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For this episode, our editor Charlie Clemoes talks to Adare Brown, Elisa Iturbe, Geneva Strauss-Wise, Josh Barnett, and Ryan Ludwig from the Architecture Lobby’s Green New Deal Working Group.

The Architecture Lobby (TAL) is a grassroots organization of architectural workers that advocates for just labor practices and an equitable built environment. Founded in the United States and international in membership, TAL  brings experience and expertise from many design fields—architecture, construction, planning, landscape, engineering, academia—to protect the rights and livelihoods of all workers. The Lobby’s Green New Deal Working Group focuses on organizing for ecological justice as it relates to architectural labor, the built environment, and sustainable futures for all.   

Right now, TAL GND is organizing for a Just Transition through policy response, consciousness-raising within the architectural industry, and coalition building across architecture, engineering, and construction. Their recent projects include an 8-point report responding to the Green New Deal for Public Housing titled “Toward a radical transformation of housing and the built environment.” As they have explained, this response identifies the business-as-usual approach to building performance, growth economics, and private capital that is embedded within the GND policy as written. TAL GND is also engaged in an ongoing Just Transition Campaign, public and private workshops, and pamphleteering. Most recently, the group has engaged in direct action through the Alternative Building Industry (ABI) Collective, a New York-based campaign that aims to bring together a political constituency of building sector workers around Just Transition principles.

Ryan Ludwig (RL): My name is Ryan Ludwig. I’m a registered architect in New York, but I am a full-time academic, so I teach at a school in Providence called Roger Williams University and have been involved with the Architecture Lobby and specifically the Green New Deal Working Group for about the past 2 1/2 years. I was a co-coordinator and then coordinator of the working group, but recently stepped down from that position to just be a kind of full-time member, so maybe Adare would you want to go next. 

Adare Brown (AB): Hi I’m Adare. I work in affordable housing in New York City. I’m an architectural worker who works on third-sector nonprofit housing in New York City. I’ve been a member of the group for about three years. 

Josh Barnett (JB): Hi, Josh Barnett. Good to see everybody. I’m also a registered architect based in New York. I work for the New York City Housing Authority. I’ve been here for about more than 20 years and I’m a rare union architect working for the public sector, I’m a shop steward in DC37. I work in my union’s climate justice committee. Which is very active. I’m also a member of the Democratic Socialist labor branch and the Housing Working Group, and I’ve been a member of the Architectural Lobby for about three or four years. I think I’m working mostly with the Green New Deal Working Group. It’s great to see everybody. 

Geneva Strauss-Wise (GSW): Hi, I’m Geneva. I am an architectural designer who works for a high-performance builder in Bend, OR. I’ve been an on-and-off member of the Green New Deal Working Group for, I think, maybe two years and more involved maybe in the last 8 months. 

Elisa Iturbe (EI): Hi, my name is Elisa and I teach at the Cooper Union. I’m also a full-time academic and I’ve been a member of the Lobby since 2019, since the formation of the Green New Deal Working Group. I was one of the first coordinators and then I coordinated with Ryan for a little bit. 

Charlie Clemoes (CC): Since it got mentioned several times in your introductions, I wonder if one of you wants to, just to say a little bit about the Architectural Lobby, but also the Green New Deal working group, would one of you wanna take the reins on that? 

AB: I could speak about that a little bit. The Lobby got started in 2015 advocating over architectural work conditions and for the value of architectural work. And that started with sort of guerrilla tactics and campaigns. And then I think in the next 2 years after that it formalized into a structure of local chapters in cities and at schools and working groups around specific topics. This group, in particular, was formed after House Resolution 109 (HR109) for the Green New Deal was introduced and that was before I joined the group, so I don’t know if somebody wants to speak a little bit more directly to that. 

EI: So yeah, I can jump in. When the resolution was passed, a message went out from the New York chapter saying that the next meeting was going to be dedicated to discussing that. And basically, at that meeting, the working group was formed. And so we’ve been doing a lot of different things since then. The first thing we did was to annotate HR109, basically, from the perspective of architectural labor and, you know, really trying to bring attention to how questions of architectural labor are affected by this bringing our critique to some of it. And then we continued working in that way. We also did a larger policy response document, this was a year or so ago, where we read all of the GND legislation that had come out to date and wrote a longer policy response document, started to get in touch with policymakers and started to give them our perspective as non-Industry-affiliated architects that are simply concerned about climate change, giving them information and looking at how, from our perspective, the legislation needs to go further. We had a lot of fruitful conversations there, but we’ve also been focused on coalition building and also rallying architects around the idea of “just transition”. Our position is that architects like energy workers are embedded in the fossil fuel economy and so we need to demand a just transition so that was the framework for that policy document. And that’s been the framework that the working group has really been using and so we’ve been writing pamphlets, we’ve been hosting events, to raise awareness around these issues. 

CC: Great, thanks. It would be nice to perhaps briefly sketch this just transition for the building sector. The document is structured according to proposals. Yeah, maybe could you spend like a few minutes talking about the proposals in “A Just Transition for the Building Sector”? 

RL: I can maybe start and maybe even build on a few things that Elisa was saying, which also has to do with where we’re coming from and what we see in the industry, in particular, the economy of the building sector itself and the sheer fact that, as architectural workers, you know, we’re a diverse group within our working group, but in the lobby, different places, different levels, different points of career that we ultimately can’t do the work that we want to do, that we feel really needs to be done to address climate change and ecological destruction more broadly, and we’re limited by the kinds of projects that are out there by the economics of the building sector itself. And so through this kind of formation of a position, we really developed, say, three points that we think are problematic within the current economy of the building sector. First, simply the fact that the industry itself still consumes large amounts of energy, large amounts of land, and large amounts of materials, and is fundamentally still extractive and still a high emitting fossil fuel dependent industry. And the second part would be that it’s also fundamentally market-driven, given that the vast majority of all projects are motivated by profit, and we see that as fundamentally in opposition to the kind of work that we think really needs to be done, and then alongside that our livelihoods as workers, even as academics, in certain cases, are still predicated on the industry that is grounded in continuous growth and so this is where we feel like in order to actually begin to address those conditions and to be able to do the work that we feel that we want to do need to do, we’re arguing for essentially a just transition for the building sector itself and I think one thing that’s important also to kind of parse out a little bit is that many if not most fossil fuel workers, as we move away from those, hopefully, or inevitably, will need to be retrained or re-skilled. I mean some maybe can apply those skills in productive ways. That isn’t necessarily the case for us, or at least in general; meaning: architects, we have a lot of useful skills already. It’s not so much a question of reskilling our workforce or the workforce. It’s actually a question of restructuring the economy of the building sector itself. And I think that’s something that then… we do have some proposals, as you mentioned in the policy document at the end, which begin to think about what those things would need to be in order to create those possibilities. 

AB: I think one more thing I would add to that is, again, this started with a reading and familiarization with the GND legislation and I think when we began reading it we found that even within the GND legislation, from our perspective as workers, a lot of this is still wrapped around a similar sort of economy and production of housing, like, it still was individually project-based, focused on building performance and focusing on private land management and we found like there’s so many white papers and there’s so much writing on climate in the construction sector, but really not that much from a labor perspective, especially not when it comes to architecture and architecture as a professional discourse sticks with a very technocratic kind of line, on optimizing the system. So I think this is the foundation for our group, really on what a labor approach to the Green New Deal to the built environment would look like and I think, as Ryan mentioned, from this, we start our Just Transition campaign and come back into engaging directly with architectural workers and now building trade workers over questions of what a just transition for the industry could look like and what kind of building sector that could build. 

CC: This reminds me a bit of the Building Trades organizing Panel that you sent along before his conversation, which I thought was really nice to see that happening. I don’t know to what extent this full panel connected to the architecture lobby. Was it like architects were present? 

AB: I could speak directly to that that. The trades panel we shared was from Labor Network for Sustainability. Specifically, they are a young workers project and this was a conference they had held last Fall and a few of our members attended that. And since then we’ve been talking more directly and trying to to start projects and supporting LNS and some of their organizing around the Climate March in New York City, for example, next month. But that’s sort of like where we were going since all of this just transition campaign has focused really on architectural workers and engineering professionals, so that’s sort of like the required reading in terms of where we’re pointing and the kind of groups that we’re trying to engage with. 

CC: That means it makes sense to pose the point, since you mentioned it before in your last statement just then: how important it is to be engaging with other organisations, as workers, and I have a quote here from the panel, “we know what’s rational about the systems and we know what’s not rational because we see it and we live it”. That was spoken by Amy Calandrella, an operating engineer with Local 98 in Western Massachusetts, speaking at the Building Trades Panel from the Young Worker Convergence on Climate, which took place in 2022 and was hosted by the Labor Network for Sustainability. Yeah, there’s something really powerful about that and powerful about the fact of architects organizing, then bringing them exposure to other organised workers, right, that these conversations really happen in one’s experience as an architect in the architects office, you know, you might have a few encounters on construction sites with other building workers, but that kind of out-of-work setting doesn’t really occur. And it’s something that, certainly in the Netherlands, it’s very early days, but it was just very cheering to see you making those connections. I don’t know if you wanted to sort of speak a bit more about this sort of experience of how organizing brings you into contact with other organised workers and the potential for that. 

JB: I mean, I can jump in on that. There is traditionally you know as a long-standing registered architect, there’s always been this antagonism both real and cultural between design workers and construction worker. This mutual animosity about who doesn’t know anything. But especially given the famous blue-green divide in terms of environmental issues, I can remember being at the first big climate March in New York City and holding up a sign against fracking and having somebody from the Electrical Workers Union told me to take it down. Their position was not to oppose fracking or any kind of pipeline work or just any kind of work that would mean work for the construction workers. It’s a very precarious industry. And so ,as Ryan said, what we’re trying to do is posit an alternative so people don’t have to make those kinds of decisions. We’re all, kind of, caught in that capitalist web of being forced to work on projects that either are anti-environment or have a lot of greenwash. You know, somebody has to design a 60-storey luxury tower that might get a LEED platinum rating, but is that really benefiting sustainability or social issues? And we have to design it. Somebody has to build it. But in the long run, it’s really not benefiting or addressing the climate crisis. And so we’re also working with a group called Trade Unions for Energy Democracy and then one group that we’re working with, ABI, Alternative Building Industry Collective, I think I’m getting the name right, is holding the forum after the Mmarch specifically on labor sustainability and the whole struggle about how to bring people together. You would think because we are all caught in that same web there would be a natural alliance, but it’s easier said than done. To get everybody on the same page. To fight against, as Ryan said, the business interests that are pushing for these kinds of projects. 

CC: Interesting that antagonism I was going to also mention. So yeah, through working with the Dutch Trade Union Federation, which is the main organising body for architects in the Netherlands, the person who is the Director of the Building section is maybe worth being in touch with afterwards, Zamaney Menso, she is also on the board of the Building and Woodworkers International and through that has been doing some work in Qatar. Actually, we interviewed her so you can check out that interview earlier this year. And it was interesting, one of the things she said, I think it might not be on the podcast, but it was in conversation was that workers in Qatar aren’t asking for the work to stop. For them, it’s not really about the World Cup should never have happened, that construction work in Qatar should stop, because then their livelihoods are finished and it becomes a sort of very intractable quandary, I suppose. Yeah, probably the only and it’s maybe a bit of a milqutoast solution or response to that is to just, I guess keep keep the conversation going. 

RL: I was just going to maybe add one other follow up, which is just to give a little bit of context on how we got there, which is to say I think it’s something new for us as a working group engaging with the trades. But because of what we started to realize was necessary, i.e. that it wasn’t just architects, that it is the building. sector itself, the economy of the building sector – which of course includes building and construction and trades workers – that it actually was really necessary for us to begin to figure out, like “how do we even start? Where do we start?” And we’re sort of just beginning that in addition to keeping some of our other projects or campaigns going, there’s a few things running in parallel, but the work with the trades is really the third  pamphlet in this series. So, if the first pamphlet was outlining what a just transition for the building sector is, like why it’s important, what it is, what a just transition is. Our second pamphlet was about how building a union and organizing within our own industry is actually a climate action and relevant to climate action in the future, because if you’re bargaining as a greater collective unit, you have more influence over saying, “hey, we don’t actually want to work on these kinds of projects that are destroying the environment, that are relying on fossil fuels, that profit very small minority group of people and to the detriment of the majority”. And so unionization in that context can provide material benefits, but it also should be considered and understood as a climate action. And that’s also something that we’ve just started to do informally: connect to folks who are in that process of considering whether or not that makes sense for them in their workplace, and trying to advocate and say, “hey, you know, in addition to these things, that unionization in general can bring, climate action should be on that list and it should be something that you could incorporate into a bargaining agreement”. And then, the third pamphlet, that’s the one where we really are trying to think about expanding even beyond architecture and directly connect with the trades. And Adare mentioned some of the collaborations that we’re trying to initiate in terms of some other organizations that we think can also help us make those connections and provide insight that we just don’t have to the extent that we do pick things up on the job site, of course, and talk to folks, but it is a different experience and I think we’ve, we’ve also come to realize that that’s really important and that those alignments are necessary for actually trying to achieve what we’re saying that we think needs to happen in terms of a just transition for the whole sector. 

EI: And if I can also just add one thing. I think this is what differentiates our position from other groups that are also doing climate action or even other centers of discourse around sustainability and architecture. And so I think the workers in Qatar saying that “it’s not about not having the job” that is exactly the point. Because our labor is so dependent on this particular economic model that as workers, architects and construction workers alike, have a real difficulty imagining themselves working in any other way and it’s because our livelihood is completely dependent on this mode of production. So that’s a really central part of our critique, because I think we’re the ones that are willing to say “our work is compromised”, you know “we love what we do we’re architects, for better or worse, but we have to recognize that our work is compromised. The kind of change that needs to happen is not just around the typical things we talk about in the built environment, like efficiency and such, which is why Adare was mentioning that the GND legislation had a lot of focus on those kinds of things. And so in our statement of our position, we were very interested in saying that’s not enough. The Architectural Lobby, for many years, was focused on exploitative hours and the conditions of our labor, but we’re adding this other question of the building sector economy in itself being a problem and we don’t find that a lot of people are willing to say that, to say it out loud or take that position, because it would compromise our livelihood. So there’s a real fear right? So the people who are lobbying on behalf of architectural labor in Congress generally are groups like the AIA, which are interested in making sure that architects have jobs. For architects to have jobs in the existing economy, we have to keep development going as is. If we’re going to recognize climate as a real problem, in a serious way, we have to recognize that that development can’t continue. So we have to recognize that our labor has to also be restructured. So, to Ryan’s point also that that doesn’t mean retraining. There’s a part of our position, that is also saying: “it’s not that we want a different job. It’s just that we want our labor to be applied to a different kind of project”. And so that’s also what differentiates our position, is that I think we’re trying to say we want to work on something else. We want public commissions. We want to work with land managers and ecologists to think about settlement patterns differently, we want to think about housing differently. We want to think of housing as a human right. What does that mean in times of climate breakdown? So it’s also just about asking “what our labor is engaged in?”  

JB: No, I absolutely agree with everything that Lisa just said. It’s just that, you know, when you raise Qatar, it just brings the statement that Zaha Hadid made several years ago talking about workers in Dubai, you know, working in these unbelievably medieval conditions, and she actually said, “If that’s happening, it’s the government’s responsibility”. She just had this completely tone-deaf remark, just absolving her as a designer from any responsibility for the working conditions of the construction workers. That’s obviously anathema to where we’re coming from. We’re coming much more from the perspectives that Elisa was talking about. But it’s just, you know, taking a step back look at from the union point of view, that we have allies in the Union movement because there is a concept now, at least in the US and other unions around the world, called “bargaining for the common good” where we want to make sure that, you know, unions as a whole. (because my union really just focuses on what we call “wallet issues” you know, they don’t even fight for that a hell of a lot), but the whole idea about having housing as a union demand, having green projects as the union demand, making sure that we and not working on carceral projects, prisons, as a union demand, teachers have been very good on that and a lot of unions in this country. So we’re looking along those lines to try and make sure that we don’t have this artificial separation between what we fight for on the job and what we fight for outside of the job. And so bargaining for the common good is still challenging to a lot of the union leadership here, but it is taking hold and I think it’s very much something that we want to plug into. 

CC: Yeah, I’m wondering if you had some thoughts beyond just maybe, yeah, concrete proposals, what could be done to shift thinking? Is it a case of education or is it through alternative media or organising you know like where do you think the effort lies in effectively changing the the notion that growth is a fact of life or a natural process and something that we have to just keep doing. I’ll maybe just throw in this notion from the cultural theorist Raymond Williams about the structure of feeling of our time basically approach to the way we think the economy works and the way that things develop and the way that society reproduces itself, we feel differently about that at different times. And this book Thinking like an Economist by Elizabeth Popp Berman (as discussed in this Boston Review article “Bad Economics”] about how efficiency replaced equality in US public policy. But the same thing kind of happened across the world, right? The tendency to see ask, not, “Is this policy not for the common good” but “is it good value for money” and how value for money really permeates development to this day and will continue, you know, until we do something. 

EI: Well, you know, as other groups and we’ve had that conversation many times and landed on different things over time. But I think that there has to be a conversation that happens within architecture because we do feel that in many ways architects are kind of walking into the profession without the needed awareness that these kinds of issues require. So there is a conversation with architects that needs to be had, but we also feel like there have to be these coalitions across the building sector recognizing the plight of other workers. So that’s conversation that needs to happen as well, and we think that there’s a conversation that needs to happen with legislators. So, you know, in many ways the answer to your question is not simple. It’s kind of like an all hands on deck and we need to do everything and it’s at all scales, everywhere, which in some ways maybe isn’t a useful answer because it feels overwhelming. But I think that we have to keep an eye on all of those different conversations in order for structural change to occur. The nature of the change we’re looking for is structural, so inherently it’s going to require action in a lot of different places. 

RL: Maybe I’ll jump on that and add a couple of things. And it’s true, we have talked about this kind of question in the group and through things we’ve read and we’ve never come to a specific consensus for what our position relative to like the group and it’s maybe not necessary, but I could maybe throw one thing out there from Damien White, who’s written a little bit about just transition, GND legislation, and other things in this vein, his position is essentially that we need growth in some areas and we need massive growth in other areas and similar to what Josh was getting at: do we need a 60 or 70 story luxury skyscraper in Manhattan or do we need affordable housing in the Bronx or something like that? I mean, there’s a lot of money out there, the federal government has provided billions of dollars in the last bit of time since the COVID pandemic and all of that. There’s money out there. But it’s a question of where it’s going and so someone like Damien White would I think, anyway, advocate for massive investment in things like public transportation and public power etc, as opposed to having it go into private interest. Something that we might see in more recent legislation, the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act), has had some “good effects” in terms of people taking advantage of what’s in there to make upgrades and increase the ability to reduce their emissions in certain ways. But it’s all incentivized. It’s all through tax rebates, tax incentives, etc. I think that’s something where when Elisa talks about what really needs to happen to make structural change, those kinds of legislative initiatives are perhaps just limited, they’re not actually getting at the root, which I think is what we’re kind of putting on the table, at least in part, or at least in relation to the building sector. And maybe to throw out one other quick thing in relationship to the work that our group has done relative to this space, is our part initiation of what Josh mentioned, the Alternative Building Industry Collective, along with another group called Science for the People. It first initiated itself around the local law in New York City, called Local Law 97, which was part of a suite of laws that were passed in 2019, and this particular law is really rigid in terms of emissions and targets big buildings and really has a lot of high penalties. And so we felt like this was something that was useful for us to get behind and advocate for its proper implementation because something we saw, or we’re hearing about, was that it was passed into law and it has these good goals that are aggressive and have penalties, they’re not just incentive-based, but its implementation is sort of up in the air. And it wasn’t clear through the legislation, how would that actually be achieved. Can those reductions be achieved simply through carbon offsets? That’s questionable at best, let’s say, in the current way that they’re organized and structured, and so, you know, we felt like that was an example of a piece of legislation that was doing some of the right things, well-meaning, but even when passed, you know, is still being impacted by the status quo forces that are trying to undermine it. And so this is where organizing, using our voice, advocating for legislation, policy etc. it’s sort of multifaceted in terms of how we imagine it actually leading and also achieving the structural change that that we feel is necessary. 

CC: I mentioned it would be nice to talk about the mainstream architectural media approach to reporting on new environmental projects, where it’s very easy for starchitects to propose an unrealistic project such as the Bjarke Ingels Group’s Oceanix and also the proposals that they’ve done for Neom port in Saudi Arabia, but we’re also working on an article on another project in Malaysia “Biodivercity” and the interesting thing about that one is that it’s requiring a huge amount of sand extraction in order to reclaim land for its realization. And you mentioned in the the video you sent me of the talk at Cooper Union, the importance of the three aspects of the building trades and why it’s fossil fuel work and the other one that we haven’t really talked about yet, is the resource extraction element that’s implied, so I was trying to pin together two questions here: first, on the disconnect between the professed sustainability of a project and the amount of resources, the embodied energy required, but also the environmental degradation and the materials rquired to produce architecture (and I’m very aware that it’s something that you are talking about); and second, it would be nice for to give you a platform to talk about how to bridge or address this this disconnect, as it manifests with mainstream architecture. 

GSW: I can speak a little bit to that. I guess just from the perspective of where I work, which is a very, very small company and it still struggles a lot with issues of PRchitecture or greenwashing. So it’s interesting because if it’s happening at a scale as small as a five person company, thinking about larger firms, I feel like that’s a larger translation of the same kind of machine. What our group has been advocating for around reframing our work in the architectural profession from the stance of us as fossil fuel workers and from a labor perspective, is really important and helpful for interrogating that the operations of those machines of PR greenwashing, because it helps us to entangle ourselves with all of these contingencies that exist in the building sector when it comes to what we’re specifying in projects and supply chains that are a part of that, and the workers who are a part of those supply chains and the workers who are a part of the building of the project. There’s so many different contingencies that we’re entangled with when we position ourselves as “the worker” then I think it helps us to build these coalitions and leverage those contingencies to build coalitions. 

EI: So just to clarify something about your question: Are you trying to get at the disconnect between architects feeling like they have this capacity to imagine things and that that is sort of progressive and interesting, but then you also have things that like are proposing real estate. Is that the tension you’re trying to get at? 

CC: Yeah, pretty much. My brother is an architect and he was saying that there’s really very little that an architect chooses in terms of the materials that go into the building. The idea of a building being ecological is more to do with its performance. How it performs after it’s built rather than the materials that are required to produce it, but something becomes ecological, at least when it’s promoted in the PR from the firm or in the architectural press, for its performance, but evidently many sort of ecological buildings are very much not ecological. If you consider the process involved in producing it. So yeah, my question was, how are you dealing with that? 

JB: As a quick example: one thing we deal with, especially in a real estate-driven town like New York, is the tension between adaptive reuse and property values, and even in something like public housing, there’s a project now with a development called Eliott Chelsea, where they’re going to demolish two towers and replace them with two ecologically more sensitive towers and the buildings that will go 40 or 50 years ago, but they’re not looking at the whole life cycle of the building. What’s going to be thrown into landfill? They’re not going to deconstruct these buildings to reuse the materials. Everything’s going to be carted off because it’s cheaper to do it that way, right? It’s not that that housing doesn’t need to be renovated. It certainly does. But they’re saying now “we’ll just knock it down and start over”, because when we look at the square foot costs, that’s going to be cheaper, but it doesn’t really look at “what are the long-term effects?” and we see all the time about low-level buildings that it might be structured very sound and even occupied that are being demolished because a developer can generate a lot more rentable square footage with a tall building that, again, might even get LEED platinum certification. But again, in the long run you’re putting much more pressure on the infrastructure, throwing a lot more stuff into landfill, because again, they have a perspective that we can make a lot of money off of this. So we deal with that kind of tension all the time and what we really want to do is push back against that and say that’s not how we want the whole design process to be driven, and luckily this demolition of these two particular towers and public house in New York is getting a lot of opposition for a lot of reasons, including the fact that the whole demolition replacement process is inherently unsustainable. 

RL: On your comment, Josh, you know the Foster + Partners’ JPMorgan Chase tower that’s going up, is maybe a good example of that as well: which is, I believe, all-electric, but it took down a 60-plus-storey building; they tried to reuse as much of the material as possible and I think were apparently quite successful; but at the end of the day, they’re taking advantage of zoning that changed to get to build a bigger building and to use a lot of materials and to use a lot of extractive processes. So, there’s something we haven’t called for, but it’s certainly something that’s come up in some of our conversations: “do we need to have a moratorium on certain kinds of buildings?” This goes back to earlier comments around: where are the areas that perhaps we need to reduce and where are the areas that we need to invest in? One thing, just to call it out in our policy response document, we do have something at the end that talks about the values of a project, whether a project is shovel-ready or shovel-worthy. This is something that we haven’t fully elaborated on, but even with federal legislation, that could provide a massive amount of money towards projects that we need, like housing or even green infrastructure, there is still the potential that those projects are going to go to ones that are on the shovel ready, like ready to go right now because we need to see that money go somewhere fast, we need to see progress, but those projects were designed probably years before, with different focuses, potentially different values. And so one thing we were throwing out there as a proposal and in the response document was to think about: is it not just a shovel-ready project, but a shovel-worthy project. And that covers more than just materials, it covers things like labor and social-ecological justice and prioritizing certain things rather than just trying to get something built quickly, that does maybe meet a need but doesn’t necessarily get to some of the kind of deep structural changes and I would say value changes that we think are really, really important and necessary for the sector. 

EI: I think in part the focus on labor is meant to circumvent that issue. The possibility of greenwashing is more difficult when we’re saying: “But the whole premise of the industry is a problem” right? So I think that it’s through our attention to the economy that is producing architecture right now that we’re able to make that critique. And so then we can level that critique against a building that is not trying to be ecological or one that is. Because either way they are entering into these dynamics that are about prioritizing wealth accumulation, and, to do so, they’re totally dependent on an extractive economy, and then you hire the architect at a very particular stage in that, when the parameters of the project have already been set. The labor of the architect is not only engaged, but basically sucked into this thing, whether they like it or not, if they want to build. So the question for us is how do you change the conditions in which architects are building so that you don’t actually have that condition where an architect will say “you know what, there’s not much that I can do”. We hear that all the time, and we have a lot of practicing architects in the Lobby. It’s majority and in addition to other forms of architectural workers, of course, but the majority of our membership are practicing architects, and so there is a full awareness that most of the time we feel like our hands are tied and that is the emphasis on just transition: we’re recognizing that our livelihood is embedded in an economy that is no longer tenable and even the canonical greenest projects are still embedded in that economy. So we’re going to level our critique against that as well. So until we can really disengage from the foundation of a fully extractive economy premised on wealth accumulation, we’re not going to be doing anything that sustainable or that ecological, it’s just going to be perpetuating the problem. So we don’t engage in design as a group. We’re an organization that’s focused on labor. We don’t make design proposals. But, I think we are in a position to look at the conditions in which design occurs from a labor position and then that’s kind of where we we take a stand and say it as we see it.