October 5, 2021

The Future of Sustainable Design is Now

Photo: Barings World Headquarters in downtown Charlotte, NC is LEED Gold certified for Interior Design and Construction

We recently announced that our firm has joined the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) 2030 Commitment to combat the effects of climate change. With today’s buildings generating nearly 40% of annual global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, it is imperative the AE industry prioritizes sustainable design. By 2060, it is estimated that global building floor area will double by adding 2.4 trillion square-feet, leaving architects an enormous opportunity and responsibility to transform the built environment. A shift in our practice needs to occur to reduce the environmental impact of buildings and contribute to mitigating climate change.  

The AIA created the 2030 Commitment program in 2006 to reshape the practice of architecture and respond to the climate crisis through project-based, data-driven results. The challenge’s call to action is that all new buildings, developments and major renovations to be designed to meet a fossil fuel, greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 80% below the regional or country average for that building type in 2020, 90% in 2025, and reaching carbon-neutrality in 2030 (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate).  

The Urgency of This Commitment 

There has always been a need to protect our environment and preserve resources for future generations. With continued data and research available about our effect on the environment, particularly from the industrial revolution to today, the need for sustainability has become increasingly important and the sense of urgency is at its highest level.  

In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) created the First IPCC Assessment Report to highlight the importance of climate change. Since then, approximately every five years they release a new report which is fed directly into international policy making. The latest data from the Sixth Assessment Report determined that getting to carbon neutral by 2030 is too late. To achieve the pursuit of the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep planetary warming below 1.5°C, all new buildings and major renovations must be designed to be carbon neutral today. Therefore the 2030 Commitment and carbon neutral buildings are absolutely critical.  

Our Commitment to Sustainable Design  

Progressive Companies has always held a sense of sustainability within our design practice but starting in 2019 the firm began to reflect on where we are now and how we can improve. We have designed net-zero projects, LEED certified buildings, employed principles of circular economy to reduce material use, conducted energy modeling and assessments, and established water conservation measures. Through this reflection process, we began to look at our own design process and re-educate ourselves.  

Grand Rapids Downtown Market Rooftop Greenhouse
Grand Rapids Downtown Market Rooftop Greenhouse

As a firm, we have a mission to drive performance through design. We embrace an integrated design approach which facilitates research, aspirational thinking, and alignment towards an understanding of success. By committing to the AIA 2030 Challenge, Progressive will bring a common language across discipline integration, positioning us to guide clients in combating climate change and making long-term business decisions impacting their facilities. Not only will we collect our own project data, but we will contribute to and gain access to building data throughout our industry enabling us to benchmark and track progress. This is the first step toward environmental leadership in our industry.   

Why We’re Excited to Dig In 

As architects and engineers, we are driven to create analytical and unique solutions. Every day we are faced with challenges both large and small. The stakes are high with the 2030 Challenge, and we are excited to be on the forefront of a shift in the industry and its potential impact on the planet.

We’re also excited to continue engaging with our clients to understand who they are, what they do, and their unique project requirements through a multi-disciplinary process—optimizing systems for the benefit of natural resources and the health and well-being of the community.  

Here are some of the tools we can offer: 

  • Framework for energy independence
  • Knowledge of sustainable design tools and best practices
  • High performance design outcomes
  • Looking at impact on triple bottom line—people, planet, and profit
  • Business intelligence with data
  • Sustainability master planning


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