(Green) Building a Net-Zero Future
The need for achieving net-zero in the built environment
Green building paradigms, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system and the International Living Futures Institute’s Living Building Challenge, are quickly moving from niche to mainstream. As the implications of climate change become increasingly threatening, our built environment must keep up. Developing a resilient built environment increases preparedness for necessary adaptation to a changing climate. Green building can also call on climate tech, nature-based solutions, renewable energy, and decarbonization strategies to mitigate the carbon emissions associated with the built environment. Nickerson and its client-partners are diving into these strategies to develop and promote innovative climate solutions for the built environment.
As the symptoms of climate change become increasingly and alarmingly more prevalent, the need and desire for innovation continues to grow. Symptoms of climate change include increased weather events such as heat waves, flooding, hurricanes, wildfires, and more. Climate change not only increases the frequency of these events but also the severity. According to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), urban areas pose an opportunity for increasing efficiency and decreasing emissions within infrastructure. Specifically, the IPCC report indicates that the built environment can reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, if stakeholders are ambitious in their green building practices. From retrofitting existing buildings with high-efficiency materials and technologies, to building certifiably sustainable new buildings (e.g., LEED Platinum, Living Building Challenge certifications) many firms are leading the charge on revitalizing the built environment.
One of Nickerson’s client-partners exemplifying resilience and green building within the built environment is global design firm Sasaki, which has long been a pioneer of centering sustainability in architecture and design. The team at Sasaki work to integrate resiliency throughout its projects, with forward thinking building solutions that adapt to the changing climate. Sasaki’s 10 World Trade project is a 17-story tower that will be home to lab, office, retail, cultural, and outdoor spaces in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood. This building is reinventing urban-mixed use spaces. By implementing a multitude of design strategies–including the building shell that was designed to benefit from self-shading–Sasaki is creating a thriving public realm space that will endure intense summers and bitter winters, while maintaining desirable indoor temperatures.
10 World Trade has centered people, along with the planet, with optimal urban spaces throughout the site and will offer a robust public realm on the first two floors. All these advanced features will exist throughout a tower that was built with adaptive principles, to stave off flooding in this low-lying area. “In the design process, we prioritized the connection between public and private urban spaces while also providing a best-in-class lab building that will further invigorate Boston’s Seaport. Along with our project partners, we look forward to seeing our design come to life and enhance the urban fabric of the neighborhood for this and future generations.” said Victor Vizgaitis, Sasaki Principal and Chair of Architecture and Design.
Sasaki and other design leaders are integrating innovation and technology with their green building practices. Two other client-partners who are exceling on innovation in the industry are commercial real estate firm Bulfinch and urban agriculture company Green City Growers. The Cambridge Discovery Park project, a Bulfinch property featuring a Green City Gardens garden, exemplifies sustainability in the built environment and was featured on Boston’s Chronicle, which you can watch here.
Projects like Cambridge Discovery Park work to reimagine buildings, to increase green space and even localize food systems. Increasing green space in urban areas has an array of benefits for the environment and for people; workers at Cambridge Discovery Park, for example, have increased access to the outdoors – something many experts feel has positive impacts on human health. To adapt to the changing climate and curb the worst of climate change, clean technology and innovation will be a necessary accelerator to net-zero. As climate work increasingly overlaps with the built environment and technology, Nickerson has been heavily engaging with other thought leaders within this intersection.
We asked Michael Beckerman, CEO of CREtech and CREtech Climate to weigh in as well. “At CREtech, our goal is to help the real estate industry embrace, invest and adopt technology. From a sustainability perspective, one of our top priorities is to galvanize the real estate industry to make decarbonization its number one priority and in doing so, create the safest, healthiest, and most inclusive work and living spaces for the world to enjoy. It is a win-win-win for the planet, for the occupants of the built world and for the real estate industry itself.”
Nickerson is proud to be a part of this socially conscious trend, and we look forward to sharing more and contributing to this conversation throughout 2023.