Look Back, Look Ahead | The President’s 2020 Year-End Reflections & Achievements

A Letter to AIA Pennsylvania Membership from AIA Pennsylvania President, Marc Mondor

Marc Mondor, AIA, LEED Fellow

The short days of the winter and holidays call on us to look back on the year and make plans for the new one.  We naturally slow down and cocoon a bit, spend time with loved ones and travel for the holidays.  Of course, this is no ordinary year, with a rampant and lethal pandemic, visible strains of social unrest, and extreme weather, while traveling to visit family is off the table. Yet we all hope for a return to normal times next year. We can look forward to welcoming a new vaccine, a new president, a new legislative session, new collaborations, and, hopefully, an economic recovery.

This is also an opportunity for AIA Pennsylvania to look back as we look ahead. This has been an eventful year for us in spite of and in response to these large and historic convulsions. We created a new five-year Strategic Plan this year that will guide us over the next five years. The ten strategies outlined in the Plan deal with sustainability, competitiveness, equity, diversity, triple bottom line, systems thinking, technology, quantification of our value, and for us to continue to be the voice of our profession in legislative concerns.

The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting us hard and we all have hard choices to make regarding where to apply our resources. Some of you may be wondering whether to renew your membership in the AIA. This letter will explain why membership in the AIA is important when things are going well, but is indispensable for us at times of crisis like this.

We are working to enlarge the role of architects beyond the bricks and mortar that are a part of our image. We need to think with technologies that enhance our process and our product. We need to engage all project stakeholders, not simply the shareholders. We need to look far beyond the five-foot building perimeter to see the impact of our work on the entire communities we serve, as well as across time scales. We need to look at how our designs can mitigate the impacts of carbon emissions and create greater resilience for structures and systems.

Regarding energy, Pennsylvania has been a fossil fuel juggernaut for centuries as a legitimate part of our folklore. Our Committee On The Environment’s (COTE) stance has been that energy-efficient design adds value to buildings by making them more livable and less costly to operate.   The addition of renewable energy can help projects to achieve net-zero or net-positive design, which increases asset value and the value of our work.  AIA Pennsylvania is represented on the Pennsylvania Climate Change Advisory Committee, which is currently at work on the 2021 Climate Action Plan.  We are also advocating for Pennsylvania’s admission into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, robust codes, renewal of Act 129, community solar, and an increase in the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.

I’m pleased to say that your staff and board have been working hard to these ends.  We have made inroads as an authority and resource to bring our experience and comprehensive thinking as a resource to the Governor’s office for resiliency planning and training. We recruited member expertise to earn media coverage highlighting the architects’ leading role in charting a path forward to mitigate the spread of virus.  We offered programming and content to address the challenges of operating a practice amid a pandemic. We are helping the DGS streamline and modernize their processes.  We are advocating for mandatory continuing education and for a reduction in our statute of limitations.  We have worked to bring meaningful, relevant, timely, and applicable educational content to our industry, and to bring these opportunities and content to architects in every corner of the state.

Our AIA Pennsylvania Awards this year would have been a success in any year, but even more so in a year like this one, with nearly 1,500 views and counting.  In my opinion, the Timeless Award to the Nakashima Studio stole the show.  Our COTE introduced the AIA Framework for Design Excellence as an option into our awards this year, with nearly one quarter of the 140 submissions opting to submit for the COTE awards as well.

Based upon our Strategic Plan and our Inclusivity Intention Statement, we have created an Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee to work actively to diversity the profession, as well pushing for triple bottom line, inclusive and long term thinking to make the case to work in underserved communities.  We helped support the passage of SB30 (Act 107), which will create an affordable housing tax credit.

We have had a presence on the national stage as well, presenting at national AIA conferences about the overlaps between climate change, social justice and health; and about the impact of our COTE.  We presented our draft resolutions to the national board, one of two states invited to do so, advocating for a price on carbon and for the electrification of buildings.

Please take a moment to fill out our  Legislative Affairs Survey, as we will use these results to set our priorities for the upcoming 2021-2022 legislative session.  Likewise, you may also wish to donate to our Political Action Committee. Whether or not you’re a fan of politics, this has proven very effective at keeping our name at the forefront of issues among legislators and policymakers, acting as a trusted advisor to many of them.

As you can see, AIA Pennsylvania has been very busy and does what it does very well as a celebrated model across the country.  The staff at AIA is simply excellent and has earned awards to prove it.  If you have already renewed your membership, we thank you.  If you’ve lapsed or are uncertain about renewing or joining, I would welcome a personal phone call or email from you.  We need your input in order for us to keep leading the charge for the value of architects, architecture and design, and as the voice and defender of our profession.


Marc Mondor, AIA, LEED Fellow
President, AIA Pennsylvania
Vice Chair, PA Climate Change Advisory Committee
Principal, evolveEA
412.362.2100 | marc@evolveea.com