We are honored to have been part of a panel discussing the significance of sustainability to the built environment on Tuesday, August 25, 2020. Jeffrey T. Gaines, our Director of Design, Planning and Sustainability, joined colleagues Celia Hoag, DNV GL Energy Services USA Inc., Jon Penndorf, Perkins&Will, and Cheri Holman, U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan, in the first session of the multi-day virtual summit.
We caught up with Jeff following the panel to learn more. "Today was trash day in my neighborhood, of which the volume of discarded material continues to amaze me," he explained. "We too often take a similar ‘disposable society’ attitude to our building projects largely driven by budget and schedule constraints. Most people want to employ longevity, but there are too many readily available options that allow shortcuts to be taken instead. Designing and constructing buildings to last is a prerequisite to discussing energy consumption reduction and climate change impacts."
Since the beginning, Albert Kahn Associates has prioritized the integrated design and engineering of structures that serve our client's needs for many, many years. What began as a good business practice has evolved to become a key tenet in sustainable design practices.
"As the past Chairman of the Board of the Detroit Regional Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, I can say that one of the organization's long term goals was to be so effective that we would put ourselves out of a job," continued Jeff. "The conversation regarding innovative technologies and practices has switched from ‘will this earn a LEED point?’ to ‘will this reduce unnecessary resource consumption and positively impact the climate?’"
The Detroit Zoo, for instance, was able to divert animal waste from a landfill and, through a new anaerobic digester we designed, use that waste to produce electricity to light their on-campus animal hospital and provide compost to area businesses and residences.
"The bar for our standards, codes, and regulations have been significantly raised. The recognition of the impending need to address resiliency and climate change continues to increase," said Jeff. "I am optimistic that with evolving technologies, more affordable costs, and a growing awareness and desire, we are positioning ourselves to get to a net-zero and carbon-neutral footprint - and we have the regulatory backing to prod us along to assure that we continue to improve. However, the challenge of meeting 2030 targets still remains."
We look forward to continuing these conversations with current and new clients to find the best way to design and engineer environments that create a better future for all of us.