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News > Climate Action and Leadership > Architects in Power Must Lead the Way in Environmental Sustainability. Here's how…

Architects in Power Must Lead the Way in Environmental Sustainability. Here's how…

Architects in power must lead the way in environmental sustainability. Here’s how…

Over the last 25 years, I have waited, watched, and prayed for a sea of change in the AEC Community while hoping for a consistent and powerful approach to environmental sustainability. Yes, there are times when the profession is more galvanized towards progress and other times when the impetus for sustainability is almost non-existent. For example, one of the classic quotes that I’ve heard from architects for last two decades is this: “We believe in sustainability, we are just waiting for the right client”, this externally motivated drive for environmental responsibility simply isn’t working. Another common refrain is “We don’t like the LEED Rating System, It’s too expensive.” or even worse, “Sustainability is not well defined.” As a response, I offer the simple idea of building intellectual muscle and capacity in this area and spend the time to define these terms within the context of your firm and its clients, without resorting to the use of third-party rating systems.

Here are few steps to consider:

  1. Realize that sustainability is a paradigm. It is a state of being. It is not a “+1 Date” to be dragged out when it suits a particular proposal or situation.
  2. Make a shared, public decision with your employees, co-workers and other stakeholders, to pursue sustainability as a core value in the firm. Take action. People see through “greenwashing” quite quickly these days.
  3. Get educated. Lean in and see the whole picture of sustainability as a powerful force aimed at fighting climate change. Many of your clients could benefit from your knowledge. Attend monthly seminars of the AIA Philadelphia Committee On The Environment.
  4. Select a framework. The AIA provides the Framework for Design Excellence. Use it to organize your practice. It's free and easy to understand and well understood metrics.
  5. Set your own performance baselines for each category. The AIA provides the 2030 Commitment tools which are helpful in measuring and tracking the firm’s largest projects over time from an energy perspective.
  6. Set realistic performance goals for each year. Measure and report-out internally and externally on a regular basis. Use the AIA Super Spreadsheet and use tools like Sefaira, insight 360, Cove.tools or other packages to calculate the performance of your projects. Use these software platforms strategically.
  7. Celebrate and reward each and every win in the firm and with your clients. Over time your architecture firm will become a sustainable design firm.

Once you have embarked on the journey and lived the reality of “being sustainable”, the younger employees in your firm will notice. They will take more pride in their work and will be less likely to burnout or to leave. You will come home each night, knowing you did your part. There simply are no more excuses left. The time for action is now!

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