As LSW reflects on our efforts toward sustainable design practices over the last year, the commitments to implementation and refinement stand out. The year 2022 brought significant changes for sustainability at LSW: new leadership positions were created, new resources for project teams were developed, the firm added new modeling tools to our toolbelt, and a series of in-house sustainability training sessions was launched. Reflecting all the way back to January, the year started off with an updated version of our Sustainability Action Plan and a first-time purchase of carbon credits toward offsetting our carbon footprint. It’s important and exciting to reflect on the progress that has been made over the course of a year and the project success that has come from refining our sustainable processes.
New Positions, New Resources, and New Tools
Two new roles took shape in 2022: the Sustainability Director and Sustainability Coordinator. Each role has been established to provide more dedicated time and responsibility for implementing sustainable design practices at LSW. The Sustainability Director is charged with leading all performance efforts at LSW that promote, guide, and integrate sustainable design strategies. The Sustainability Coordinator works in close collaboration with the Sustainability Director to inform firm-wide design performance efforts. They work with project teams at all phases to design, implement, and refine practical sustainability strategies that provide material benefit to projects and owners through higher-value projects with lower environmental overall impact.
The creation of these positions has brought structure to the internal expertise surrounding sustainability and clarity to project teams as they seek guidance and support on sustainable design strategies. The new roles have also provided a sense of leadership and authority in integrating newly developed sustainability resources.
Several new project resources were identified, designed, and shared this last year. Our Sustainability Timeline was created to help highlight key steps that need to be taken throughout each project phase as teams work toward sustainable design. The timeline was organized around LSW’s Sustainability Pillars: Energy Efficiency, Embodied Carbon, Resource Conservation, and Human Health. It will continue to be updated as steps in our process are refined.
The team also developed resources to help communicate LSW’s sustainability efforts and goals to other project team members. A series of one-sheets are now available to architectural staff that aims to help facilitate sustainability-oriented meetings with consultants. These one-sheets have been organized around LSW’s Sustainability Pillars and help connect design strategies to specific consultants. The resources consolidate key questions and talking points related to each pillar and provide a framework for meaningful and actionable conversations around successfully implementing specific strategies. The continued hope for these resources is that our consultants will be prompted to bring their unique expertise forward by asking the right questions and function as integrated partners and champions alongside LSW — supporting key sustainability efforts on every one of our projects.
Finally, 2022 has equipped LSW with new sustainable modeling tools for measuring and evaluating embodied carbon and energy use across projects. Project teams now have access to Tally, a tool used to measure the total embodied carbon impact of their design, and cove.tool, an energy performance modeling tool that evaluates cost alongside energy savings. Each of these tools provides new opportunities for tracking projects against firm goals and reporting on progress toward sustainability commitments like the AIA 2030 Challenge.
Alongside refinement and implementation of our goals came an internal focus on education. An essential investment was made this year toward increasing baseline literacy across architectural staff through a series of six sustainability training sessions. The newly identified Director and Coordinator roles took the lead on organizing the presentations and teaching the content with the goal of establishing every LSW team member as a true subject matter expert in the realm of sustainable design. Each training session focused on one of LSW’s Sustainability Pillars. Each presentation outlined the basic ideas and principles of that specific pillar while connecting staff to important industry research and related resources available to them. The training successfully established a shared level of knowledge within project teams that equipped them to apply critical thinking and rules of thumb to sustainable design solutions. The training sessions created momentum and energized conversation around sustainability within the office. The presentations will continue to serve as a resource and reference point for staff as they work on new projects with new challenges. Long term, LSW’s mission is to function as a centralized and trusted resource for our clients and partners as they seek to expand their own sustainability efforts and strategies within an evolving industry.
In kicking off the new year, LSW has been leveraging the time of reflection to help us prioritize key efforts for this year. Looking forward ahead, 2023 will bring a focus on measuring and managing the new sustainable design practices, resources, goals, and knowledge that have been implemented this past year. 2023 will be about acknowledging that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. There must be time given to track and measure the success and impact of the past year’s efforts and the margin given to continue to refine the processes and resources that have been developed. As a team, it is our goal to further integrate our sustainability strategies directly with our priorities focused on human health and wellness in the built environment — pursuing design practices and pedagogies that connect us to a thriving natural environment, not separate us. The connection of these two goals will be key to our pursuit of truly designing for people, creating experiences through space that nurtures the mind, body, and spirit.
As a personal reflection, this year might hold the most challenging part of successfully integrating new sustainability efforts — patience. With the impacts of climate change becoming ever more omnipresent, manifesting beyond seasonality here in the Pacific Northwest, it does not feel like there is time for trial and error. It does not feel like we can afford to test the resources or wait for processes to integrate. It does not feel like there is room for projects to miss the goals we’ve set before them or for clients to question the value of sustainable strategies. And yet, we must be patient because in all the “new-ness”, there must be a margin for measuring, refining, failing, growing, trying again, and sharing new information, that redefines the way projects are approached, our work as architects, and the work of all our partners, is done.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability —
and that it may take a very long time.
“Patient Trust” by Teilhard de Chardin
At LSW, 2023 will be about ensuring we don’t skip these critical intermediate stages as we pursue a more sustainable built environment, healthier communities, and a healthier planet. With our continued commitment to sustainability, comes a timely reminder that progress toward healthy, resilient, and beautiful design may take longer than we’d like but it is more than worth the shared investment in progress. Our world depends on it.