A Message from AIAVT's President

29 March 2021

Dear AIAVT Members and friends,

I wish you all a happy beginning to spring, as I sit looking out my back window at a blue sky, green grass, and birds gathering around the garden. I love the winter, yet I am consistently amazed at the inspiration in nature’s rebirth I find this time of year. I hope the longer days and later sunsets find you getting more fresh air and feeling a welcome sense of renewal.

Coming off of a year like 2020 and planning for the unknown future is difficult for any organization. For AIA Vermont, our primary interest is always in supporting our members in doing what they love -- designing the future of Vermont. Perhaps inspired by events in 2020, or due to the ever-closer 2030 target for climate health, or a simple desire to make the world a better place as an architect, my vision for AIA Vermont has two equal and vitally important priorities: climate and equity.

AIA National recently released a Strategic Plan for years 2021-2025, outlining the same two priorities over the next five years for our organization. As their inspiring document stresses, “The American Institute of Architects, the profession, and the world we live in are at a crossroads. What we do now will define the future.”

AIA Vermont’s board of directors held a virtual retreat last week, refocusing our vision for this year and beyond. Our board is smaller this year than it has been in the past (we are now 10 directors strong, plus all-star Executive Director Sarah), but a reduction in size does not alter our ambitions. We spent half of our time together focused on Equity, and the other half on Climate. For the Equity portion of our conversation, we brought in guest speaker Imani Day, AIA. Imani is a Detroit-based architect at Gensler, as well as an AIA Detroit and NOMA board member. Imani noted as part of her discussion she is just the 13th licensed black female architect in the state of Michigan. Imani brought an interesting perspective to our assembled board group, and inspired us to think differently about how we approach issues of social equity as a chapter. One of my personal takeaways is, for architects to be sought out as community changemakers, we need to start making change. The key is to just start, period.

For the climate portion of the agenda, the board used an online collaborative whiteboard to collectively brainstorm. We discussed the barriers (both real & perceived) affecting Vermont’s architects in achieving net zero carbon projects, AIA Vermont’s tools and resources, how to pair our tools to address those barriers, and finally what action steps we can take as a chapter. The discussion was lively, and we were challenged to think boldly about how we are responding to the climate crisis. As outlined in the AIA Strategic Plan, our world requires bold and urgent action from architects in order to provide a sustainable future for ourselves and our children. We no longer have time for small and incremental changes. Regarding AIA Vermont’s next steps on both Climate and Equity, the board is still nailing down specific goals. We look forward to continuing the conversation and sharing our actions more broadly as we’re able.

At 33 years old, I may be the youngest president that AIA Vermont has had. I recognize that I am still very near the beginning of my career and have many areas in which to grow. Although I am relatively young as an architect, or perhaps because of my age, I am inspired to create lasting, positive change in our brave little state. I find the profession of architecture the best way to utilize my talents and strengths to build a better, more sustainable community. I hope to hear from our members on how we can better support you as you build Vermont’s sustainable future, a future which needs to be socially equitable and climate positive. Please do not hesitate to reach out as we strive to take on two of the most significant issues of our time the best way we know how: through thoughtful design. What future are you defining through your actions?

Catherine C. Lange, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

2021 President, AIA Vermont

Associate Principal, Freeman French Freeman

BAMF, Extraordinaire