Seeking sustainability, architecture firm moves beyond the building

Architectural firm Ratcliff says it's time to move beyond the green building to systems-wide sustainability planning.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

It's time to look past the building, according to architectural firm Ratcliff.

The Bay Area-based firm, behind "green" web design tool GreenMatrix and the Green Action Plan, announced on Friday that it's broadening its approach to green building and incorporating systems-wide sustainability planning, with the hope of helping curb climate change.

The idea: you can't be green just by building an efficient building. (Though it helps.) True sustainability must incorporate all the activity that building enables, from transportation to and from it to the way it incorporates into the urban fabric around it.

It's a daring approach, since this kind of holistic sustainability requires collaboration among many.

Led by sustainability director Ross Levy, the firm has already taken steps. One early initiative: organizing a K-12 educators workshop to assist them in coordinating the greening of their schools, including the application of data-based insights, via baseline readings and comparisons using the University of California Berkeley-designed CoolClimate Carbon Calculator.

In a statement, Levy explains his approach:

Adaptive system planning brings us towards a vision of the future with the knowledge that we live in a dynamic environment. By engaging in the sustainable discourse at the most encompassing level, we are gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge that we are bringing back to our architectural practice.

All of our actions have associated consequences, many of which are not considered in traditional practice. In this sense, we are re-inventing the practice of architecture, expanding the definition of environmental design by looking at complete systems, inputs and outflows and taking responsibility for long-term resilience and sustainability.

Firm president Kit Ratcliff added: "Architects can and must lead the building industry in making critical changes in infrastructure and building design."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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