Climate Change Demands a New Design and Construction System.

In the last two posts we discussed the idea that design and construction should be approached from the perspective of an ecosystem. The argument being the processes are so interconnected (and historically were more connected) that they cannot combine efficiently if they are treated as separate silos. At no time in history has this perspective been more important than right now.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued their sixth assessment report in August and the evidence is clear – Our climate has changed, and it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans, and land. CO2 is the culprit and human consumption of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitting fossil fuels is creating the largest change. 44% of all GHG emissions in the United States come from residential and commercial buildings and the electricity generated to support them. We must immediately reduce annual carbon outputs from buildings and achieve carbon net zero as soon as possible to mitigate further potential impacts. It is our imperative that we must change the way buildings perform, new and existing, to achieve these goals. We can only achieve this if we approach design and construction as a linked ecosystem. Let’s explore the question deeper.

Building performance is inextricably tied to decisions made early in the design process. The foundational decisions of structural system and building envelope along with the systems selections for mechanical, electrical, and communications all play significant roles in how well the building will, or won’t, perform. Subtler decisions like siting, landscape, hardscape, and general material selections also have an impact, though often, an unrecognized contribution. These are decisions that all have cost implications, but more importantly, operating cost implications. They can be modeled, and many times are. However, without the involvement of the whole team in that decision process, they are many times changed as part of a value engineering exercise. The result – the building will perform below its original goals for the remainder of its life.

This issue highlights why good decision making is critical to future success, is built on access to the right information at the right time and is recorded for future reference. A platform like Concert can provide everyone involved access to meaningful information when it is needed.

More importantly, to make real progress toward carbon neutrality, we must re-think not only the decisions we make at a building level, but also the systems that serve the whole ecosystem. Structural systems must move to a low or no carbon basis. Mechanical systems must preform at a higher level, focused on human comfort, not just brut force domination of the environment. Heating and cooling must be supported by carbon free energy sources. Electricity must be generated with renewable source only. Materials must be composed of and manufactured in carbon free systems. These are big problems to solve, and we can do it, if we work together toward a carbon free goal.

Getting to net zero requires new ways of thinking about buildings. It requires greater collaboration, and elimination of the silos that exist today. We all must work together if we are going to solve the problem and avert the most extreme results of climate change. To accomplish this, we must have platforms that encourage collaboration and protect the individual rights and ownership across the full ecosystem. Concert is that platform and can be a major tool for climate action!