By Leslie Phillips
In a previous blog titled ‘Green is Beautiful,’ I discussed the past and present of sustainable design. I conveyed the impact of the environmental movement on the design world, which essentially led to a huge demand for green technology and the subsequent ‘beautification’ of sustainable products. This blog will assess the future of sustainable design; focusing on the imperatives and challenges required of retail design professionals and product manufacturers in surmounting crises related to climate change, energy consumption, and economics.
Many readers may be surprised to learn that while transportation and industry is often the main focus of national and international climate change summits; the building sector is responsible for 49 percent of energy consumption and 47 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (GHC) in the United States. Admittedly, while most of the consumption is due to typical building operations, 5 to 8 percent of total annual U.S. energy consumption and emissions are a direct result of construction methods as well as building materials and products.
In the May 2012 issue of Interior Sources magazine, Elianne Halbersberg wrote an article titled, ‘Aiming For 2030.’ The article focuses mainly on Architecture 2030, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that believes the building products industry is in an exemplary position to make a difference in curbing energy consumption. 2030’s stated goal is to achieve a dramatic reduction in the climate-change-causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the Building Sector by changing the way buildings and developments are planned, designed and constructed. I was impressed with what I discovered about Architecture 2030 and felt that it warranted emphasis in this blog.
In 2006, Architecture 2030 issued their 2030 Challenge, which aimed to convert the entire building sector from its role as a major culprit of CHG emissions into a carbon-neutral testament to the power of change and cooperation. That challenge has since been expanded, with focus on engaging product manufacturers and encouraging them to decrease the carbon-equivalent footprints of building products by 30 percent by 2012 and by 50 percent by 2030. Companies can voluntarily sign an agreement promising to take the steps necessary to achieve these goals.
While signing an agreement to initiate green-friendly measures is a great step for companies, it is also necessary to implement a standard framework of procedures to assist in following through with those promises. Architecture 2030 does so through collaboration with other leading organizations in offering tools and resources to aid in interpreting complex information. Product manufacturers interested in participating in the Architecture 2030 challenge are asked to develop Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in accordance with product category rules. Architects and interior designers can, in turn, adopt the 2030 Challenge for Products by using LCAs and EPDs to compare and contrast carbon footprints of products. Architecture 2030 has also developed a Request for Information letter to be sent by designers to manufacturers that solicits relevant carbon emissions data regarding their products.
I believe that efforts such as this are the key to effective change. The Architecture 2030 program provides an organized, uniform approach as well as the necessary resources for implementing environmentally-friendly policies. While the LEED program of the U.S. Green Building Council has also been effective, I sense that Architecture2030 is a bit less intimidating and a bit more accessible. For instance, it doesn’t require that employees and firms pay for costly certification programs and exams. It also does more to promote efficiency and innovation in product development.
“What we’re hearing from manufacturers is that it’s worthwhile doing a full analysis of your supply chain to identify ‘hotspot areas,’ says Francesca Desmarais, director of the Architecture 2030 Challenge for Products. “By addressing those, you can streamline or make your supply chain more efficient and reduce both your carbon footprint and manufacturing costs. These analyses often reveal issues that manufacturers didn’t know about, and can lead to great innovations in the supply chain or manufacturing process.”
Feedback of the program has been positive. Cities and communities are free to join the movement at the grassroots level, implementing those policies that work best in addressing the goals and needs of specific neighborhoods. In fact, Cleveland, Ohio and Seattle, Washington have done just that – recently launching their own Architecture 2030 districts. Some U.S. cities and counties including Santa Fe, New Mexico and Sarasota County, Florida have even gone as far as adopting the Architecture 2030 Challenge as law! Considering that the Challenge was launched a mere 6 years ago, that’s quite an achievement. Designers, take notice!
For additional information regarding Architecture 2030, visit http://www.architecture2030.org/.