Article by Loïc Angot
Architects currently have the momentous opportunity to participate in solving the greatest challenge of our time – climate change. While the sustainability movement has been successful in creating some momentum around addressing the global crisis, we need to push further and create cross disciplinary solutions that foster real ingenuity and creative thinking. We believe in big ideas and questioning the current state of affairs. Let’s commit to approaching every design problem with curiosity, innovation, and a generous spirit.
The practice must commit to diverging from the status quo, and design generous spaces that create a meaningful Net Positive™ impact. Architecture needs to respond to climate change by swiftly shifting away from fossil fuels to a low carbon economy. The practice must also provide solutions to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. We need to change the way we work to achieve new results as we are running out of time.
Architecture’s responsibility in responding to Climate Change
Global efforts and political pressures have led to the creation and implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, in which participating countries have agreed to limiting their emissions as a means of curbing rising global average temperatures.
But what about the specific role, and immense responsibility, of architecture and the built environment? As professionals, reducing the ecological footprint of our projects mandates a collective responsibility and must be prioritized.
As architects, we must layer a multifaceted approach to respond to the greatest design challenge facing the practice today. Let’s remain critical, creative, and agile by consistently reviewing our actions for improvement.
8 ways architecture can respond to the climate crisis
1. Impressing the benefits of the green pro forma – It is paramount that we articulately communicate the cost benefits of sustainable approaches to our clients. We must change the way that clients view the bottom line of sustainable design by breaking down the upfront costs vs. the long-term operational costs and benefits.
2. Measure: We can’t control what we don’t measure. Tracking key sustainability performance indicators is imperative whether carbon, biodiversity, or social inclusion targets.
3. Act: Develop roadmaps, integrate key actions and outline milestones. AIA and WGBC have developed open-source frameworks to help practionners move forward with Net Zero Carbon buildings.
4. Verify: Report data and demonstrate progress. We should commit to measurable performance.
5. Leading by example: Beautiful and sustainable buildings have the potential to inspire. With the Phenix, our Montréal headquarters, we have demonstrated that it’s possible to retrofit a former warehouse into a Net Positive™ building, with the same capital cost than a comparable project.
6. Adaptative design: Consider how buildings can be adapted during their life cycle, refurbished, deconstructed (if necessary) and whether their components can in fact, be re-used at the end of the building’s life. For example, design a parking structure for future office or retail retrofit, is a way to address change in mobility patterns while future proofing the asset.
7. Open-source attitude – Not only should we be promoting best practices, supported by academic research, but we should be sharing our findings with the practice at large. This is a collective and time-sensitive effort that will only be possible through knowledge sharing to address climate change as swiftly and impactfully as possible.
8. Creating meaningful change at the academic level – Sustainability can no longer be seen as an innovative nice-to-have but the baseline departure point for all work. This fundamental knowledge and approach must begin at the academic level for the next generation of designers.
The ecological crisis calls for a profound shift in the way we design the built environment and reconsider our relationship and impact on the earth. Historically, crises have led to deep technological and societal changes. This crisis is no different as it is an opportunity to be creative and uncover a new way of doing things. Let’s question the status quo, remain critical and think bigger than ever before.
How do you plan on responding to the design challenge of the century?
Click here to read more on The Phenix’s feature in the Building A Better Future series, which showcases projects from around the world that demonstrate innovative, healthy and sustainable design.
With more than a decade of sustainable building and planning design experience, a master’s degree in engineering and a MBA, Loïc Angot is currently leading Lemay’s Sustainability Practice, and is a key driver of its Net Positive™ approach. Loïc has worked on numerous high-profile commercial, institutional and residential projects as an expert in sustainable design in France and Canada. He is a seasoned project manager, a frequent academic presenter and a Board member of MR-63, a Montreal-based non-profit cultural ecosystem. As part of his MBA, Loïc won the 2017 Rotman Sustainability Innovations Case Competition with an innovative business case for connecting energy solutions providers and real estate owners. A graduate of France’s Institut national des sciences appliquées de Rouen and HEC Montréal, Loïc’s exceptional analytical skills and collaborative approach are informed by insight and expertise. In 2020, he won Construction Canada’s Emerging Leader Award “Industry Contribution”.