Principles of Design and Building Project

In the spring of 2018, several people in the S2AC initiated an effort to bring together climate scientists, architects, engineers and related industries to create and share some core principles for designing and building in a changing climate. Following some initial drafting, an event was held at the Global Climate Action Summit in California, in September of 2018, for about 35 architects, engineers and professional organizations, to refine the principles and begin to adopt, share, and galvanize others in adopting the principles.

These principles below are designed to evolve - based on input from a broader community, and from increasing knowledge of the science, good and effective practices, and effective community-building. See the contact information at the bottom if you’d like to learn more and/or to pledge your firm’s adoption of these principles. We encourage wide sharing and feedback! A list of the firms who support this pledge will be placed on this page in the coming weeks.

Principles to Include Climate Considerations in Planning, Design, Engineering and Construction of Buildings and Infrastructure

The private sector can play a critical and galvanizing role in climate mitigation[1] and adaptation[2], by committing to include climate considerations in all building and infrastructure design without waiting to be required to do so. There is a long history of engineers, architects and planners going above and beyond minimum standards and requirements because it saves money over the full life cycle of structures, improves people’s health and well-being, and creates other co-benefits for society. The spirit of this Principles effort is similar to the #WeAreStillIn movement, in that civil society and local and state governments are stepping up to do the right thing for our country and its citizens, as well as our own organizations, businesses, communities and families.

This version of the principles has been redrafted in response to comments from the design and planning community received at and after an initial workshop held at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco on September 10, 2018.  We are now asking firms to agree to these principles.

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Principles:

We, the undersigned, dedicate ourselves and the organizations that we represent, to work towards a more resilient future for current and future generations.  As part of the planning, architecture, engineering, design and construction industries, we have a responsibility to our clients, our stakeholders, and to our communities to use the best available scientific projections in order to reduce risk to human, built and natural systems. Though our industry has made significant strides in environmental conservation and use of renewable resources, much more can be accomplished – and there is a significant gap in explicitly designing to limit risk associated with future climate change impacts.   It is part of our professional code of ethics to safeguard health, safety and welfare.  

Therefore, within our projects we will:

  • Assess future climate conditions projected to occur over a project’s life span in design and implementation of projects, including using the best available climate science in understanding and preparing for potential climate impacts such as extreme weather, floods, droughts, wildfire, heatwaves, sea level rise and more intense precipitation, across the anticipated lifetime of our projects;

  • Adapt our designs, plans, materials choices and implementation processes to limit climate-related risks and limit carbon emissions[3];

  • Consider how to minimize current and future climate-related risks in site selection;

  • Ensure that our environmental assessments, including impacts on habitat and water supplies, also consider future climate conditions;

  • Incorporate adaptive design principles that allow for a range of future conditions;

  • Encourage the involvement of all affected communities in planning and design processes; and

  • Acknowledge and address climate-related social and environmental equity issues that are directly or indirectly impacted by the project.

 In addition, we will      

  1. Share best practices with fellow practitioners and encourage/educate our partners, clients, contractors, and suppliers to incorporate consideration of future climate conditions into their own business strategies to limit climate-related risk through climate adaptation, energy conservation and use of renewable energy, and adaptive management practices.

  2. Actively leverage our influence in our respective professional societies and in licensing, standard-setting, continuing education, insurance and code enforcement activities to work toward more comprehensive understanding of climate risks and opportunities in codes, policies, guidelines, manuals of practice and building/engineering standards.

  3. Engage in discussions with academic, federal, state, NGO and private sector partners to expand access to useful climate information and identify the best sources to address climate risks in the regions where we work.[4]

  4. Establish a company/organizational strategy to limit climate related risks by a) considering current and future climate impacts in our own internal processes and facilities, and b) encouraging climate-risk management practices, clean energy choices, and energy conservation among our employees at home, at work, in our transportation and investment choices, and in leisure activities.

  5. Disclose progress in meeting our internal climate risk management goals through at least one of the following tailored approaches: a) including internal metrics in existing reporting processes; b) providing annual reports on activities and progress on our website; or c) developing an annual internal report on progress that is distributed to our employees.

  6. Encourage our colleagues as well as our competitors to join us in agreeing to these principles.

To adopt these principles, please send us your logo at info@s2ac.org, with the subject heading #buildingforclimate. And if you have questions, please contact:

Janice Barnes, janice@wbae.com

Anne Waple, anne@studio30k.com

Kathy Jacobs, jacobsk@email.arizona.edu


Footnotes: 

[1] Climate mitigation definition: Limiting emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, or removing such gases from the atmosphere through processes such as carbon sequestration.

[2] Climate adaptation definition: The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects.  In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities.  In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects.

[3] Example low-carbon strategies for reducing GHG emissions include reusing and upgrading the buildings we already have rather than building new ones, encourage passive design strategies to lower emissions and adapt to changing climate, or employing natural system approaches (e.g. vegetated barriers, dunes) to flooding and storm surge rather than building new sea walls

[4] Initial suggestions for well-vetted US climate information sources include:  the US Global Change Research Program and the Fourth National Climate Assessment, https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/ which includes regional analyses of current and future impacts; the 11 National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Regional Integrated Science Assessment Programs https://cpo.noaa.gov/Meet-the-Divisions/Climate-and-Societal-Interactions/RISA/RISA-Teams ; and Regional Climate Services Directors; https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/rcsd ; NOAA’s climate portal, https://www.climate.gov/ ; the 8 Department of the Interior Climate Adaptation Science Centers https://casc.usgs.gov/ ; and local university-based adaptation centers.  For international applications, the International Panel on Climate Change reports provide well-vetted climate information.  For assistance in navigating these sources, you can also contact the Science to Action Community through s2ac.org.