"You can use an eraser on the drafting table, or a sledge hammer on the construction site". Frank Lloyd Wright
In terms of making our buildings more sustainable, and potentially more valuable, we need to start as early in the design process as possible. Sustainable design needs to be second nature, a sort of default reflex action. But, contrary to how it's often portrayed, the design process is not normally a case of a blank sheet of paper and an architect seeking inspiration. It's normally something much less dramatic. It's the building codes, or, if you come from the UK or parts of Europe, building regulations. These serve as the standard template for building designs. We need to create new templates, that architects, engineers and developers can easily use.
Why this is important: As sustainability professionals, we want to deliver solutions that move us along the path to net zero (and all of the other related sustainability goals). And we know that aspiration and targets are not enough. We need to have on the ground solutions that work, and that make value creation sense.
In many ways the buildings sector is an easy one, we know what we need to do. And we increasingly have real world examples that can serve as 'lighthouses or beacons'. But, in the case of buildings we have a material barrier to change, building codes. While these are 'behind the curve', most new buildings will fall short of where we need to be, both in a sustainability and a financial sense.
Getting involved in updating building codes might seem technical and a bit boring. But, it's probably the best and most efficient, at scale solution to creating a more sustainable building industry. If your organisation is involved in any way in the built environment, including as a tenant or building owner - you need to get involved. Build alliances, research and lobby.
Summary of an article published by Architects Journal:
Design codes could – and should – be the quickest and most effective way of pivoting the construction industry into delivering low-carbon, climate-adapted buildings that are designed for our ageing population and changing ways of life. They offer the opportunity to replace the current stock building designs – which cheap 'plan-smiths' repeat time and again across different sites – with models that are exponentially better for people, place and planet.