Not long ago, I spoke with Kirsten Ritchie, principal of Gensler—a global integrated architecture, design, planning, and consulting firm—about the role architects and designers can play in combating climate change. She views it this way: “If we specify products with reduced carbon footprints, select locally sourced materials that don’t require much energy to transport, use resilient materials with longer lifespans, and consider each product’s life beyond its present use, then we significantly lessen the environmental impact of the places we design before occupancy even begins.”
Our conversation put me in mind of the 2030 Challenge, which was introduced in 2006 by Architecture 2030, a non-profit organization established in response to the climate crisis. The 2030 Challenge invites the global architecture and building community to plan, design, and build for a carbon-neutral future. The idea is to “transform the practice of architecture to respond to the climate crisis in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project-based, and data-driven.”
The 2030 Challenge proposes the following targets:
Tracking energy metrics is the most important step toward achieving these goals. Participating firms report to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on the predicted performance of all projects in their portfolio as well as their own building’s energy consumption.
I was curious to know how many residential design firms are participating. Though most of the 555 firms that had signed on as of early 2019 specialize in commercial projects, there are a handful of residential designers committed to doing their bit. Among the small participating firms is Amherst, Massachusetts–based C&H Architects, a seven-member team. “When the 2030 Challenge came out, it was pretty innovative,” recalls principal Thomas Hartman. “It seemed like a simple metric for evaluating your portfolio, and when it was adopted by the AIA, we signed on pretty quickly.”
Hartman employs clear-cut, time-tested…