Today is World Environment Day.
For the last few days, I’ve been trying to figure out why that should matter. Between a global pandemic, mass protests in the US, and another tropical storm headed towards Louisiana, World Environment Day felt somewhat trivial. Shouldn’t I be more focused on the immediate? As architects, what should we be doing to affect change?
And then I went back and read the statement on the landing page of their web site:
The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our
planet habitable all come from nature.
Yet, these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message:
To care for ourselves we must care for nature.
It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices.
It’s time to build back better for People and Planet.
This World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature.
What caught my attention was the phrase “…build back better for People and Planet.”
Build back better.
Turns out architects have been doing their part to build back better since before I started practicing.
While people think of architects as people who design buildings, our responsibility extends beyond. In the midst of creating skyscrapers, homes, churches, concert halls, and even the local Taco Bell, we are charged with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of those who use our buildings. We see that in the ever-changing building codes and city ordinances that influence how we design staircases or make buildings accessible for the differently abled.
However, in the 20+ years I’ve been a part of the architecture community, more and more energy has been focused on the sustainable aspects of building design. Whether that’s specifying wood that’s been sustainably harvested or recycled/reclaimed materials, architects take into account the impact design is having on the planet.
Forty percent of greenhouse gases can be attributed to carbon produced during construction of buildings as well as how those buildings use heating, cooling, and lighting every day. Consequently, the architecture community considers not only what goes into a building but how that building performs to help reduce its carbon footprint and impact on the planet. Have you ever been in a building and seen a LEED certification plaque?
In 2019, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced the Big Move Toward Environmental Sustainability with a focus on climate and carbon reduction and a change in built practice to achieve a healthy built environment.
So even though the world feels like someone took the wheels off the bus, architects will continue to be part of the effort to build back better. Better for the planet. Better for our communities. Better.
Welcome to World Environment Day.