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AIArchitect: Code of Ethics Supports Pro Bono Work, Sustainability

Friday, March 21, 2008

Summary: The AIA’s ethical code has been amended more than 30 times since first adopted 99 years ago under the name “Principles of Professional Practice and the Canons of Ethics.” Now called the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, these standards were most recently amended last December by the AIA Board. The 2007 additions reflect the Board’s support for positive action by Institute members in two areas: pro bono services and sustainable design and practice.

Pro bono services
The AIA National Board expanded Ethical Standard 2.2, Public Interest Services, to add explicit references to pro bono services, which are those “rendered without expecting compensation, including those rendered for indigent persons, after disasters, or in other emergencies.” This revision grew out of groundwork laid by the Board’s Community Committee during 2007 to encourage members to provide pro bono services for worthy projects that may not otherwise be able to benefit from architectural services.

This revision grew out of groundwork laid by the Board’s Community Committee during 2007 to encourage members to provide pro bono services for worthy projects that may not otherwise be able to benefit from architectural services

The committee’s efforts were undertaken through a subcommittee on pro bono services, which drafted a “Position Paper on Establishing Guidelines for Pro Bono Work.” The position paper, which will soon be made available in its final form, provides an historical perspective on architectural pro bono services as well as information about current pro bono activities and organizations. The committee believed that the AIA’s Code of Ethics, although encouraging members to provide “public interest professional services,” did not sufficiently reflect the value that the Institute and many members place on the particular types of public interest services that are called “pro bono.”

The impetus for preparing the position paper was the substantial increase in the involvement in pro bono services by AIA members. As explained by Anthony (Tony) J. Costello, FAIA, a member of the pro bono subcommittee: “The Institute’s AIA 150—Blueprint for America initiative and the growth of Public Architecture’s 1% Program are but two instances that have prompted both AIA components and architecture firms to make a formal commitment to providing pro bono services to those sectors of our society that have not historically been well served by the profession.”

Sustainable design, sustainable development, and sustainable practices
The Board also expanded the Code of Ethics by adding an entirely new Canon VI, Obligations to the Environment, which encompasses all aspects of sustainability. The Board believed that the importance of this issue warrants a separate canon rather than merely expanding Ethical Standard 1.3, which states that members should strive to improve the environment.

The Board believed that the importance of sustainability warrants a separate canon rather than merely expanding the existing Ethical Standard

Canon VI implements in the Code of Ethics the existing public policy of the Institute regarding sustainability: “The creation and operation of the built environment require an investment of the earth’s resources. Architects must be environmentally responsible and advocate for the sustainable use of those resources.”

This policy is supported by the following position statements:

42. Energy and the Built Environment: The AIA supports governmental policies, programs, and incentives to encourage energy conservation as it relates to the built environment as well as aggressive development of renewable energy sources. Architects must strive for energy efficiency and waste reduction in the built environment, encourage energy-conscious design and technology, and support a national program for more efficient use of nonrenewable resources and the development of renewable energy sources.

43. Sustainable Buildings: The AIA supports governmental and private sector policy programs and incentives to encourage all buildings to exemplify the advantages of sustainable architecture.

44. Sustainable Architectural Practice: The AIA recognizes a growing body of evidence that demonstrates current planning, design, construction, and real estate practices contribute to patterns of resource consumption that seriously jeopardize the future of the Earth’s population. Architects need to accept responsibility for their role in creating the built environment and, consequently, believe we must alter our profession’s actions and encourage our clients and the entire design and construction industry to join with us to change the course of the planet’s future.

45. Sustainable Rating Systems: The AIA supports the development and use of rating systems and standards that promote the design and construction of communities and buildings that contribute to a sustainable future. The creation and operation of the built environment require an investment of the earth’s resources. Architects must be environmentally responsible and advocate for the sustainable use of those resources.

As noted in a January 11 AIArchitect article, the addition of Canon VI to the Code of Ethics coincides with the new provisions on “environmentally responsible design” in the 2007 edition of AIA Contract Documents® owner/architect agreements. 

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