Earth Day is a day we are called upon to focus on environmental sustainability. Sustainability, in the architecture and building industry, is becoming more significant as the urban built environment is responsible for 75% of annual global GHG emissions: and buildings alone account for 39%. 

When the first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, air pollution was a major problem in most US cities. Now, a half century and a geologic age worth of carbon later, global carbon emissions are up about 90%, and we are facing a new crisis. On this earth day, people and companies are taking time to reflect on the beauty of our planet, and recognizing the importance of taking care of it for future generations. Earth Day serves as a reminder of the work that needs to be done.

From the AIA, "According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the time for climate action is now. Architects play a crucial role in mitigating and adapting to climate change through sustainable and resilient design. Energy efficiency and renewable energy, materials transparency, the protection of water resources, and other sustainability strategies support mitigation by conserving resources and reducing carbon emissions."

"Resilient design helps communities adapt to evolving conditions, reduce harm and property damage, and more readily, effectively, and efficiently recover from adverse events. Architects can draw upon both sustainability and resilience to become a force of valuable change by transforming the day-to-day practice of architecture to achieve a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient, and healthy built environment."

"As designers, it is critical that we design, construct, and evaluate projects holistically to achieve a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient, and healthy built environment."

Today, we are at a time when many resources and digital tools are available to us to accelerate toward a sustainable future. The AIA website, Architecture 2030 Challenge and Commitment are a few examples.

All new buildings, developments, and major renovations shall be carbon-neutral by 2030. The two major objectives of the 2030 Challenge are: 1) to globally reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the built environment; and 2) to advance the development of sustainable, resilient, carbon-neutral buildings and cities.

As designers and influencers of the built environment, there are many other resources and opportunities available for us to innovate and lead. In the face of increasing climate shocks and recent warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), companies and clients face mounting pressure to step up their climate commitments and architects can help them achieve their goals. Understanding from a client’s perspective: their future goals, environmental or supply chain concerns may have architects and designers provide that added value of designing for the realities of the future while providing sustainable buildings and infrastructure for the present. 

We are trusted professionals and with this trust comes responsibility for the value, well-being and sustainability of our people, our resources, earth and our future generations. The work and research being done within our profession is inspiring and with a commitment to the sustainability, aesthetics and function of design, architects and designers can lead the way.

As we move forward, the AIA CM Sustainability Committee would love to hear from you. Do you have a sustainable project to share with us? What were your challenges? The opportunities? Resources in the Central Mass area? Celebrating sustainability is a step in the right direction.

Navneet Magon Anand
AIA CM Sustainability Committee Chair
Navneet is the founder of Design Veritas, a social impact design and strategy firm that works with architects and their clients to design human centered, everyday sustainable environments.