By  Jennifer Hughes, Morgan Howarth, Alain Jaramillo
Published  Sep 29, 2023
Featured in  Architect Magazine

Q: What role do architects and designers play in ensuring a sustainable future?

I go back to the phrase, “What surrounds us shapes us,” and think about our role as architects and designers. We shape what surrounds 8 billion people around the world, and that is a huge responsibility. I think we, architects and designers, are well aware of our responsibilities in creating environments that are long-lasting, energy efficient, and not harmful to human health, and that have less or no adverse impact on the environment. But I’m thinking we should focus on how we might change human behaviors and cultivate experiential stewardship toward nature and each other through our design. We all wish there was an easy button [to push] or technological solutions that would clean up all the postindustrial-era messes, but I still think the key is changes in human behavior, whether we willingly change it or are forced to adapt.  

Q: What’s your firm’s approach to sustainability?

We believe sustainability is essential to all our projects and every project has a unique opportunity to improve human conditions and the environment. We strive to improve our process to be integrative in pulling expertise and aligning goals within which sustainability becomes integral. We believe diversity and inclusion add value to our design and support the outcome of creating an equitably built environment. 

Q: What’s the most pressing issue in sustainability right now?

Reducing carbon emissions and ensuring equity. Because of the time value of carbon, reducing carbon emissions right now and in the short-term future will have a huge impact. Therefore, evaluating the embodied-carbon impact of design and finding alternative solutions is as important as ensuring energy efficiency, if not more. When we are working toward solutions for climate change, equity must be embedded. As noted in IPCC's "AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023" publication, "Fairness is one of the solutions" in combating climate change and reducing suffering. 

Q: If you had to recommend one book or text on sustainability or sustainable design, what would it be and why?

One book?! That’s tough. But, if I must go with one, I’d recommend Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation by Paul Hawken. Just like his 2017 book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Regeneration is full of solutions, readily available and effective in making real change. 

Q: What research are you following right now?

I’ve been following developments in the circular economy, biomimicry, networked geothermal, energy storage, and nuclear fusion, just to name a few. I’m interested in anything related to low- and zero-emission energy transmission, including energy storage. Nuclear fusion technology is my personal pipe dream. I studied physics before I became an architect because I wanted to replicate the stars on earth. 


Example searches: LEED, interiors, "Design Collective", etc.