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As I made my Texas World Tour last year as president-elect, visiting all of our 18 chapters and sections, I probably met many of you. I learned a great deal from those visits. I am grateful for the wonderful hospitality I encountered everywhere, and the insightful conversations we had — you are truly a passionate Texas Society of Architects.

I have come to think of myself as a messenger this year. And while I am still learning, and discerning, I do intend for us to work toward an understanding of two important changes I see coming our way.  My message is for the profession of the near future, and it is two-part — one internal and one external.

Half of the world’s population, naturally, is female. Slightly more than half of the students in architecture school today are women. So why are not half of our firm leaders women? Why is less than one quarter of our TxA membership women? “Where is she?” as they say in the San Antonio chapter.

We must work on our diversity — not only in gender, but in all other aspects as well — in color, ethnicity, age, and talent. The next decade will see the continuing departure of many older professionals and firm leaders. We are greatly indebted to them for stewarding our firms, and our TxA, to this point. We must now begin to reach out, and down, and pull others up into the profession. The health, and even the relevance, of our profession depends upon it. This will be as important as the work we do for the built environment.

The second part of my message concerns our external, planetary environment. The coming decade will challenge us to think differently about what we create, why we create it, and our duty to those affected by our work.

Serious changes are afoot. Our planet’s climate is deteriorating, perhaps irreversibly. We already see extreme weather becoming rather commonplace. Our oceans are rising, warming, and acidifying. Coastal cities around the globe are already being threatened.

Whether we wish to see it or acknowledge it, this changed environment is causing disturbances that our profession will be called upon to deal with, not merely the obvious warmer temperatures and rising sea levels, but others not so obvious to us here in the U.S. Many regions of the world are running out of water, and thus experiencing food scarcity and civil unrest. Many of these people must eventually migrate — they will have no choice. The sad and scary truth is that all species on earth — animal and plant — are already moving toward the north and south poles. 

Let us not sit idly by as others step up to deal with, and design for, all of this. Not only does our AIA Code of Ethics require it, but our unique ability to imagine and create the future makes us the most important problem-solvers here. Our profession will soon face choices that will determine whether we are relevant to this future.

These messages may not be ones we want to hear — they challenge who we are, and who we will be. Nevertheless, we must be about the business of bettering ourselves and our profession, and that includes educating ourselves on these difficult and uncomfortable issues. 

I grew up in West Texas, surrounded by a large family. We listened to each other, and we valued each other — we each had a unique and valuable contribution to make. The same is true of our profession, and of our TxA. Each of our 18 chapters and sections is utterly unique, with its own valuable perspective, and contribution to make to our great state. And each of us, individually, has something to contribute.

We will listen to each other and value what each of us can offer. We must begin that work of truly understanding each other and the planet we live on. 

I look forward to seeing you in Galveston this coming October, but I expect to have many enlightening encounters with you before then. Thank you for this opportunity to serve as president of our Texas Society of Architects.

D. Michael Hellinghausen, AIA, is a principal and COO of OMNIPLAN in Dallas, and the 2019 TxA President.


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Great message by TxA Pesident Michael Hellinghausen.. Forward thinking and on point

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Hopefully, Mr. Hellinghausen reinforces this inspiring message to the TA management and staff. Last month’s editorial “It’s Political” by Aaron Seward was about as close-minded and arrogant as anything I have read recently. Seward proves he is exactly the type of person he was ranting so much hate about. Rather than ignoring that editorial, hopefully Mr. Hellinghausen will state his position on Mr. Seward’s radical left comments.

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Welcome to the helm Michael. I’m sorry I was out of town on your trip through Abilene. I look forward to meeting you at the next available opportunity. Abilene went through a dry spell of licensing architects for a few decades but a strong group of recently licenses architects are once again emerging in our region just as many of the older members are sun-setting their careers. We licensed our first of what we hope are many new female architects in our chapter last year. She is setting the bar for the rest of the emerging architects in serving our chapter and profession. We will take and support all of that kind of talent we can find! Best of luck with your presidency. Please reach out if Abilene can help in any way.

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In his letter, Mr. Hellinghausen urges us to not sit idly by as we see the effects of climate change already upon us. I would say that we must go further, and not tell ourselves that it is sufficient to act only as architects to fight climate change when we also have voices as individuals, business owners and professional organizations to call for change at levels that have far greater impact than any single net-zero energy or even net-zero carbon building can make (although we need many more of those, too)

There are solutions that go to the heart of the matter, such as pricing carbon pollution, that could profoundly impact the rate of climate change while making our efforts to minimize the climate impacts of buildings much, much easier. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is the type of legislation I would like to see our whole field get behind- a market-based approach with bi-partisan support that prices carbon pollution and puts the money back in people’s pockets, creating a market incentive to drive the kinds of innovation and efficiency we need in the building sector to address our carbon impacts both embodied and operational.

As individuals, we can write to our Congresspeople and urge them to support this bill. At the business and organization level we can endorse this bill and tell Congress that addressing climate change is good for architects and good for the planet. Our skills may lie in designing buildings but our impact need not stop there.


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