Self Help partners with architects to combat climate change

American Institute of Architects, California, partners with Self-Help Enterprises in their 10th annual Architecture at Zero competition to focus on affordable housing design in Visalia

SACRAMENTO – Climate change is happening, humans are causing it and for now Visalia is playing an important role in how to address it. 

Last month the American Institute of Architects, California (AIACA) announced the launch of their tenth annual Architecture at Zero competition. The competition is focused on decarbonization, equity and resilience in building design. The annual competition is open for entries from students and professionals worldwide. Registration is open now, and close on Jan. 11, 2022. 

Visalia plays a key role in the competition’s. AIACA announced they will partner with Self Help Enterprises to develop a design challenge to create affordable housing for farmworkers in California’s Central Valley. Up to $25,000 in prize money, is awarded by a jury of international experts.

“Self Help Enterprises is delighted to participate in the 2021-22 Architecture at Zero competition and receive fresh ideas, thoughts and concepts that can be applied in Visalia and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley,” Betsy McGovern, Program Director of Real Estate Development said. “There continues to be a huge demand for housing for farmworkers, and this is a unique opportunity to integrate decarbonization and climate resiliency through an equity lens.”

The competition strives to generate new, innovative, decarbonization building design ideas that respond to equity and resilience and help achieve California’s ambitious energy goals.

“The American Institute of Architects, California is excited to collaborate on this important initiative that affirms the role of architects in leading efforts to use design to curtail climate change,” said Brett Dougherty, AIA, AIACA president.

Climate change has created dangerous circumstances for residents and industries in Tulare County, and the Central Valley. Drought has created dry conditions in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range making portions of the ridgeline ripe for massive wildfires. Drought also restricts surface water for farmers who cannot depend on groundwater. This has forced some growers to make the decision to fallow hundreds of acres of ag land.

Recent heatwaves in June and July forced residents to stay inside their homes for says on end. But residents without air conditioning units were left with only fans and swamp coolers to bring any semblance of cool air into their homes.

Competition entries will be juried by international experts including: Paul Torcellini, Principal Engineer, National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Allison Williams, FAIA; AGWms_studio; Lance Collins, AIA, Director at Partner Energy; and Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA, Cameron MacAllister Group. To learn more, visit

This program is funded by California utility customers and administered by Southern California Edison under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission. Cosponsors include: Pacific Gas and Electric Company; San Diego Gas & Electric Company and Southern California Gas Company.

Other sponsors include: the California Energy Commission, US Green Building Council, Central California and the International Building Performance Simulation Association.

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