The content for this article was originally featured in Fortune Magazine on July 18, 2022.
The climate crisis, as well as pandemic-related workplace disruptions, are forcing architects and real estate developers to take a hard look at their industry’s impact on the environment and to accelerate the use of sustainable tools and materials.
They have reason to be concerned: Nearly 40% of energy-related CO2 emissions and 36% of energy consumption around the world come from building and construction, according to a 2021 report from the United Nations Environment Program and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
But even as sustainable architecture—which requires less energy and aims to reduce the negative environmental impact of buildings—has gained traction throughout the world, its pace of adoption is likely not enough to help avert the worst impacts of climate change, according to a recent survey by NBS, a technology platform for construction professionals. Its research concluded that one of the greatest misconceptions in architecture is that “a gradual change over the next 30 years will be sufficient, when in fact we require urgent change.”
More experts are calling for change at a much larger scale.
“Where we’re at with climate today, we need action not maintenance,” says Antje Steinmuller, chair of the bachelor of architecture program at California College of the Arts. “Don’t get me wrong, sustainable architecture helps, but we need to do much more.”
Much of the expansion to date in North America and Europe is due to government incentives and ratings programs like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which aims to make building owners environmentally responsible and helps them use resources more efficiently. Today, more than 100,000 buildings worldwide participate in the LEED certification system, according to its developer, the U.S. Green Building Council.