Q&A with John Peterson | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Q&A with John Peterson

Why did you decide to become an architect?
I think most architects do it from a point of altruism where they want to help improve the world and make it a better place. I think that's probably the main factor behind why I wanted to become an architect. I also had an early experience with drafting and developing a woodworking project in grade 7 that cemented this idea of craft and design and subsequently, architecture.

How long have you been an RAIC member and what do you see as the value of your membership?
I became an RAIC member right after graduation in 1994. One thing that drew me to it was the idea of a national organization and a voice for all architects across the country. Although the provincial associations are fantastic at navigating the waters of the profession and giving us our required licensure, they are not the most effective advocates for the architectural profession across the country.  

Why do you volunteer for the RAIC?
I think I reached a certain point in my career where I wanted to give back and that involved choosing the Practice Support Committee, where it may not have been the focus of my career to date - in terms of a high level of understanding of contracts and development of them.  This content was new enough for me and it provided a challenge to try to gain more knowledge and come at it from a different light.

What do you find most challenging about working as an architect?
I would say trying to respond to the needs of the current climate crisis and trying to develop projects which can achieve their planetary obligations for 2030 and 2050. Getting those projects done now is not a technological problem, however - we know how to do it - it's a problem related to the design team’s knowledge and desire as well as clients' ambitions in terms of project goals and budget. 

Why is this area of advocacy important to you?
The Practice Support Committee is important to me because it  could have the biggest impact on the profession, as it relates to all aspects of practice. For example, in the last couple of years, we released an updated, web-based CHOP, where we can deliver the most up-to-date reference material, for the profession. Moreover, clear and concise contracts such as Document 6 and Document 9 provide architects with good foundations for their practices.  

What do you think will most change/shape practice over the next five years?
I would point back to the climate crisis with its impact on equity and diversity, the severe biodiversity loss and aspects of reducing our carbon emissions. Trying to address all those crises related to climate change is going to be an immense challenge. 

What role do you see the RAIC and architects playing in terms of climate action, reconciliation, equity and justice, procurement reform, among other areas of advocacy?
I think the RAIC can play a pivotal role in our profession by trying to reduce our impact on the environment. The reason why it can be done is that I believe the RAIC can be a key resource for architects and designers on how they can address the changes needed within their designs. I think providing clear, concise, and simple resources for architects, that may not know how to go about fully electrifying a building or how to achieve a high R-value in a roof assembly effectively, with minimal amounts of embodied carbon, for example, is important. Hopefully, as a unified voice for architecture across this country, the RAIC can be the one to help provide access to this information. Moreover, I think there is a strong need for a high level of advocacy at the federal level to have a political impact. 

What do you like to do outside of architecture? 
I do take great joy in keeping up with the maintenance of my house and keeping my hands in the craft-end of things. Other than that, I enjoy long bike rides through the countryside and keeping relatively healthy. 

What advice would you have for those looking to get more involved in advocacy causes related to architecture?
I would say that if you see a problem, go and fix it because I don't think advocacy needs to wait to gather a whole bunch of people. I think if you put your voice out there, whether through RAIC discussion boards or through different organizations and networks, I believe all of these groups can gather people of similar minds, and I think advocacy can be a very simple conversation if done with the appropriate people.