How did you come to chair the Awards Committee?
This is my third year on the committee. My first year, I introduced the idea of introducing sustainability aspects onto the awards, and my second year, we rolled it out based on ideas from chapters nationwide. The committee selected the Design Excellence Common App, which is being implemented in local chapters around the country. Renee Azerbegi [President of Ambient Energy] and I worked with the creators to adapt it to Colorado. My perseverance led me to be invited to serve as the Vice Chair my second year, which led to my becoming the Chair.
What drew you to this group initially?
I moved to Denver from Seattle, and back when I was in graduate school at the University of Washington, the Chair of my thesis, Christopher Meek, was an influence in deploying the Seattle chapter’s efforts to collect energy efficiency information for each project. When I moved to Colorado, I wanted to get involved with the local AIA Chapter, and I thought the Awards Committee would be a great chance to bring what I had experienced to Denver.
How has this committee grown or changed since you initially got involved?
Each year, we’ve reviewed comments from firms and individuals who have applied for design awards, and tried to incorporate that feedback into the categories and submission requirements. We introduced a sustainability component to the awards submittals and are looking both to collect data on all projects and set standards for awards consideration. We’re trying to streamline it more each year while staying current with trends across the country.
What are some of the accomplishments this year you are most proud of?
This year, we focused on how to make the awards as clear as possible. Previously, the awards were given by region, which is a holdover from before AIA Colorado merged with local chapters. The qualifying sequence wasn’t very clear—you had to qualify for regional before receiving a statewide award, which made it appear that a few firms were receiving multiple awards. This year we removed the middle step and are awarding three levels of awards for statewide recognition.
What do you think is the biggest contribution that this committee brings to the Colorado architecture community?
The AIA Design + Honor Awards are our chance to celebrate what we do. We put so much effort into creating beautiful, equitable, sustainable designs, and this is a great chance to highlight all the great work that Colorado does.
One of AIA Colorado’s imperatives is justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (J.E.D.I.). How have you woven this into your committee?
J.E.D.I. has been a significant focus for us. This year, we involved members of the J.E.D.I. committee in our meetings and asked for feedback on our submittal instructions. We also asked for ideas on project and individual awards to celebrate architects and projects who have had a positive impact in our community. With our work with the J.E.D.I. Committee, we also began collecting demographic information on the firms submitting awards to see if there’s an area we can improve on our outreach, as well as making the barriers for submitting awards less of a hurdle.
Another imperative of AIA Colorado is environmental stewardship. How has your committee changed course to focus on these priorities?
We’ve included one of the top sustainability consultants into our committee, Renee Azerbegi, President of Ambient Energy. Having a non-architect on our committee gave us some technical insight into the sustainability questions we were asking, how to make the questions more specific to Colorado, and a resource for applicants as they were filling out the submittal information. We required each project to choose three of the 10 Framework for Design Excellence measures.
As AIA Colorado strives to create a culture of belonging, what steps have you taken to reach beyond Denver?
Over the last two years, as everyone has become more agile and able to meet virtually, we’ve been able to include more committee members across Colorado. And the restructuring of the regional awards allowed projects to be recognized across Colorado, not just in the region where the firm was based. Last year, because of the pandemic, we adapted our typical in-person awards to a socially distanced event and produced an awards film that was available online after the event. This allowed us to reach members from across Colorado and its success bolstered us to create an online video of the awards again this year.
What are some immediate and long-term plans we can hope to see from the committee?
Both the committee and staff had to pivot suddenly with the ongoing pandemic to shift to a virtual program this year, when we had hoped and planned to return to in-person events. This has worked out to our advantage this year and last, by allowing AIA members across Colorado to participate and view the awards regardless of location. We’re working on 5-year plans for awards for both sustainability and inclusivity, and we will continue working with the committee to discover what those look like.
What one thing do you wish the membership and profession at large knew about this topic or what your committee is doing?
Short-term, register for the event! We are excited to celebrate our award winners and invite you to join us as we announce them virtually on September 14. Long term, every year we start the year by reviewing the feedback that all the members have provided. We appreciate the feedback and encourage people to reach out and let us know about their experience with the awards and the submittal process, hurdles, and successes.