Simone Barth, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C - Associate Principal, Mithun


Questions for the AIA CA Climate Action Steering Committee Member & 2024 Chair of the Advocacy Sub-Committee
Simone Barth, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+CAssociate Principal, Mithun

1. Vision and Values:

What is your overarching vision for the AIA CA Climate Action Steering Committee in 2024?

Advancing decarbonization (with a focus on electrification and embodied carbon) is an important step in stabilizing our planet’s changing climate to ensure safe and habitable communities for future generations. While we look at advancing decarbonization and combating climate change through various lenses, we aim to stick to our focus areas to get “things done”. We continue to strengthen our network of “hotspot” leaders and strategic partnerships throughout California. These local experts monitor and work with city council members/representatives who are interested in adopting a reach code or climate action plan. We started with a few municipalities four years ago and are excited to see that to date more than 79 jurisdictions adopted a reach code for building electrification.

Because of the speed at which climate deterioration is occurring, it is essential to include the large near-term impacts of embodied carbon in our assessments.
The Embodied Carbon Working Group which is led by Avideh Haghighi, AIA, advocates for a range of strategic local and state code initiatives such as the first mandatory and voluntary Embodied Carbon Reduction measures in the CALGreen Building Code. Along with our advocacy efforts that assist several cities to adopt their own specific embodied carbon thresholds, the Embodied Carbon Working Group is developing educational material and tools about the upcoming CalGreen Code Changes.

How do you see it contributing to the broader goals of the AIA California and the fight against climate change?

In 2018 the AIA California declared a Climate Emergency. The consequences of our changing climate in the form of natural disasters and stresses on our living environment are a reality. Together with co-chair Suyama Bodhinayake, Assoc. AIA, and a passionate group of architects/advocates, our strategies are built upon the greater Climate Action Steering Committee goals which are the following:
We believe in the value of the architect’s skill set to achieve sustainable, smart, and resilient design solutions for the built environment and stand ready to assist Legislators and policymakers as they respond to the challenges of the rapidly changing environment.

We provide actionable information on and advocate for legislative, regulatory, and code changes that create a positive meaningful impact on our climate emergency.

On an ongoing basis, the Climate Action Advocacy Subcommittee, composed of members who are sustainability experts, reviews state legislation for its impact on the environment and the built environment. The committee evaluates the potential impact on the profession, business environment, and vulnerable communities, and subsequently recommends positions to AIA California’s Board of Directors.
Architects are problem solvers; we have the responsibility not just within our profession but as global citizens to take on this important leadership position in combating climate change.

What are your core values that will guide your leadership and decision-making within the subcommittee? How will these values be reflected in your work and interactions with members and stakeholders?

One of the core values that inspires us at Mithun is our enduring belief that we can create a positive impact with our design for the communities we are engaged with. This value framework relates to my work with the Climate Action Steering Committee and the Climate Action Advocacy Sub Committee. Working together, as a community and collectively with an 11,000 members organization, the AIA California has a bigger impact than just as an individual or one office. There are many voices … and while it is important to listen and facilitate a wide-ranging dialogue, we believe it is important to have a few clear goals and a plan of action that the committee can accomplish.

It is important to have local experts – our “hot spot” leaders who understand the politics, specific goals, and sensitivities of each community. Collaboration and Strategic Partnerships with other Organizations such as USGBC, Building Decarbonizations, and RMI (to name a few) are also an important part of our Climate Action.

2. Specific Programs and Initiatives:

What are two or three specific programs or initiatives you’d like to prioritize in 2024?
How will they address current challenges or opportunities in the field of climate action advocacy within the built environment?

Our overarching strategies are the following:
+  Advocating for statewide policies that advance decarbonization.
+  Advancing embodied carbon policies state-wide by amending CalGreen Building Code.
+  Working with local municipalities to advocate for all-electric and embodied carbon reach codes.

A few specific programs we are looking to develop in 2024:
+  Advocate for the role of the Architect to be stewards of the Built Environment – which will give Architects an entry point to speak on many issues and policies in their respective jurisdictions.
+  We will work closely with the AIA CA Climate Action Education Subcommittee to empower the sole practitioners and smaller firms with building decarbonization literacy and tools.
+  We will explore the possibilities of approaching K-12 Schools and DSA on how we can support them to speed up decarbonization (again with a focus on electrification and embodied carbon) in schools across California.

How will you ensure these programs and initiatives are inclusive and reach diverse members of the AIA California community, including those from under-represented groups or geographic regions?

AIA California offers a range of different outreach and educational strategies. We work closely with the local AIA chapters – making sure that events, strategies, and educational development sessions percolate from the state to the individual chapter network. The BIG COTE Meetings offer the opportunity for knowledge transfer between representatives of all local AIA Chapters and the Climate Action Steering Committee and Sub Committee leaders. Climate Action webinars (which offer credits for the mandatory 5 hours of Zero Net Carbon Design education), “What you can do Now” – articles from experts are just a few of many more tools that are available on the AIA California website.

3. Collaboration and Partnerships:

How do you plan to leverage partnerships with other organizations, advocacy groups, or government agencies to amplify the subcommittee’s impact and reach a broader audience?

As mentioned above, a key to successful climate advocacy is strategic alliances. We believe that a collective goal and approach is more efficient and impactful than each organization working individually on decarbonizing our future built environment.
We continue to nurture our existing partnerships and invite coalitions and organizations to collaborate with us in the specific communities we are focused on in 2024.

How will you engage and collaborate with other AIA chapters and committees, particularly those outside of California, to share best practices and learn from each other’s experiences in climate action advocacy?

We will continue our meetings with friends from COTE National which is a great platform to learn from other national chapters and exchange educational opportunities, tools, and standards in the realm of sustainable practice, policies, and decarbonization standards.

4. Overcoming Challenges:

What are some of the biggest challenges you anticipate facing in 2024, and how do you plan to overcome them?

2023 has shattered climate records, accompanied by devastating trails of despair. Globally we are in transition from a once-in-a-century pandemic and certain parts of the world are facing extreme political distress and economic challenges. Despite these pressing concerns, the viability of our planet and ensuring the quality of life for future generations requires an immediate course correction. We need to continue to stay focused on our efforts to achieve the 2030 Commitment, educate, and advocate for electrification and low embodied carbon policies.
We have a lot of work to do – Let’s get it done!

Simone Barth, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+CAssociate Principal, Mithun

Simone is a project manager with 19 years of experience in the planning and execution of higher education, civic, and cultural projects. She is a skilled facilitator of large and complex stakeholder groups, uniting diverse perspectives into shared goals and community-serving built environments. Her thoughtful attention to detail and craft reaches back to her formative experience as a carpenter apprentice, a family tradition, before architecture and engineering study.

Simone is a dedicated champion of environmental stewardship through climate-responsive project design, policy advocacy, and active involvement in AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) programs at the local and state levels. She contributes to global design dialogue and the development of future architects as a frequent speaker, university instructor, and studio critic.

EDUCATION: University of Applied Sciences — Master of Architecture

MEMBERSHIPS AND ACCREDITATIONS: Associate American Institute of Architects


+  AIA California Council Committee on the Environment (COTE), Steering Committee Member and Advocacy Co-chair
+  AIA Los Angeles Committee on the Environment (COTE), Member and Past Chair
+  AIA Los Angeles Women in Architecture (WIA), Committee Member
+  Architectural Foundation LA, Past Vice President
+  Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design, Guest Critic
+  Glenn Murcutt Master Class, Critic and Assistant Teacher
+ Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, Teacher and Invited Lecturer