SPECIAL REPORT: AIA Message: Architects Responsible for Providing Affordable Housing for All

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorBoston–With the theme of this year’s AIA Convention “We the People,” the opening session set the tone for the conference with a philanthropic message and an embrace of affordable housing.AIA President Marshall E. Purnell addressed the goals for architecture as a profession going forward. The earth has a limited number of resources and limited space for waste disposal, Purnell stated, and to that end, architects need to take responsibility and become aware of their footprints. “Imagine the possibilities of American architects serving the world,” he said.Introducing the theme speaker, Purnell stated that the primary responsibility of architects needs to be reaching into communities that have lost hope and that lack the resources to articulate a vision for themselves in the world. “The limits we impose on ourselves must be broken. The role of architecture is to help those who are underinsured,” he added.Purnell’s words reflected the session’s keynote speaker, Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity International. Fuller discussed the importance of providing affordable housing for everyone. “Our goal should be eliminating substandard housing. We cannot call ourselves a civilized society unless we help others,” he said.Architecture schools generally don’t train for building affordable housing, Fuller acknowledged, but that does not mean architects are exempt from this effort. “Providing decent, adequate housing for everyone is a great goal for the AIA,” declared Fuller.In 2005, Fuller founded the Fuller Center for Housing, which, similar to Habitat for Humanity, is targeted toward eliminating substandard housing. The organization’s numerous initiatives share the same goal: “eliminate slum housing.” Now in its third year, the foundation is beginning to embrace green design for low-income housing, with the result of lower utility bills for residents.