Monday, November 23, 2020

"The Business Case for Climate Action" published by AIA California

Last month, AIA California published “The Business Case for Climate Action,” a white paper written by Henry Siegel, FAIA, Jonathan Feldman, AIA, and William Leddy, FAIA. Read the entire paper linked here or download the pdf.


MAKING THE CASE FOR CLIMATE ACTION


Most architects understand the enormous impact our work has on the environment: more than 25% of carbon emissions in California[1] (closer to 40% nationally) come from the construction and operation of buildings, and the resulting environmental impacts are enormous. Our clients and the agencies who review our projects may not be aware of these impacts and the importance and urgency of decarbonizing the building sector. This article is designed to show how architectural practice is changing to meet this demand and make the case that zero carbon design is not just an environmental imperative, it’s also good for business.


Where are our clients starting from? How important are the environmental impacts of their projects to them? How do we make the case for building decarbonization — not just the environmental case but the business case? Let’s start with the big picture.

THE BIG PICTURE


Societal Costs


The construction and operation of buildings represent one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, so our actions are a large and direct cause of climate change with its many negative outcomes: from rising temperatures, rising sea level, and increased air pollution to droughts, wildfires, and tornados, to threats to our food security. The dire findings of the October 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, “Global Warming of +1.5˚C”[2], followed in November by the US Government’s “Fourth National Climate Assessment”[3], confirm that inaction is not a viable choice. Climate change is here, and the impacts are accelerating faster than previously predicted, as the recent record-breaking wildfires throughout the west bring home to us all. The IPCC report concludes that avoiding catastrophic climate impacts requires “a rapid and far-reaching transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that’s never happened before.”


While the cost and complexity of combating these challenges now may be considerable, both will be significantly greater if we wait. Investments in resilience now will be far less expensive than reacting to change later; by acting sooner to decarbonize our industry, we can reduce future environmental impacts and uncertainty – especially for more vulnerable populations – as well as future costs.[4]


And, there is great opportunity as well. Rapid technological change is making low carbon design the lowest cost option for new buildings. Architects can now make the case that we can save money for our clients — construction cost and operating cost  — and increase our clients’ return on investment while also lowering the carbon footprint of their projects.

For new construction, “doing well” and “doing good” are in perfect alignment. The transition to a post-carbon building sector and economy isn’t something to be feared: it’s an extraordinary business opportunity to be embraced.

To continue, you can read the entire paper here or download the pdf.