We are all in this together. When we talk about the imperative for climate action from the built environment community, we are talking about architects and all allied professionals: engineers, planners, landscape architects, and many others. That we are all in this together is true for the community of all living things, and it is true for all the disciplines that participate in making the built environment.

When Architecture 2030 and Edward Mazria, FAIA, first issued the 2030 Challenge in 2006, there were many questions in the marketplace about where and how emissions could be addressed in building projects. Architects and The American Institute of Architects were early adopters, and by 2008, the AIA 2030 Commitment launched. As our understanding of embodied carbon has grown, architect-led teams have addressed sustainable building through thoughtful designs and material selection. Other disciplines have also mobilized to support this agenda with their own initiatives and calls to action, including structural engineers with the SE 2050 challenge and commitment addressing the embodied carbon of structural systems; and the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering community with the MEP 2040 challenge addressing the climate change impacts of refrigerants, among other goals.

Architects also understand the embodied carbon challenge goes beyond the building and includes sites, landscapes, and infrastructure. This movement too has been maturing, just as the need to accelerate climate change mitigation and adaptation is becoming more apparent given the latest climate reports. At this juncture, the need for cross-disciplinary collaboration at this scale has never been greater, especially as teams are continuing to expand and refine their approaches, focusing on reducing emissions and increasing CO2 sequestration, while creating resilient and equitable communities.

At this juncture, the need for cross-disciplinary collaboration at this scale has never been greater.

Some of the greatest clarity and strength on this front can be attributed to the Climate Positive Design Challenge, which catalyzed not only the American Society of Landscape Architects Climate Action Committee, but also the International Federation of Landscape Architects’ Climate Action Commitment, for their 70,000 global members, which was launched ahead of COP26. The official Architecture 2030 COP26 event in Glasgow included representatives from AIA, the Australian Institute of Architects, the Royal Institute of British Architects, ASHRAE, IFLA, and the Climate Heritage Network and is an example of this new cross-disciplinary alignment.

At the project level, these collaborations are critical—architects are working closely with landscape architects, civil engineers, planners, urban and interior designers, and structural and M/E/P engineers. As the need for urgency to respond to climate change grows, so too does the imperative to crystallize what climate action is for your team and your firm. When you begin a project, bring the gravity of the AIA 2030 Commitment to the table, and encourage your colleagues to articulate their disciplines’ commitments, too. Each discipline’s approaches to measurement, its tools, and its learnings, can influence the others—the more we share tools and intelligence, the greater impact we can have.

We’ve been making progress. Architects can continue to push forward, leading the built environment community toward greater impacts—slashing emissions, sequestering carbon, and creating resilience, equitable communities, and more biodiverse environments.

This article appeared in the April 2022 issue of ARCHITECT.