The career of Rachel Minnery, AIA, LEED AP, has been one disaster after another. In college, she spent a semester in Florida during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, which led her to consider the profession’s potential to mitigate the damage she saw. Then, while working at NAC|Architecture in Seattle, and as a member of the AIA Seattle Disaster Preparedness and Response Committee, she experienced the Nisqually earthquake of 2001. Later, chairing the same committee, she rallied reconstruction help after the Southeast Asia tsunami of 2004, co-founded the Seattle chapter of Architects Without Borders, and led post-disaster building safety–assessment teams in Mississippi and in Haiti. She recently moved to New York to manage Architecture for Humanity’s Hurricane Sandy reconstruction programs.
A recipient of the 2013 AIA Young Architects award, Minnery believes that architects have much to offer in such efforts, especially in planning resilient infrastructure. “It’s difficult to tackle as a profession, because things are already too expensive,” she says. But as the effects of climate change accelerate, she feels, the alternative will be even more costly. “I think of [resilience] as the equivalent of taking vitamins to ward off disease or illness,” she says. Architects are “notoriously introverted,” she observes, but are duty-bound to help. “The only thing your license obligates you to do is protect the life and safety of the public,” she says. “If not to mitigate the damage of a tornado, an earthquake, or a hurricane, what’s it for?”