News Brief

From AIA, How to Develop Your Sustainability Action Plan

AIA’s “Creating a Sustainability Action Plan That Works” helps firms develop a living roadmap for continuous improvement on the 2030 Commitment and more.

When you sign up for the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) 2030 Commitment, which asks firms to achieve net-zero modeled energy use by 2030, one of the first things you have to do is create a “sustainability action plan,” or SAP. But how?

A new guide from the institute, “Creating a Sustainability Action Plan That Works,” is designed to help. With a focus on “change management,” which the document defines as “a process through which people are engaged in creating the change they will be participating in,” the guide not only offers an SAP structure to follow but also advises a process of periodic updating and improvement.

The guide is not just for firms that are totally new to the process, according to Ashley Mulhall, AIA, senior associate at Orcutt|Winslow and one of the authors. It is also useful for those who already have an SAP in place but want to update it.

Based on the experience of those contributing to the guide, “if the [SAP] was finalized and set on a shelf … it wasn’t doing much good,” Mulhall said. But if it was constantly referenced and updated every year, it was much more effective at helping firms achieve their sustainability goals, she told BuildingGreen.

Mulhall said her firm’s own SAP was written ten years ago and has been outdated for some time because they achieved their goals within a couple years of producing the SAP.  “We were not thinking of it as a living document,” Mulhall said. “If it’s not a document that’s living and people can use as a continuous improvement document, then it’s something that has to be reinvented constantly.” Mulhall said the firm will be updating its SAP this year and will be using the new guidance to help.

The guide includes sections on change management, elements that an SAP should include, and advice on how to update the SAP regularly. There are also practical resources and worksheets, like a sample agenda for a kickoff meeting.

“This is a really good year for every firm to rethink some of their strategies and goals,” Mulhall said. As people are “coming back together, re-gathering, and rethinking” after the pandemic, “it’s a good year for every firm to be checking in with this goal.”

For more information:

American Institute of Architects

Published May 3, 2021

Melton, P. (2021, April 21). From AIA, How to Develop Your Sustainability Action Plan. Retrieved from

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