Steps toward a healthier future
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, according to the UNFCCC. Leaders around the world are taking a stand to address the environment’s pressing issues through legislation and initiatives that champion sustainability and a greener future. The building and architecture sector is no stranger to sustainable practices. Below are a few green architecture initiatives and standards that are making an impact in the building industry today:
Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)
“Take LEED: It doesn’t exclusively address measures that are good for the environment, but also those that are healthful and optimal for building occupants – all of us, and for generations to come.”
Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO, USGBC
Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is one of the most important sets of sustainability standards in today’s building industry. Developed and introduced by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000, LEED is now the most widely used green building rating system in the world. It aims to promote sustainable practices and building functions through a point-based rating system that rewards sustainable design with credits and certifications. LEED certification focuses on energy efficiency, water usage, Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), and sustainable building materials, among other factors. Along with helping the environment, building owners, contractors, and architects can benefit from positive brand recognition, tax credits, and higher property values through LEED certification.
International Green Construction Code (IgCC)
“Our hope is that building professionals and policymakers alike adopt better, greener building strategies that help them better implement LEED and achieve higher performance in sustainability.”
Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO, USGBC
In 2009, the USGBC, International Code Council, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineer (ASHRAE) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) joined forces to create the building industry’s first model code, IgCC. This code addresses sustainability by outlining environmental standards throughout the construction process, including the design, construction, and operational phases. It’s meant to promote energy efficiency, reduce ecological impact, and promote wellness for both people and the planet. The IgCC is regularly updated to reflect the current state of the industry. The most recent version was released in 2018 with intentions of integrating the code across the United States.
AIA landmark initiative
“As a profession, we have the responsibility to prioritize and support effective actions to exponentially decelerate the production of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.”
In 2019, the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) approved a landmark initiative, the Resolution for Urgent and Sustained Climate Action, supporting urgent climate action and decarbonization in built environments and throughout the building sector. Due to the building sector’s significant contribution of greenhouse gases (GHG), the building sector is rallying and urging architects and designers to take further action in fighting climate change. The new resolution was introduced by architect Betsy del Monte, FAIA, supported by fifty members at the AIA’s 2019 Blueprint for a Better Future Conference.
This resolution outlines the green path going forward for architects. The AIA set goals to shift a portion of their work towards climate action, with net-zero emissions in the building sector by 2050. This call for action emphasizes the necessity for a sustainable, resilient, and healthy built environment.
“We’re seeing an unprecedented mobilization of architects in the fight against climate change.”
Phineas Harper, Deputy Director of the Architecture Foundation
Responding to the prevalent climate and biodiversity emergencies, a number of award-winning architects have banded together to minimize the industry’s environmental impact. Architects Declare is a group of award-winning UK-based architects committed to shifting traditional construction practices to focus on the climate and biodiversity. Members are collaborating to meet the needs of society without breaching the Earth’s ecological boundaries. This initiative urges architects to collaborate with people at all stages through a building’s life cycle to reduce waste in both construction and planning, accelerate the shift to low embodied carbon materials in all our work, and implement regenerative design principles.
Global Climate Strike
“It’s now our challenge, as designers of the built environment, to tap into this energy and work with them to drive holistic change in our industry.”
Shane Burger, Principal of Wood Bagot’s New York office
New York architecture firms joined the 2019 Global Climate Strike, advocating for more aggressive climate action. The movement, led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, quickly gained traction with millions around the world. This initiative urges leaders across industries to create environmentally-focused change in their sector to mitigate the consequences of climate change. Architects and designers are in unique positions to greatly reduce environmental impacts.