CannonDesign’s sustainability and resilient design leaders contribute to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s thorough look at how climate change is impacting colleges and universities in a new piece titled, “For College, Climate Change Means Making Tough Choices.” The Chronicle piece is only accessible for subscribers, but looks at the issue through the lens of Washington College, the Society of College and University Planning, University of Iowa, UCLA and other leading institutions.

Here are key excerpts in the story featuring CannonDesign:

Mike Cavanaugh on taking action
The watchword for many colleges is “resilience,” a term that encompasses a variety of strategies and practices meant to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of proliferating, sometimes overlapping, climate-change challenges. Many institutions are doing their best to use less energy, for example, but hotter summers and harsher winters are likely to drive demand for more energy.

Colleges need to do more than save a few kilowatts or do away with single-use plastic, says Mike Cavanaugh, sustainability leader at CannonDesign. Universities have long been proponents of energy efficiency and sustainability, “but in the last couple of years, a lot of people have realized that’s not going to be enough,” he says. Given uncertain government policy and deregulation regarding climate change, it’s become clear that “there is not one singular overarching power that’s going to save us from a changing climate,” he says. “The ones that we’re looking to to save us are really ourselves. And I think no other place has it hit home as hard as universities.”

On making sustainability integral to decision making for colleges and universities
If (sustainability leaders) are not part of the conversations about capital planning or master planning, there may be no one in the room to advocate for a zero-energy building, the need to address increased storm water, or more-resilient landscaping.

Without that advocacy, college leaders may have little idea of how sustainable their campuses are or what challenges lie ahead. Often, “if you ask, What’s your most inefficient building on the campus?, there’s only one guy, who’s sitting in a back-corner office, who knows that,” says Amir Rezaei, a high-performance-building analyst at CannonDesign. Rezaei puts a premium on disseminating data about building performance among college leaders and all across campus to help everyone understand what’s at stake and what decisions can have the most impact.

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