Design Excellence and Climate Action
As architects and planners we must acknowledge greater responsibility toward the multiplying consequences for global warming.

Climate action design -- programmatically driven, design thinking practices for reversing the effects of global warming -- can no longer be an elective endeavor, an after-the-fact consequence, or an occasional nod to sustainability. As a measure of design excellence, climate action should become a precondition for all awards programs.

With our leadership and perseverance, climate action design will take its place in the daily processes and lexicon for critical analysis, resting among the measures considered for design excellence, beauty, and social and environmental conscience. 

The metric for climate action design excellence should be Architecture 2030 performance standards or an equivalent. Achieving these standards should be included in critical acknowledgments of design excellence, with lesser achievements regarded as shortcomings.

These achievements should be a prerequisite for entry to design awards programs. This requirement will remove the need for parallel design excellence and sustainability awards programs, a practice that suggests conflicting measures of achievement.

​​Global Warming and Consequential Design

The social and environmental consequences of global warming become more apparent, and they are multiplying. These consequences make unprecedented demands on the design professions. They implore the professions to adopt a worldview of social and environmental justice, measuring design excellence in terms of the consequences of climate change on global populations and environments. Such a worldview inspires consequential design: it begins by removing the boundaries of accepted practices, priorities, and methodologies. Consequential design is achieved only when the effects of global warming inform every aspect of the program and design process. It adopts a lexicon for discussion and criticism that can move beyond style and image, integrating a social and environmental worldview with new measures for design excellence and new definitions of beauty.

​Consequential Climate Action Design
– finite energy budgets for buildings
– energy resources modeling for campus portfolios
– advanced programming and design processes
​– contemporary measures for design excellence and new definitions of beauty,
– energy and greenhouse gas reduction investments as added value​​​​​​
​​​​​​​​​​Leadership for Climate Action Design

​Design professionals and institutional leadership take significant responsibility for an institution’s physical resources: land, infrastructure, and buildings. Design and planning largely determine the use of natural resources.

​Institutional sustainability requires that professional and institutional leadership rethink accepted practices, priorities, and methodologies. Definitions of design excellence must favor social, functional and environmental interests. Climate, sunlight, and materials must be embraced as primary instruments of design, as building systems and as determinants of form and space. Technology must become an enabler. Whole-system design must begin with programming that embraces sustainability, behavioral change, life-cycle costs, and capitalized energy investments. Programming must favor decisions based on the finite nature of land, water, and energy resources.

Resources Planning for Climate Action
​Resources Planning identifies implementation measures for fossil fuel and greenhouse gases reductions for a portfolio of buildings, usually a campus or campus district. The plan charts a course for institutional sustainability, mitigating the unpredictability of cost escalation and resource availability. It provides direction for achieving climate commitment goals and for leveraging renewable resources.

Growing and sustaining the campus academic and environmental framework requires planning that includes the strategic application of campus energy resources. Representing millions of dollars annually, facilities energy costs are uncertain. Costs and availability pose risks to institutional finances, operations, and long-term sustainability. Decades of growth have been demand-oriented, without long-term assessments of resource use, cost, or availability, a practice that is unsustainable.

Institutional goals for energy and greenhouse gases reductions are well documented in sustainability, climate action, and strategic energy plans. The plans are aspirational, with end-goals set at twenty years or more. Unfortunately, these plans lack a framework of quantifiable actions needed to fulfill the aspirations.

Some ten years ago, working with campus climate action leaders, I began developing tools to inform the application of energy and capital resources for campus building portfolios. The tools provide a structure for facilities implementation supporting institutional end-goals for fossil fuels and greenhouse gases reductions.

Central to the implementation structure are finite energy budgets that establish design and operational efficiency levels for the building portfolio, usually a campus or campus district. ​​ A resources application model accounts for each building project in the portfolio. The model establishes a quantifiable set of energy budgets and a course for achieving the long-rang end-goals. The model informs the prudent application and leveraging of capital resources. The model remains "live" throughout the plan implementation, providing a flexible, quantifiable context for milestone achievements, for unanticipated events, and for course adjustments along the way. ​​

​​​​Web site content, "Blue Poche Project"
copyright: Nelson Scott Smith | Artichoke Design Company
Climate Action master planning and design couples facilities development and the strategic application of energy resources and investments, advanced design processes, and analytic platforms for a defined, measurable course for climate action implementation.