Education and Knowledge Play a Crucial Role in Sustainable Design

Posted by Project Nation Guest Author on October 7, 2019

AIA Sustanability Suggestions

Summary: The following is a blog post authored by the staff at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in support of World Architecture Day 2019. 

Recognizing World Architecture Day

Architects design for sustainability every day, and more often than not are on the leading edge of innovation and advocacy. But, as any designer knows, moving forward with energy-efficient, high-performing, resilient buildings is fraught with challenges.

World Architecture Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday of October with the intention to “remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat,” as established by its founders the International Union of Architects (UIA).

This year marks an especially noteworthy celebration, as it marks a newfound partnership between AIA and Deltek. At the center of this relationship is the industry-leading specification tool, MasterSpec®. This year not only marks the 50th anniversary of the MasterSpec product, but also a significant step forward in its commitment toward putting sustainable content at the forefront of specifications.

The Architect’s Role in Sustainability

We checked in with Marc Chavez, AIA, Director of MasterSpec for Deltek, to get his views on the sustainable design today and how MasterSpec is helping arm architects with knowledge.

“When it comes to sustainability, architects can leverage their knowledge and available evidence and advocate to their clients the benefits of sustainability, both environmentally and fiscally,” Chavez says. “But at the end of the day, it’s the owner’s money and ultimately the owner’s decision. The architect can’t force them to make that choice, though they can recommend the project owner seek out another designer.”

The best thing architects can do is lead conversations about sustainability, using the understanding they have as a tool to educate project stakeholders and push for more sustainable design outcomes.

The chemicals in products are one area where architects can deepen their own knowledge related to sustainability as they strive for transparency with products. "Designers must gain the best understanding they can about what products contain", Chavez says, "and how they function to make the most educated decisions possible."

For example, Chavez has designed a number of facilities with wet labs. A wet lab requires a monolithic floor, which means a poured floor or a concrete floor with a sealant. While architects are not scientists, they can review transparency documents when available to make informed decisions, or bring in a chemist to evaluate the options when such transparency isn’t available. “We need to be careful about who we are and what we know, but that doesn’t mean we can’t act,” Chavez says. “We always keep the owner at the forefront.”

"As architects, most of us agree that we have to be advocates for sustainable design" Chavez says, “but the fine tuning is in how we advocate to owners. And I think we do that by having as much evidence as humanly possible.”

Sustainable Data at Your Fingertips

MasterSpec®, a product of the American Institute of Architects, is one of the tools architects can leverage in gaining the required knowledge and putting it into practice. Now in its 50th year as the industry’s most trusted specification resource, MasterSpec continues to evolve toward the workflow and technology needs of modern Architect and Engineer.  


50 Years of MasterSpec®


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Part of that evolution is the addition of enhanced sustainability content to the MasterSpec library, including content for LEED v4 and updates to existing sustainability language, including sustainable design requirements specific to three Division 01 Sections including New Construction (BD+C) and Commercial Interiors (ID+C) There is now content available for construction waste management and language that allows the Contractor to determine how credit requirements are met.

In addition to LEED, updates have been made within MasterSpec reflecting the most recent 2018 version of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) with ASHRAE Standard 189.1 as its core. This code regulates construction of new and remodeled commercial buildings for the entire construction project – from design to build to occupancy.

Lastly, updates are being made throughout all MasterSpec sections to modernize requirements for High Pressure Decorative Laminates (HDPL) in alignment with ISO standards. This enhancement, among others, will be complete with the next quarterly content release.

Having this type of information in the MasterSpec database is one more way architects can remain as informed as possible. “It’s not Deltek’s business to not include a certain product if we don’t like it,” Chavez says. “It’s a product. It’s out there. It has uses. But we do provide as many of the certifications, benchmarks, and other details as we can.”

In the end, the role of the architect in advocating for sustainable design is a balancing act made up of thorough research and, hopefully, thoughtful presentation to project owners. “If the owner pushes you and you push the owner and you work together – that’s the goal.”


Specifying Sustainable Materials with AIA MasterSpec®

November 6th 2pm ET

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The American Institute of Architects

Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public well-being. AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation, and world. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards.

To learn more about AIA sustainability initiatives and for additional resources, please visit: