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Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

  • 1.  Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10-15-2018 15:42
    Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do
    Forbes remove preview
    Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do
    The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change says we must quickly and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid a series of damaging events linked to global warming. Meeting those goals is ambitious but not impossible. We already know a lot about what we need to do.
    View this on Forbes >

    On October 6, 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report in support of a global response to keep global warming to less than 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels. Widely reported in popular media, the Summary for Policymakers (SMP) provided a clear warning ­­- we need to act fast and decisively.

    Bruce Race FAIA
    Professor of Architecture
    Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, University of Houston
    Houston TX

  • 2.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10-16-2018 19:51
    I agree that we need to change a lot
    1.  I believe we should each start at home with conservation of water and heating, buy into solar where available, and push for a carbon offset tax for each household
    2.  We need to either eliminate conventions and conferences or make them on line.  Or we should require the convention operator charge offset tax credits which could be earned by each participant who would earn them by their own conservation, use of electric vehicles or other carbon offset measures. ( I drive an electric car and purchase carbon offset plates).
    3.  We need to push our clients to do net 0 and zero carbon buildings.   If they won't we should refuse to take the commission.  We need for AIA members to work to a higher standard, because in this day, doing an energy conservative building should be mandated
    4.  We need to push to elect politicians who will do the same, who agree to support conservation, who will participate in world conservation and support subsidies for those unable to do so because of poverty and/or location.
    5.  We should make environmental stewardship a "religious" mandate.  I am appalled that so any churches fail to even consider sustainability as a mandate for believers of all religions.
    6.  We need, as architects, to be evangelists, demanding same from our consultants.  We need to teach in our schools, and to our community. We need to change the metrics for fellowship to stress sustainable design, setting a threshold that no project or architect can receive an award for a project that does not meet sustainable goals
    7.  We must take the 2030 challenge seriously, but accelerate its achievement to 2025.  Membership in AIA should include HSW credits that demonstrate the architect's proficiency in sustainable design, but also the accomlishment of demonstrated sustainable work.
    8.  A radical idea, but one we should consider, is so many hours of volunteer work in teaching, educating or volunteering in energy conservation endeavors as a requirement or AIA membership, or licensure.
    9.  We need to demand on our projects that contractors demonstrate compliance with sustainable construction practices, recycling and waste stream management.   Understanding that construction is one of the largest contribution to pollution and energy use, we must demand reform in the industry to move toward electric powered equipment, and zero emissions.
    10.  We must capture the carbon in new construction by using recycled and repurposed materials,
    11.  We must advocate for land stewardship, against urban sprawl, and good walkable design.  We must not reward extravagance but instead, demand urban solutions that allow for more conservation of land and more open space that fosters the natural landscape
    12.  We must only use renewable materials, eliminating scarce woods and precious metals, and support only those imported products that demonstrate sustainable harvesting practices.
    13.  We must direct our energy toward building only in sustainable areas, being aware to avoid those areas that are prone to hurricanes, wildfires, drought, floods and rising sea levels, and other disasters that appear to be exacerbated by climate change and human population increase.

    And I could go on and on, but ultimately, we must find a way to change our economy away from growth toward an economic model that rewards conservation as much as we reward consumption.  I am fearful that without a change in the way we measure success, that we will all see the world slowly ebb toward oblivion.  And that in of itself is the threat.  As a society we seem to work best in times of crisis and war, when change is immediate.  Let's hope that the apparent speed in which the earth is changing, forces us to all to change what we do and how we do it.  But as long as we have government leaders who state "we know there is change happening, but we don't think there is anything we can do, so we are keeping doing what we have always done" we are all going to see the crisis come after it is in fact already too late.

    Richard von Luhrte FAIA
    Denver CO

  • 3.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10-17-2018 17:36

    I would add to this list that as architects and leaders, we must get politically active. That can include running for office, but at a minimum, we must campaign, contribute, speak out on environmental issues. Our national policies are going the wrong way. Not speaking out negates all the good design work we do.



    Thang N. Do, FAIA


    (408) 300-5155 direct






    387 S. 1st St, Ste 300

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  • 4.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10-17-2018 22:15
    I agree with all of your points - I want to include one more....
    14.  Be able to accomplish these goals within your firm's business model and make a profit.
    Our clients certainly want to make a profit - need to frame these goals into financial data that show a return on investment on sustainability.  In my work as a public architect, need to show our stakeholders that these goals will add value to the project and provide tangible benefits to help the agency achieve its mission.

    Edmond Gauvreau, FAIA
    Washington, DC

  • 5.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10-18-2018 19:59
    I agree that the new IPCC report needs to galvanize action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is unfortunate that the increased number and intensity of weather related natural hazards is already baked in. This means that we need a stronger response in making our communities more resilient. Congress just passed the Disaster Recovery Reform Act which amends the Stafford Act (which governs disaster the federal natural disaster assistance program) to allow increases in pre-disaster grants to 6% of grants (about $1 billion). This is still a fraction of the money dedicated to post-disaster mitigation funding and doesn't solve the basic problem, which is that it is reactive rather proactive. The hurricanes from last year and this year have confirmed that the system is broken and unsustainable. We need a Community Resilience Act to make the shift to resilience planning. Resilience grants should equal or exceed post-disaster mitigation funding. It is unacceptable to continue to allow the level of damage and suffering we are seeing and will be seeing. It unconscionable that communities have to wait till after a disaster to get sufficient resources to build back better.  If done correctly, this will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well.

    Jay Raskin FAIA
    Jay Raskin Architect
    Portland OR

  • 6.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10-22-2018 21:44
    Edmond, I agree that financial profitability and success are valid metrics, but they should not be excuses not to do the best we can to eliminate the negative impacts of construction in climate change.  When we (RNL-now Stantec) did the RSF headquarters for the National Rennewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) we were charged with designing a replicable commercial office building that would meet or exceed 36kbtu energy use per year without compensating energy sources, for a price that would be competitive with standard commercial construction.   It was a mandate to winning the job.   The results have been outstanding, resulting in 42 design awards and LEED platinum-and it was profitable for our firm in both financial profits and recognition.   In this day and age, I cannot fathom any excuse as to why all buildings cannot be designed and built profitable for the public entity and for the architect.   We just have to be willing to demonstrate the value and importance, and cost benefit of doing so, which really is not that difficult.   But even if the project is of marginal financial feasibility, maybe we should in fact reconsider its value.    But even then, there are so many real reasons to do sustainable work which will reduce our carbon footprint, reduce operating costs, and be a good role model for our constituency.

    Richard von Luhrte FAIA
    Denver CO

  • 7.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10-23-2018 19:34

    Yes, we as a profession should be pushing sustainability and cutting the carbon footprint.  However, as the late Ambrose Richardson, FAIA, told a young high school senior over 40 years ago on a visit to Notre Dame's School of Architecture, "The best architect in the world always works for someone else".  If the owner doesn't want to pay for it despite your most persuasive arguments, and there is no requirement for it, your job becomes much tougher.

    You may have to settle for incremental changes that are easier to sell to owners.  In my own world, DoD can mandate all the requirements they want - it's getting our field personnel to actually include those requirements, and the building owners to accept them.  Some districts are all in and incorporate them at minimal or no additional cost - others won't even touch them.

    Edmond Gauvreau, FAIA
    Washington, DC

  • 8.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10-25-2018 14:26
    I appreciate your perspective and I believe that it is probably the prevailing point of view in our profession.  But, at the same time, I don't believe we have an option.  As purveyors of our client's health, safety and welfare, and stewards of the built environment, we are "forced to follow building codes, zoning regulations and the like.   Our clients can ask us to not follow the code, but we can't comply.   We would be liable for the consequences.   The same holds true for sustainable design.   More and more states are adopting sustainable design regulations that will mandate our performance.   But even if these standards do not yet exist, sustainability should be a commitment we make to follow.   In most cases today, with the proliferation of sustainable products, we can achieve better buildings simply be being conscientious and diligent. We certainly need to listen to our clients, but there is nothing wrong in our going beyond that and in educating our clients and in doing the right thing in terms of our cities and our society.   In most cases, doing the right thing will align nicely with client objectives, but when they don't, I don't think we should back down and do what we know to be inappropriate and against the greater good.   I always listen to client needs, and believe in serving the client well, but much like a doctor, we should be more concerned about "improving health" rather than simply doing what our "patient" wants us to do.

    Richard von Luhrte FAIA
    Denver CO

  • 9.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10-17-2018 12:42

    I am glad to see you raise this vital issue again. I am proudest of being a fellow when core issues that the profession serves are brought to the forefront.
    It seems to me from both our extensive work on the sustainable built environment, and the many efforts to advance the cause that happen in parallel: professional, governmental and by advocacy groups and organizations, that a greater result could be had by putting in the effort to focus all that parallel energy.
    Perhaps the fellows and AIA could be a clearinghouse to convening a more organized national and international effort - or at least we can make our participation in such an effort a high priority.

    Jeffrey Heller

    Sent from my iPad

  • 10.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 13 days ago
    I have a suggestion on going forward, published yesterday on CommonEdge.com
    Heroism and the Quest for Sustainability: How Howard Roark Would Tackle Climate Change
    Common Edge remove preview
    Heroism and the Quest for Sustainability: How Howard Roark Would Tackle Climate Change
    There is an axiom in behavior science called status quo bias, which observes, when confronted with change, people tend to keep doing what they're already doing, even when presented with objective evidence their actions are wrong or ineffective. Indeed, change is hard.
    View this on Common Edge >

    Richard Buday FAIA
    Archimage, Inc.
    Houston TX

  • 11.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 11 days ago
    A very entertaining read over breakfast. While of course I agree with the justifiable alarmism over climate change I find it impossible to imagine architects turning down commissions on this or any other grounds. "Lector, si monumental requiris, circumspice" is carved on Christopher Wren's  masterpiece. This might apply, ignominiously, to the junk for which our profession is responsible from Houston to Honolulu (the long way round). No, I don't see any Howard Roark diving naked into the water and saving the world. Which brings me to a conundrum: how come this paean to a Nietzschean proto-fascist is being published in a communalist weblog?

    Hubert Murray FAIA
    Cambridge MA

  • 12.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 9 days ago
    "paean to a Nietzschean proto-fascist"? "published in a communalist weblog?"

    I wasn't endorsing, or even addressing, Rand's position on laissez-fare capitalism, or her support of predatory sex and toxic masculinity, for that matter; merely her view on heroic individualism. Someone (or some profession) has to take a stand that moves the needle. If a single person can trigger an avalanche, I'm interested. But the clock is ticking. In the not-too-distant future, a snowball rolling downhill will be an anachronism.

  • 13.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 11 days ago
    Good discussion folks.

    I also have my beliefs about how we solve these issues. I am a great believer in taking a holistic view. A significant issue in the United States is the fact that we have well over 250 organizations involved in some aspect of creating or sustaining the built environment. AIA is but one. We need an effort to focus everyone's energy. I believe that most of those organizations have good intentions, likely along the same line as ourselves, yet nothing significant appears to be happening, or it is happening at glacial speed, and quite frankly that is unacceptable. We need a solution that not only looks at new facilities, but also addresses existing ones.

    On area I am focusing on currently is setting up a better set of metrics, by which we can measure progress. On that front I am working with APPA to develop an ANSI recognized standard for Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Part 1 (Principles) of APPA 1000(TM) was completed and approved early this year and we are just finishing the draft of the second part - Implementation. It is my belief that if we look at the total picture that it will demonstrate that a change toward sustainability will in fact be more cost effective.

    Based on a UK effort, I identified some basic goals that we could work to achieve as a nation, this information was presented at the Design and Sustainability (DaS) Symposium in April 2018:

    The first step in achieving these goals is to determine a baseline, so we know of where we are starting. Once that is done we can measure progress toward achieving the goals. This is no small nor easy task, but I do believe it can be accomplished, and it is something every organization can independently develop a plan to achieve and report on progress.

    Even if you do not agree with these goals, we need to establish some goals to work towards as an industry, not as an individual entity.

    Would love to hear some positive forward looking response to these goals.

    Dana Smith FAIA
    Herndon VA

  • 14.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 10 days ago
    Dear Dana,
    Thank you for your post.  I'm thrilled to read that you are working on an ANSI standard for TCO, and would like to learn more.  Particularly in the Institute's resilience work, we've recognized the need and importance of addressing the vast stock of existing buildings, in terms of not just performance but safety.  In one of the last courses in AIA's Resilience and Adaptation series on AIAU --to be published next week-- The Business Case for Resilience discusses building service life and cost/benefits of hazard and climate mitigation.  And yet we're just scratching the surface.  I'm very interested in following your progress in developing the standard, as I think it will be a valuable resource for architects embarking in this emerging area.  Additional thoughts on these issues are also appreciated.


    Rachel Minnery FAIA, LEED AP
    AIA Resilience, Adaptation and Disaster Assistance Programs
    Seattle WA

  • 15.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 6 days ago
    I, too, applaud your efforts.  Existing buildings can be tricky, and shared experiences are useful, as a standard to gain recognition of the effort.

    Thomas Hirsch, FAIA
    Madison, Wisconsin

  • 16.  RE: Climate Change and Cities: What We Need to Do

    Posted 9 days ago

    The idea of better metrics is on-target and much needed, but still, the impetus to achieve sustainable goals is the missing link.

    All the best,