On Thursday, April 20, AIA New York presented their annual Honors and Awards Luncheon, celebrating architects, professionals, and media outlets who are committed to the continued improvement and growth of New York City’s architecture community.

This year, Richard C. Yancey, FAIA, LEED AP, Founding Executive Director, and the Building Energy Exchange were recognized as one of four honorees, receiving the 2023 Champion of Architecture Medal.

First conferred upon R. Buckminster Fuller in 1952, the Champion of Architecture Medal recognizes an individual or organization outside the architectural profession for their contributions to architecture and the built environment. Richard and BE-Ex received this year’s award for their leadership in accelerating the transition to healthy, comfortable, and energy-efficient buildings—and supporting parallel efforts in other cities across the country.

Read Richard’s acceptance speech below.

On behalf of our board, our staff, and the entire BE-Ex community, I would like to thank AIA New York for this incredible recognition. Since I received the call from the honor’s committee, two words have been on my mind: Gratitude and Citizenry.

First, gratitude:

Building Energy Exchange and I would not be here, today, without an amazing community of people, who defied the odds, took a risk, and helped to establish a new, innovative nonprofit to drive building decarbonization. To mention just a few who have helped us along the way:

  • Laurie Kerr and Ashok Gupta, who convinced a prestigious board to convene around a totally unfunded idea;
    • Steve Cassell, and his partners at Architecture Research Office, who loaned us a desk in their office for ‘beer money;’
    • Tom Farrell, and current Chair, JP Flaherty, of Tishman Speyer, who lent us their creditability (and quite a few of their dollars);
    • Yetsuh Frank, another recovering architect, who joined me for over a decade, building a diverse community of thousands of engaged decision-makers; and, most importantly,
    • our amazing staff, who are here with us today, and form the heart, and the engine, of our mission to accelerate the transition to high performance buildings, everywhere for everyone. Please join me in celebrating them.

Now let’s talk briefly about citizenry:

We are at an inflection point in the climate crisis: innovative solutions are becoming built examples; ambitious policies are becoming laws; and, we are about to make the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, through the $500 billion Inflation Reduction Act. Of all the sectors that contribute the most to climate change, our homes, our schools, our offices, our shops, and our factories are among the most resistant to change, contributing over 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, and nearly 70% of New York City’s.

New York now leads a growing group of cities and regions initiating aggressive measures to curb building-based emissions. But, for these measures to succeed, architects must expand our fiduciary duty to include climate action. We must be active citizens. To quote the 2023 Pritzker Prize winner, David Chipperfield: “It is not about solar panels and windows, but about making fundamental change.”

Now, we’ve done this before. Three decades ago, we took on the responsibility to make architecture accessible to everyone. Now, we must ensure that our buildings are an effective part of the climate solution.

This will require our profession to adapt: changing our delivery models; changing our contracts; expanding our skills; and integrating our practices. If we don’t, we’ll simply be left behind. Building performance must become a fundamental design element. No longer an afterthought. No longer someone else’s responsibility.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this invitation:

This terrifying, existential threat provides an opportunity for our profession to lead. In successfully adapting our standards of practice to meet the climate challenge, architects can renew our fundamental role of shaping a better tomorrow for generations to come.

Please join me on this journey.

Congratulations to fellow 2023 honorees, Andrew BernheimerNew York Review of Architecture, and WIP Collaborative, and to the winners of the 2023 AIANY Design Awards. We’re deeply honored to receive recognition for the work that we do to improve our built environment for a more healthful, comfortable, and low-carbon future.

Matthew Bremer, AIA, 2023 AIANY President, and Richard C. Yancey, Executive Director, BE-Ex. credit: Sam Lohez


AIANY leadership and 2023 honorees. credit: Sam Lohez


Building Energy Exchange staff and board members. edit: Sam Lohez


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