Architects speak out for climate change mitigation and public advocacy

On April 17, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) issued a press release , announcing  eight principles governing how architects can mitigate climate change,  and urging the U.S.  government “to protect policies designed to conserve energy and reduce carbon in the built environment”.  An excerpt from the AIA statement  “Where we stand on Climate Change”  :  “ We know that carbon neutral design and construction is a growth industry. Employers from roughly 165,000 US companies doing energy efficiency work expect employment to grow 13 percent over the coming year, adding 245,000 more jobs. …. In Philadelphia alone, 77 percent of the city’s buildings need energy retrofits, supporting the creation of 23,000 jobs. …. We call on policymakers to protect financing and incentives to help communities design, build and retrofit their building stock.”

The AIA’s Energy Leadership Group had also recently issued a commentary  which summarizes and updates their long history of attention to sustainability.  “As stewards of the built environment, architects and our collaborators must be leaders in providing a powerful response to climate change. In order to achieve carbon neutral design as standard practice by 2030, we need to urgently shift our practices to apply passive design techniques, energy efficiency measures, embodied carbon reduction strategies, and renewable energy in all of our projects. By implementing these techniques, architects provide our clients with increased value, through benefits to human health and productivity, energy cost savings and resilience.

Architects must also expand our roles beyond design practice, by engaging in public policy to ensure the design, preservation, and construction of sustainable communities and high-performance buildings. This requires our active participation and leadership in the development, evaluation, and use of codes, standards, evidence-based rating systems and financial mechanisms.”

green bibliotechque

Bibliotheque du Boise, Montreal, from the RAIC website

Most recently in Canada, in August 2016,  the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada ( RAIC)  joined with 11 other organizations in an Open Letter to the federal government,  with recommendations for a national plan for improving the energy efficiency of Canada’s buildings.

Illustrating what is possible in sustainable designs, the Bibliothèque du Boisé in suburban Montreal was announced  as the winner of the 2017 Green Building Award, given by the  RAIC and the Canada Green Building Council.   The annual award recognizes outstanding achievement in buildings that are environmentally responsible and promote the health and wellbeing of users.   The building’s sustainability strategies include “an innovative integration of mechanical systems: a passive heating system uses the heat accumulated in a glass prism for redistribution through a geothermal loop. Low-flow ventilation through the floors reduces the number of ducts required. The building relies mostly on natural light, combined with task lighting, for energy savings: 75 percent of the library’s floor area receives natural light. The project emphasized the use of certified wood, low-emitting materials, and recycled or regional materials.”

More proof that green buildings are better for workers

The health impact of  green workplaces was the subject of a new article,   The Impact of Working in a Green Certified Building on Cognitive Function and Health  , by researchers at the  Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and SUNY Upstate Medical University. Researchers studied 109 workers at 10 buildings and found that employees who worked in certified green buildings had higher cognitive function scores, fewer sick building symptoms and higher sleep quality scores than those working in non-certified buildings.  The research was sponsored by United Technologies.  For an overview of ongoing research at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health , go to its Nature, Health and the Built Environment website . Other related information is available at the World Green Building Council’s “Better Places for People” website .

From a management point of view, an article in the Harvard Business Review, “Air Pollution making office workers less productive”  (September 29) reports on the effect of air pollution on call-center workers at Ctrip, China’s largest travel agency. The authors conclude that these office  workers are 5%–6% more productive when air pollution levels are rated as “good” (an Air Quality Index of 0–50) versus when they are rated as unhealthy (an Air Quality Index of 150–200). Productivity was measured by completed calls each day, length of breaks, and time logged in.

All this points to the importance of green building.  World Green Building Week  began on September 26, 2016 – preceded by an agreement amongst the national green building councils from 10 countries (including Canada)  to adopt zero net carbon certification programs by the end of 2017.  See the World Green Building Council press release for a description of the meetings, including the definition of “zero net carbon” (ZNC)  as advanced by the architectural network, Architecture 2030   .

Canada’s Federal Liberal Party takes a Flexible Position on Carbon Pricing

Federal leader Justin Trudeau chose Calgary’s Petroleum Club on February 6 as the venue to announce that, if elected in October 2015, a Liberal government would set national targets for reducing carbon emissions but allow provinces to design and manage the policies to meet them. The Liberal party website provides text of the speech as well as a video. The Pembina Institute reacted to the announcement, as did Clean Energy Canada, which also provides a comparison chart of the positions of three of the four federal parties. There is no shortage of recent policy reports on the issue of carbon pricing, for example: Carbon Pricing and Mind the Hissing from Sustainable Prosperity (case studies of revenue allocation in the carbon pricing systems of B.C., Alberta, and Quebec); How to Adopt a Winning Carbon Price: Top 10 Takeaways from the Architects of British Columbia’s Carbon Tax from Clean Energy Canada; Will Nova Scotia Implement a Carbon Tax? by Brendan Haley at the Progressive Economics Forum. Even the World Bank’s Partnership for Market Readiness has a policy “wish list” in its business-oriented new report, Preparing for Carbon Pricing: Case Studies from Company Experience: Royal Dutch Shell, Rio Tinto, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Architects Commit to Build Zero Emissions World by 2050

In early August, at the International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress, architects from around the world signed the “2050 Imperative”, committing them to eliminating emissions in the built environment by 2050.
UIA member organizations alone represent 1.3 million architects in 124 countries. From Canada, the declaration was signed by The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). From the text: “We recognize our responsibility to seize this unique opportunity to influence ethical, socially responsible development throughout the world: to plan and design sustainable, resilient, carbon -neutral and healthy built environments that protect and enhance natural resources and wildlife habitats, provide clean air and water, generate on-site renewable energy, and advance more livable buildings and communities”.
 
LINKS:

The 2050 Imperative and the media advisory from Architecture 2030 are available at: http://architecture2030.org/news/uia_declaration_081414.html. The 6-page declaration is at: http://www.architecture2030.org/downloads/uia_declaration_full.pdf