain alert and prepared.

Infrared satellite image [NOAA] of 6 May 2015 showing Cyclone NOUL approaching the Philippines and Taiwan in the northwest Pacific ocean.
Infrared satellite image [NOAA] of 6 May 2015 showing Cyclone NOUL approaching the Philippines and Taiwan in the northwest Pacific ocean.
Elsewhere nearing the northwest Pacific, perhaps the most active basin for cyclogenesis in the world, and aiming for the Philippines and Taiwan, there is a strengthening Cyclone NOUL which may become a major hurricane in the next 48 – 72 hours as it gets closer to land.

Projected five-day track for cyclone NOUL [courtesy of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory]
Projected five-day track for cyclone NOUL [courtesy of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory]
A train of tropical waves and stormy weather cells has continued to develop off the coast of Panama – Central America and Southern Mexico, in a pattern that has been prevalent in that region over the last 3 -4 years.

GOES satellite infrared image of 6 May 2015 showing cells of stormy weather over the eastern Pacific
GOES satellite infrared image of 6 May 2015 showing cells of stormy weather over the eastern Pacific

As the tilt of the Earth’s axis continues to bring the northern hemisphere more and more under the direct line of the Sun overhead, we are bound to see and increment in tropical cyclone activity north of the equator.