Bill Clinton gives the opening keynote at the 2015 AIA convention in Atlanta.

Former President Bill Clinton delivered a keynote address Thursday to kick off the American Institute of Architects’ annual national convention.

The 42nd president of the United States—who after introductions bounced spryly onto the stage—addressed a crowd of approximately 7,000 architecture professionals in the Georgia World Expo Center in downtown Atlanta, touching on a number of daunting global issues including terrorism, inequality, and global warming. But, he said, with the challenges come opportunities.

“There is no question in ways large and small, those of you who are designing the built environment are going to have a big impact,” Clinton said.

Clinton talked about development work he has conducted with his namesake foundation, including a new cholera treatment center in Haiti designed by Michael Murphy’s MASS Design Group. The former president also challenged architects to seek simple solutions to reduce carbon emissions and take advantage of “low-hanging fruit,” citing former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s NYC Cool Roofs initiative to paint city roofs white to increase cooling efficiency.

“I guess the bottom line is that you have a lot of work to do,” he said.

In a Q&A session after the speech, AIA president Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, pulled up a chair and asked Clinton for his thoughts on the lack of women architects in the field.

“I think we need to look at the systems we have,” he said. “[It should be] possible and preferable to succeed at work and at home. Any society that forces people to make that choice is going to be diminished either economically or socially in the long run.”

Clinton did not bring up his wife Hillary’s candidacy in the 2016 presidential election during the speech. 

In addition to Clinton’s keynote, the AIA bestowed its highest honor, the Gold Medal, to architect Moshe Safdie, and the 2015 Edward C. Kemper Award to Edward Mazria for his work on architecture and climate change.