COTE | AIA Los Angeles Weighs in on Carbon, Regional Materials, ROI and the Paris Accords
by Mona Telega, Nicole Cannon, AIA, and Ben Loescher, AIA
The Climate Agreement recently reached by 196 countries in Paris renders Los Angeles architects cautiously optimistic, yet very hopeful, to help reduce the carbon footprint for the immediate and long-term future. It is a process in nascence stages that will need to be a collaborative effort at the level of legislation, manufacturing, construction, planning and development.
Consequently, our architect constituents see the pressing need to support and push for government regulations, incentives and new technologies. Most companies and clients are in favor of choosing “green” solutions. Without these incentives and regulatory changes, the short term economics are too compelling for them, and they’ll default to the status quo – the inertia of doing their regular every day. A long term ROI must be then prioritized.
Our hope is that this agreement means a broader focus on carbon in, not just design, but also materials and construction. Both from a regulatory and reward standpoint. Presently there is almost no interest embodied energy (T24 has nothing to say about it whatsoever, and at least under the previous system LEED only had 2 points available, as a reward for using regional materials with presumably lower transportation related impact). This is despite the fact that it takes 30 some years for the operational impact of a building to exceed its construction impact (and most buildings in Los Angeles have a service life of less than 50 years), and many estimates peg construction and materials as comprising 25-40% of a building’s total carbon footprint. The culprit, of course, is that steel, aluminum and concrete are among the poorest performing, and industry in this country.
We happen, however, to be very biased towards earth building, which is local, self-cooling, heat-retaining, imminently renewable and 100% recyclable... J
Last and not in the least, while we need to push for bigger changes our job as architects is to educate our client on sustainable, greener options. Most people are unaware there being any, so then our biggest tool is education.