We design sustainably. We are thoughtful about the sources and uses of the materials we select. We design our systems critically to assure that we are not consuming energy unnecessarily and, in some cases, we even design to generate energy to put back into the grid.
We seek to convince our clients to reach for higher LEED certifications, and we are proud as we count the certifications and awards we've gained through our work.
When we reach further, we even tend to design in ways that we anticipate will consume less or generate more in the activities of the people who live, work, and play in our buildings.
In most of these cases we work inside of the project and inside of our own profession. Is the future now asking more of us, however?
It seems that a very good New Year resolution would be to engage our clients in a conversation around sustainability in a deeper way. While the catalyst for our initial conversation might be the finite limits of the project they bring to us, should we also talk about the system in which that project exists?
What is it that you, our client, are doing in the world? What can we do together to expand the conversation to more broadly consider your purpose and business and find ways to also design other points in the chain of value creation to be more efficient or more effective in human and environmental terms? How can we, together, develop a long-range vision for how this project may affect the context in which it exists and perform in a way that benefits not only your organization but also the social and economic system it affects, and then revise the program for the project to reflect those long-view goals?
Our conventional performance metrics of "on time, on budget" seem terribly shallow these days. This interview of John Thackara by Rob Huisman of the Association of Dutch Designers provides some interesting context for our conversations going forward.
Are you an architect or designer who has been able to move into a relationship with your client in a more substantial way about society and its future? Is your client engaging you for your creative skills to enrich a larger world-changing agenda? We all would be inspired by the stories and the methods of your success in that experience and approach.