It has been 49 years since our first Earth Day in 1970.
Forty-nine years is quite a run. The passion and awareness ignited during those inaugural events in 1970 have driven significant positive change in our relationship with the natural environment. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and many will undoubtedly hoist up that number proudly.
This year, however, let’s focus on a different number: 11.
According to a report released in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we must halve our emissions by 2030 to avoid a future defined by catastrophic climate change. That deadline is just 11 years away.
CannonDesign knows we must bring critical focus in this short span of time. Nearly ten years ago we signed onto the AIA 2030 commitment. In it, we pledged that all new buildings, developments, and major renovations we design will be carbon neutral – requiring no fossil fuel or GHG-emitting energy for operations. Instead, we’d rely on clean energy to power our built environment.
We knew then this would be a massive challenge, but one worth striving toward. Like many decades-long plans, when our commitment was signed we had the benefit of time. Today, we do not – but we do now have a few resources almost as valuable.
Our firm and industry have made great strides in advocating for low carbon building solutions. In doing so, we’ve educated ourselves, learning how to best monitor our progress and promote our most important and innovative ideas.
Ten years ago, building energy use was quantifiable by a small percentage of engineers and an even smaller percentage of architects. Technology was available but was not widely used or known.
Today, thanks to our industry’s continued leadership through the American Institute of Architects, Architecture 2030, and with help from incredible partners in the software community, we have sophisticated tools that are both accessible and integrated into our workflows.
We are fast approaching the year 2030. While we have had many successes, the transition to carbon neutrality needs to accelerate significantly. Time is not on our side, but we can use that reality to motivate us.
Of course, Earth Day, environmental awareness, and sustainability are about more than just building energy consumption. We must also think about how we’ll take action related to embodied carbon, material health, and resilience among other issues key to the building industry. While more generally, plastic pollution, air/water quality, and forest protection loom larger than ever. There are many ways we can individually recognize Earth Day 2019.
Our planet faces rapid, perilous and unprecedented threats from climate change. It has become the greatest challenge of our time. We have what it takes to meet this challenge, but we will need courage, commitment and sincere urgency to help us achieve our 2030 goals.
Time may not be on our side. But, Earth Day is a chance to look around and recognize the millions of people who do stand with us. Around the world, companies, institutions, cities, states, and nations are stepping up their commitments and demanding better. We are lucky to work with some of these organizations as they clear paths for others to follow.
We all have an impact on this planet and therefore a chance to ensure that is a positive one. This is our hope, inspiration, and potential – that together we can honor the vision of those who launched Earth Day 49 years ago, and preserve this planet as we know it for the generations to follow.
Surfing comes naturally to Ben Juckes, but contrary to what you’d think, he did not take up the sport in his native Australia, one of the world’s premier surfing destinations.
It wasn’t until he moved to Los Angeles and began working at Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign, the in-house laboratory led by Mehrdad Yazdani with a staff of approximately 20 architects, designers, 3D artists, technical specialists and other creative thinkers.
For Ben, the sports’ appeal was always more about the surfboard, the idea of manipulating its form to maximize its performance – the architecture of it all. He plunged into the study of computational design (CD) in Perth, where he pursued a Bachelor of Environmental Science in Architecture at the University of Western Australia (UWA). There weren’t any courses in CD there, however, a one-year student exchange program at the University of Arizona introduced him to visual programming languages like Grasshopper.
“I was blown away by all the tools and technologies that people were using there,” Ben recalls. “The idea that you had the ability to harness complicated geometries through simple procedures really fit with my style of designing, and I decided that this is the way I wanted to practice architecture.”
Ben returned to UWA and earned his M.Arch, continuing to develop his skills in CD. He, along with fellow students and professors who were early adopters, established the “Hub,” a regular event for students to collaborate and share knowledge. He was also part of the team behind Augmented Australia, an exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2014, curated by the creative team known as felix._Giles_Anderson+Goad. It included apps that allowed users to visualize unbuilt modern and historic structures across the country.
After graduating, Ben transitioned from teaching evening classes on parametric modeling to taking on sessional staff positions at his alma mater. Though he enjoyed being in academia and plans to return to it someday, he felt driven to gain practical experience.
“I realized I needed to immerse myself in the industry before I (could) actually teach people!” says Ben.
Drawn back to the States, he settled in Los Angeles, which offered a similar laid-back vibe and warm climate to Perth. A friend introduced him to Yazdani Studio. Though he had been focused on computer modeling, seeing the many physical models displayed around the studio was one of the reasons he knew it was the right fit for him.
“You walk in and see it’s a playground of models,” says Ben. “That says something about the way the studio operates and that it’s a really cool, collaborative environment.”
Four years later, he is now an associate, having established himself as an expert in CD. One of his greatest strengths is creating DIY tools and custom workflows that challenge conventional practice.
The studio doesn’t have a dedicated CD team; rather, each staff member is encouraged to explore their own ideas in organic ways.“We have shaped our tools, but the tools are now starting to shape us,” Ben observes. “The term ‘computational design’ covers an extremely broad variety of roles and relationships. As it becomes more widely used across the industry, we will start to see bigger distinctions between these roles and the creation of more specialized divisions.”
“With a more diverse range of roles, coupled with advancements in technologies and applications, I think architects will retreat from outsourcing and create a new paradigm of insourcing,” Ben adds.
The first project Ben worked on with Yazdani was Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, a typology definer that hybridizes maker space and dormitory pods. The team utilized visual programming languages, like the Kangaroo plugin for Grasshopper, Dynamo for Revit, and other tools, to map relationships between programmatic elements. They also created a virtual reality game to help the university promote the project.
More recently, Ben has been focusing on Address Harbor Point, a set of slender, tapered residential towers on the waterfront in Dubai. By creating multiple iterations of physical models via 3D printers and utilizing Galapagos, another plugin for Grasshopper, Ben and his team have explored subtle rotations of the towers’ forms to investigate sight lines and maximize views from each unit.
These diverse experiences at Yazdani Studios have given Ben the space to dive even deeper into what excites him.
“A great thing about the style and culture Merhdad has created is that we all touch the projects in different facets, but we are encouraged to pursue and explore our own interests.” Those interests include making furniture, and, of course, surfing. He’s finally learned to surf along the coast of Los Angeles.
“I keep it practical outside of work,” says Ben. “It’s important to mix analog with digital. You have to get your hands dirty sometimes.”