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RS&H Joins COP26 Communiqué To Reduce Carbon Emissions, Drive Progress

By John Bottaro, AIA, NCARB

July 20, 2021

Photo of man affixing solar panels to roof to reduce carbon emissions as outlined in COP26 communique.

The urban built environment is responsible for 75% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions – buildings alone are responsible for 39% according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). To address climate change and meet targets defined in the Paris Climate Agreement, much of these emissions must be eliminated.

One way RS&H demonstrates our commitment to caring for the future is by being a signatory of the COP26 Communiqué, which is being published and delivered at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow this fall.

The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, making it clear to countries attending the conference that organizations responsible for planning, designing, constructing and developing the built environment are actively working to meet the Paris Agreement's 1.5-degrees Celsius carbon target.   

The COP26 goals include securing global net-zero by mid-century, adapting design to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilizing at least $100 billion in climate finance every year, and working together to finalize the Paris Rulebook – the detailed rules that will make the Paris Agreement operational.

I am proud of our involvement in this important global effort. It aligns with our belief that progress takes partnership and demonstrates our unique culture of care, which includes a focus on corporate responsibility.

Minimizing the footprint of our facilities, materials usage and transportation is a core business strategy at RS&H. Working with our clients, we have documented savings of over 2 million megawatt-hours of electricity, 1.4 billion pounds of waste, and over 500 million gallons of water – resulting in millions of tons of avoided greenhouse gas emissions – and counting. Additionally, RS&H designers are certified practitioners of several sustainable design programs, including Living Future, WELL, LEED and Envision.

There is much more work to do, but it’s work that must be done.

We are designing the future when it comes to carbon emissions from buildings and saying to our clients, ‘If you step up and make this investment, we have your back.’

The COP26 Communiqué falls in line with the AIA 2030 Commitment and 2030 Challenge, which has member firms like RS&H working toward carbon-neutral buildings, developments and major renovations by 2030.

It is vital that a shift occurs in old practice standards to amplify the world’s collective potential by pushing the boundaries of care. Our firm believes in the integration of multiple disciplines for a future that filters water on-site, uses renewable energies while considering the surrounding community, environment and economy.

The full communique is below:

We are organizations, firms and sub-national governments responsible for planning, designing, constructing, and developing the built environment globally.

We are taking specific actions that fully harness our capacity to affect significant carbon emissions reductions in order to retain a 67% probability of meeting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5ºC budget of 340 GTCO2; a 65% emissions reduction by 2030, and zero CO2 emissions by 2040.

The built environment is the largest source of the world’s carbon emissions with buildings responsible for approximately 40%, and when accounting for the embodied carbon of building interiors, systems, and associated infrastructure, that percentage is substantially higher. Our professions and industries are transforming and taking significant action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. By showing what is possible, we are emboldening others to do the same.

We call on all sovereign governments to ramp up their Nationally Determined Contributions, and 2030 emissions reduction targets, to limit planetary warming in line with the remaining global 1.5ºC carbon budget.

Learn more about how RS&H’s sustainable solutions can be an asset to your next project.

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Topics: Insights, Architecture, Aviation, Environmental, Transportation, Buildings, Sustainability, Aerospace & Defense, Resiliency, Health & Science

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About the Author

John is Executive Vice President and member of the Board of Directors. John provides strategic planning, coordination and leadership for buildings design across the company. He has served in leadership roles at the local, state, and national levels with the American Institute of Architects as well as a board member for several organizations.

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