In time for Earth Day 2023, Perkins&Will has released an update to its firmwide Green Operations Plan, which has guided its sustainable business practices since 2005. The update coincides with last month’s report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calling for greater and more urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report, the pace and scale of decarbonization efforts to date are not enough to keep the planet’s temperature from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, at which point more extreme weather events and more negative impacts on human and environmental health would occur.
“As a large firm with 28 studios around the world, we have an enormous opportunity to reduce our environmental impact even further—and to lead by example,” says Jason F. McLennan, chief sustainability officer of Perkins&Will. “Our enhanced Green Operations Plan offers specific guidance in just about every scenario that might unfold in our day-to-day business operations, from how we travel to or from the office, to where we get our electricity, to how we keep our kitchens and respect the local cultural contexts in which we work.”
The plan addresses eight categories: place; transportation; water; energy; material, procurement, and waste; health and wellness; equity; and beauty and inspiration. Within each category, every studio is responsible for achieving specific goals, as well as collecting and tracking data to measure progress. This year, three key enhancements to the updated plan include more comprehensive requirements around decarbonization, a phaseout of single-use plastics, and recognition of indigenous cultures and the local lands on which we work:
Fossil Fuel Elimination - By 2025, any newly leased studios or those renewing leases will no longer directly use natural gas and beginning this year, all newly designed studios must be 100% electric.
Energy Efficiency Leadership – Starting in 2025, all studios will install sub-meters that measure all energy use. This will complement the firm’s nearly 20-year practice of installing low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, and energy star efficient fixtures.
Green Power Purchase – To support the decarbonization of utility grids and the uptake of renewable energy, over the next few years studios will purchase green power renewable energy certificates (RECs) for their electricity use and have on-site renewable energy accounting for at least 50% of their annual energy use.
Carbon Offset – Starting this year, all new studios and studio renovations will undergo a whole life carbon assessment to measure their operational and embodied carbon profile, while also offsetting operational carbon wherever possible.
“Decarbonization plays a key role in lessening our firm’s footprint across the globe,” says Perkins&Will Regional Director of Regenerative Design, Canada Kathy Wardle. “And by making these efforts, we aim to inspire and encourage clients to let us design their spaces with similar practices in mind.”
Phaseout of Single-Use Plastics
With a goal of functional zero waste, beginning this year, every studio will ban single-use plastics. After all, the fossil-fuel intensive production of plastic is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and the use and disposal of plastic contributes to environmental degradation and human health concerns.
To reduce these impacts, every Perkins&Will studio must provide alternatives to single-use plastic bottled beverages, single-use coffeemaker cups, and plastic cutlery. Additionally, studios will instruct all of their caterers and vendors to stop providing plastic utensils with their goods and services.
Indigenous Lands Acknowledgement
Starting this year, studios will create “Place Walls,” or displays that recognize the indigenous peoples who stewarded the local land on which the studios are located prior to colonization. The “Place Walls” will provide historical demographics and settlement patterns of the surrounding community, ensuring staff understand the need for locally and regionally appropriate design. Climate and ecosystem data and information on urban infrastructure will also be on display. Additionally, all North American and Latin American studios will be responsible for authoring a public acknowledgment of the local land on which they’re located.
“It’s vital that we work with everyone in our communities to design projects that are culturally relevant, and places that people of all backgrounds feel comfortable visiting,” McLennan says.