Laura Eder
Contributed by:
Laura Eder
AIA

Talk About It

About 2 years ago: B. T.

Thank you for sharing these thoughts Laura and for doing such a wonderful job in leading the COTE committee. In my conversations with other sustainability leaders across the country, we all struggle a bit to get our respective firms to regularly embrace sustainable design philosophies in practice. Many of us have concluded that it is because we enter the design process with our clients at the "concept" design phase versus starting with deeper discussions about the clients philosophies and beliefs about the project. I recommend Carol Sanford's Responsible Business book for those wanting to learn how to identify and reconcile the philosophies and beliefs of all the project stakeholders before conceptual design begins.

Success in Implementing Sustainable Design & High Performance at Your Firm

Let's be intentional about the future we build!

On Monday, March 9th the Committee on the Environment kicked off the first session in their Sustainability and High Performance Series, a 4-session follow up last year’s AIA + 2030 Series. This series, which offers registration for individual sessions, is based on feedback from last year’s participants.

The opening session featured Barbra Batshalom, Founder and CEO of the Sustainable Performance Institute in Massachusetts, with moderator Betsy del Monte, FAIA. I would like to argue that this session was better than all of the sessions last year. Barbra focused on the “How” rather than the “What” as it relates to sustainable design/ initiatives within our firms, as well as how that discussion happens with upper management and clients.

How do you reach your target when it comes to a sustainable design standard? Whether it is LEED, Green Globes, 2030 or others, what is it that your firm is doing to push the envelope? At times, I find myself deflated as we see mostly the end of the road solutions. How much can you really change if you design and document as usual and then hope to make a few additions at the end, like adding bike racks and calling your project certified? Is that really reaching the goal?

Barbra gave us four aspects that must be addressed in order to achieve success. Number 1 is MINDSET. For me, this is seems like the most difficult because it starts with you, your office, and your clients. It’s based on how we think and the perceptions and expectations that we have. Number 2 is PROCESS. This involves collaborative decision making and clear targets. We need to work together as a team and have a clear understanding of what our end achievements are. Number 3 is TOOLS. Tools are always changing. We are probably the most comfortable with change when it comes to the tools we use. Remember when Autodesk thought the new ribbon bar at the top of the screen was a good idea? I know it made me angry, but now I couldn’t work without it! Number 4 is PRODUCTS AND TECHNOLOGY. Be specific on what products are you specifying for your project, specific strategies for the project, and technology can greatly influence your sustainable target.

I could go on and on about the aspects, outcomes, targets, and feedback information that Barbra laid out for us in the session, but my biggest takeaway from the session was that the change starts from the inside. We need to see the shift within ourselves and our firms before we can see a change in our projects and clients. Are you reaching for the 2030 goals, but see yourself falling flat at the end of each year? Do you find your office falls into the category of “Random Acts of Sustainability” rather than truly embracing sustainable design? Maybe it’s time to set up a baseline. Set up some goals and let us know what you’ve learned and how you’re doing!