Posted: December 5th, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Global practice, Leadership, Sustainability | Tags: Climate Change | 1 Comment »
A new report out this weekend from the Global Carbon Project paints a rather depressing picture of the state of our planet - we (homo sapiens) continue to increase the amount of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere. And the rate of increase continues to grow.
The report - using data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth Systems Research Laboratory and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography - indicates that atmospheric CO2 emissions reached 389.6 ppm in 2010, a 39% increase since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and the highest in at least the last 800,000 years.
The largest contribution to climate change is not cow farts, but the burning of fossil fuels - hopefully no surprise to anyone reading this. Unfortunately, on this front, more bad news. CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (namely coal, petroleum, and natural gas) increased by 5.9% in 2010 - the highest levels in human history and 49% higher than in 1990 (the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol). Coal burning was responsible for 52% of this growth.
A New York Times article highlighting the research has a quote from Glen P. Peters, one of the leaders of the team from the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo which produced the study which sums it up best. He says, “Each year that emissions go up, there’s another year of negotiations, another year of indecision.”
The bad news is that the global A/E/C industry is a significant part of the problem. The good news is, we can also be a part of the solution. This is an important moment in the history of our profession and our planet. No one lays this out better than Ed Mazria and Architecture2030. Commitment to the 2030 Challenge is the first step. Transforming your practice is the critical element - for survival’s sake.
Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Best Practices, Leadership, Planning, Sustainability, Technology | Tags: Cities, design futures council | No Comments »
This month’s GreenSource Magazine has a great interview with Jan Gehl, an architect and founding partner of Gehl Architects and a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council. For much of his career, Jan and his team have focused on the development of human-scale strategies to improve cities. Working globally in cities like Copenhagen, Melbourne, Seattle, New York, and Sao Paulo, the firm’s work integrates itself with what Jan calls “the people scale” to better understand how a city’s inhabitants live, work, and play.
In the interview, Jan says, “While there are a lot of planners and architects looking after the airplane and rooftop scales, the treatment of the people scale has been very distant. It is as if nobody has really addressed making good urban habitats for homo sapiens.” As I travel the United States and increasingly the globe to work with clients and meet with thought leaders, I’m struck by how true this is. Many American cities have pockets of good urban space — walkable, pedestrian-scaled, for varied uses — and yet they are just small pockets in an increasingly bland landscape designed for everything but homo sapiens.
It seems strange to need to suggest that architects, interior designers, and urban designers should focus more on how people actually feel in the spaces they create — regardless of the scale at which they work. And yet, we seem to have lost this important ethos as a profession.
Posted: September 29th, 2010 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Leadership, Strategy, Sustainability, Uncategorized | 9 Comments »
Holstee is an organization was founded in 2009 by two brothers who are passionate about sustainability and wanted to pursue this lifestyle and its links with innovative design. They have produced a variety of products including shirts, wallets, and jewelry - you can find more of their products here. To help its customers understand the ecologic impacts of the product they sell, Holstee has developed a series of badges which describe the key sustainable elements of each product. They have also taken great care to address issues of shipping and packaging - two significant issues for the sustainable product realm. And if this wasn’t enough, Holstee has committed to using 10% of all sales as micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.
Holstee has tied this all together with their manifesto. Not only graphically pleasing, but also contains powerful beliefs which guide the organization. Not only has it generated a decent amount of press, but it also makes their consumers aware of who they are and what they believe.
What if you were to develop a similar “manifesto” for yourself as a design leader? What would it say?
How about for your professional practice or organization? What bold public statements are at the core of your work - define the essence of your practice? Are they different than your personal beliefs?
Posted: July 5th, 2010 | Author: James P. Cramer | Filed under: Best Practices, Education, Leadership, Sustainability, Uncategorized | Tags: change, conference, Sustainability | No Comments »
Climate change comes bearing gifts. While not welcomed offerings, these changes demand a vastly different approach in the way architects and designers think about their professional practices. Something big is happening.
Moreover, architectural careers have quit working like they used to. Climate change will affect the economy and the underlying tenets of roles and responsibilities in the making of buildings – and urban environments. The challenges brought about by climate change create new puzzles to solve. We can meet these challenges. There are many approaches.
The Design Futures Council will be hosting our 9th Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design Oct. 5-7 in Atlanta. Again this year we will bring together 100 delegates to share case studies, present deep understandings and practical experiences, and chart the future. Invitations were mailed last week to members and fellows of the Design Futures Council.
To be considered for one of the delegate positions, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mary Pereboom at email@example.com. We are seeking thought leadership and a diversity of talents.
All of us need to catch on to what’s happening. We need to seize the opportunities brought about by change.
Posted: June 30th, 2010 | Author: Jane Gaboury | Filed under: Sustainability | Tags: carbon footprint, energy, green building, sustainable design | 1 Comment »
The editors of DesignIntelligence received an e-mail this week that illuminates a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency statistic reported in our article “Design Leadership and the Environment.”
Edward Mazria, founder and chief executive officer of Architecture 2030, notes:
“I wanted to clarify a statistic you cite in the article: ‘Our buildings account for 39 percent of the country’s total energy use.’ This percentage is for residential and commercial building operations only. It does not include industrial building operations, i.e. HVAC and lighting (about 2 percent), and the annual embodied energy of building materials and building construction (about 8 percent). The total U.S. energy consumption attributed to the building sector is currently at 51 percent. I say this because the design of industrial buildings, building systems and the specification of materials is also our responsibility. Understanding the entire magnitude of our designs and decisions makes the ‘call to faster and wiser actions on the part of the design and construction community’ that much more urgent.
“And I am only talking here about architecture and buildings. If we add in the other design disciplines — planning, landscape architecture, interior design, industrial design, textile, communication, and fashion design — the call is not only urgent, it becomes critical.”
Let’s hope designers of all variety take note.
Posted: June 9th, 2010 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Event Calendar, Leadership, Sustainability, Uncategorized | No Comments »
The Design Futures Council seeks nominations for its annual class of Emerging Leaders. Winning nominees will receive registration scholarships to attend the 9th Annual Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design in Atlanta, Oct. 5 – 7. The DFC seeks to identify and recognize emerging leaders who are having – and will increasingly have – a profound impact on design practices, the profession, and the community.
Successful candidates will represent the future of practice in terms of its broadening scope, service to society, sustainable design, technological innovation, or other areas deemed relevant by the nominator.
- Nominees must be within their first 10 years of professional practice.
- They may come from any area of the design professions.
- They must be playing a role in designing a more sustainable future.
- The nominator must be a member of the Design Futures Council or past Summit attendee.
Six candidates will be chosen by a distinguished jury of past Summit delegates to receive a full scholarship, which includes registration and participation in all Summit events. Chosen candidates or their employers will be expected to furnish travel and accommodation expenses to and from the Summit. Some travel assistance may be provided on a case-by-case basis.
To nominate a candidate, download and complete the nomination form by July 1. Nominees and nominators will be notified in July. Any questions about the Emerging Leaders Program should be directed to John Cary via email - johncary [at] mac [dot]com
Nomination Form - Word Format
Nomination Form - PDF
Posted: November 20th, 2009 | Author: Jane Gaboury | Filed under: Sustainability | Tags: global warming, green building | 1 Comment »
The Green Footstep tool allows you to learn how much your commercial or residential building will contribute to global warming. It’s the brainchild of Architecture 2030 founder Edward Mazria and the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The tool can be used on residential and commercial new and retrofit building construction projects, from pre-design through occupancy. It assesses a design’s total carbon footprint due to site development, construction, and operation and suggests the most effective levers to meet the Architecture 2030 Challenge.
Posted: November 9th, 2009 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Best Practices, Compensation, Economy, Education, Leadership, Professional practice, Sustainability | Tags: mentorship, meritocracy, talent | No Comments »
In these times of uncertainty, staff reductions, project cancellations, and clients demanding more for their dollar, what have you done to assure the happiness of your existing talent? The staff who have made it through cuts at your firm are likely among your most valued — that’s why they are still there. But what have you done to be sure they will still be there in the future?
In many organizations today, there are talented people who aren’t happy in their current roles. If the economy had continued to grow at a “normal” pace, they likely wouldn’t be working for you any more. However, because of the downturn, job security has been of utmost importance: Better to have a job you don’t like than not have a job at all. However, once the economy begins to turn, these people will leave at the first opportunity. In some cases it is already too late. Your only option is to encourage their professional growth, and maintain touch with them in coming years in the hopes they may someday return. In other cases, there are opportunities for you to re-energize their passions and talents around the future of your firm. I believe there are three winning strategies to keep these talented staff within your organization:
- Be very clear with them about their future. With the future as fuzzy as it is, this may be uncomfortable. Times and situations do change. However, if you see people as future leaders in your organization, make sure they know it. Often times, leaders assume their most talented staff know they are valued and have a place in the future vision of the firm, yet this isn’t communicated. Set a clear path for them and provide them the training and development opportunities necessary to grow into the roles you see for them.
- Embrace the power of mentorship. In the booming economy, senior leadership and key players within your firm were traveling quite frequently — often globally — and have the frequent flier miles to prove it. Now, many leaders are traveling much less, often as a cost-saving measure or perhaps the workload and client opportunities don’t necessitate the travel. This means the leaders in your firm — the talented people who have driven it to success — are now in the office. They have time to sit with younger staff and mentor them. Take younger staff to meetings with clients or community groups that you weren’t attending before. A quick coffee or lunch that wasn’t possible before because of travel is now a chance for mentorship. Senior leadership has a great opportunity today to prepare young leaders for the future.
- Develop a meritocracy culture. Now more than ever, it is important to reward people for their contributions to your practice, particularly the most talented individuals in the firm who you hope to build your future practice around. Be upfront about your expectations and values and follow through by rewarding those who exceed them. If you challenge your staff to reach for new levels of service, expertise, and design quality you will motivate your stars to shine. This is particularly true for your younger staff. They want very clear expectations and clear outcomes. A challenge for any firm certainly, but those who believe in meritocracy will find great success.
Today’s professional practices require that we develop talent and teamwork both as individual skills and organizational capabilities. It is important to note that these strategies will help you retain and recruit all talent within the organization, not just those who aren’t happy. Firms and leaders who provide mentorship and focus today will be best positioned to win the war on talent tomorrow.
Posted: November 2nd, 2009 | Author: Jonathan Bahe | Filed under: Best Practices, Economy, Education, Leadership, Professional practice, Publications, Strategy, Sustainability, Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: talent | 4 Comments »
It is hard to believe that just a few years ago, one of the biggest conversations within the architecture and design profession was the war for talent — or a shortage of talent. Firms couldn’t find enough workers to fill seats much less enough talented staff. Leaders were in short supply. A very limited supply of H1B visas were accessible to architecture and design firms. Times have certainly changed.
The conditions of today don’t need to be explained in detail. Unemployment in the profession is over 15%. Firms are struggling to keep even talented staff. Backlogs are shrinking or in some cases evaporating. Competition for new projects is fierce. Each situation is unique, but common pain is felt by all. However, it becomes increasingly clear that we all have two choices: We can be the victims of these economic and structural shifts or we can be inventors of strategic success and satisfaction.
A part of this success must be setting a vision and developing strategy for the new world of architecture, whatever that may be. The future condition is unknown, but we can control our attitudes and develop scenarios to allow for our success in whatever this condition holds. One future condition that is certain is that the role of talented design professionals will be even greater. And yet where will this talent come from?
The share of the U.S. workforce that has a post-high school education is not expected to rise in the next 20 years. This is a scary fact given the national high school graduation rate hovers around 50% in the nation’s fifty largest cities, and rises only to 71% in the nation’s suburbs. In some of our more diverse urban areas, where much of the diversity needed for the relevancy of our profession resides, the graduation rates drop to nearly 30%. According to 2007 Department of Education Statistics, only 31% of 8th-graders in the United States are at or above proficient levels in standardized math testing. These are just a few of the frightening trends surrounding the struggles of education.
In a Journal of Business and Psychology article titled “Attracting Applicants in the War for Talent: Differences Among Workplace Preferences in High Achievers,” the authors state, “Students with very high cognitive abilities and strong records of extracurricular activities prefer ‘investigative’ occupations involving analytical or intellectual activity aimed at problem solving and the creation or use of new knowledge.” This is terrific news for architecture and design. However, the fact is that only 10% of people are in the top 10%.
Rather than spending all of our resources chasing the top 10%, I recommend we spend more of them chasing the other 90%. We all want a slice of that top 10%. But by developing a vision and strategies that embrace new paradigms and dynamics within our profession we can begin to develop effective ways of recruiting from the 90% and developing them into the top 10%. If we don’t, competitors will. If we wait for the future to happen, it won’t be desirable. This is the opportunity to affect the future health of our organizations that we have been looking for.
Posted: August 27th, 2009 | Author: Scott Simpson | Filed under: Best Practices, Economy, Leadership, Professional practice, Strategy, Sustainability, Technology | Tags: AEC, BIM, IPD, LEED, new economy | 10 Comments »
While no prediction is ever 100 percent correct (including this one!), we do know this: Sooner or later, the current recession will subside. When it does, things will be different. The conditions that existed between 2003 and 2007, which created unprecedented prosperity worldwide, will not be returning. It follows that the successes of the future will not look like the success of the past.
Over the next five years, the A/E/C industry will undergo a profound transformation, powered by the three primary game-changers of building information modeling (BIM), integrated project delivery (IPD) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). BIM is a technology, IPD is a process, and LEED is an attitude. Individually, each is very powerful.
Together, they combine to exert huge leverage for change. All three are at the tipping point; there is no turning back.
BIM provides a way to connect the silos of expertise that have traditionally divided the design and construction process. The increased transparency of who does what makes the interdependency among all the key team members painfully obvious. The traditional model of design/bid/build promotes a culture of self-defense, with each player on the team incentivized to consider individual interests first and team success second. With BIM, this is no longer possible; it creates a whole new sociology of design. Ironically, BIM promotes both creativity and predictability in equal measure. It’s a powerful design tool yet equally adept at demystifying design documents, bridging the gap between design intent and project execution from conception to creation.
IPD takes this a step further, substituting a single, inclusive contract that aligns the interests of the owner, architect, and construction manager. What a concept! The benefits are as obvious as wheels on luggage. IPD invites a whole new approach to decision making. Since IPD represents a truly integrated team, all the key players are at the table from day one. The traditional sequential approach no longer applies. With IPD, all the brainpower in the room can be focused like a powerful lens on the problem at hand (much as parallel processing does for computing), which leads to better, faster, and more creative solutions every time.
LEED symbolizes a profound social and political shift from an economy based on consumption to one based on the wise stewardship of shared resources. In the past, the winners were the ones who made the most or consumed the most. With sustainable design, values have shifted 180 degrees, inspiring us to ask how we can do more with less. Over the useful life of a building, even small improvements in energy use, water consumption, and air quality create huge benefits. Sustainable design is like BIM and IPD in that it forces us to recognize our interdependency — no one can win unless everybody wins. It creates an unbreakable bond of mutual interest.
As we consider what’s next, it’s important to keep in mind that design is both a noun and a verb — a thing as well as process. It’s also about creating value. As currently configured, the A/E/C industry is acknowledged to be hugely inefficient. About 37 percent of all construction materials end up as waste, some 30 percent of all projects do not meet budget and schedule, and more than 90 percent of clients believe that design documents are insufficient for their intended purpose.
A conservative estimate is that of the $1 trillion spent on construction each year, $300 billion is wasted. But here’s the good news: We can view that waste as a resource. By using new technologies, processes, and attitudes (BIM, IPD, and LEED), the waste can be re-deployed, funding innovation. The result will be better, healthier buildings, constructed faster, for less. Everybody benefits — owners, architects, constructors, and the public.
This is a natural and inevitable outcome of the post-recession economy, which will demand a new accountability for value creation. The downturn imposed a certain discipline. It made us much more cognizant of what we do, how we do it, and what we spend. Viewed correctly, this discipline, which seemed harsh at first, is actually refreshing. It opens the doors to new ideas, and as designers, ideas are our stock in trade. Going forward, we should behave as if we believe in our own future. The rest will follow.