In a letter sent to the White House, we joined our industry peers in thanking the Biden-Harris Administration for taking climate and environmental justice seriously. Our firm is inspired by the bold actions outlined in the Biden-Harris Build Back Better plan and we applaud President Biden’s goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Globally, nearly 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from operating buildings while an additional 11 percent of emissions are embodied carbon from building products and construction. The letter notes that to deal with the full emissions picture, it is important to move beyond simply net zero energy to net zero carbon. Additionally, while combating climate change, it also emphasized that our industry is dedicated to transforming our communities for the better by addressing critical public health, water, material toxicity and social equity challenges.
Specifically, the letter outlines steps we encourage the Administration to prioritize to begin seeing positive impacts in the built environment sector within your first 100 days. These steps include:
- Enhancing Federal building standards—The executive branch has direct control over federal facilities, so those facilities represent a key opportunity to reduce the climate impacts of federal operations and to lead by example.
- Stimulating building reuse and upgrades—Existing building upgrades offer immediate opportunities to achieve rapid progress towards an environmentally responsible and socially equitable future.
- Promoting healthy housing and resilient communities—Federal funding of local housing and community development should be treated as part of a national interagency infrastructure strategy. Infrastructure planning should acknowledge the interconnection of investments for housing, transit, “carbon smart” construction, and resilience planning.
- Electrifying to achieve a carbon-free grid—After reducing the energy demand of buildings, the key steps are to eliminate fossil fuel use in buildings, switch to electricity as the sole source of energy, provide the infrastructure for electric vehicle charging, and enable demand-response technologies in a way that supports the decarbonization of the grid.
- Promoting material health and product transparency—The materials used in our buildings have broad climate, health and equity implications. We must bolster existing agencies and laws as well as develop clear and consistent transparency criteria for the materials industry all based on science.
- Promoting healthy schools for all—Every weekday, there are more people—over 56 million—in America’s schools than in any other workplace. Approximately half of these schools, especially those in urban and rural areas, are in disrepair. We have a tremendous opportunity to renovate existing schools and build new ones to meet standards that will enhance the lives of students, teachers, and staff while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing opportunities for enhancing our society’s environmental literacy.
CannonDesign, along with our AEC peer firms, is eager to engage in the transformation and decarbonization of the built environment. Together, there are tremendous opportunities to move America further than ever to protect our future generations.