Earth Day 2019: What Will We Do In the Next 11 Years?

  • April 22, 2019
  • Author: Mike Cavanaugh

It has been 49 years since our first Earth Day in 1970.

49 years is quite a run.  The passion and awareness ignited during those inaugural events in 1970 has 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.

Deeper Knowledge

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.

Proven Innovation

10 years ago, building energy use was quantifiable by a small percentage of engineers and an even smaller percentage of architects.  Technology had not advanced enough to effectively predict outcomes.

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.

Mike Cavanaugh and Brett Farbstein Talk Resilient Hospitals with Future Cities Podcast

  • April 1, 2019
  • Publication: Future Cities Podcast

Wall Street Journal Profiles Phillip Vogt and his Fire-Resilient Home

  • March 28, 2019
  • Publication: Wall Street Journal

WHITEPAPER: Biophilic Design and the Healthcare Workplace

  • March 26, 2019

Katie Courtney to Present at NESEA’s BuildingEnergy Boston

  • 03/14/2019 - 03/14/2019
  • Presenter(s): Katie Courtney

Integrated Collaborative Energy and Climate Action Plan (ICECAP)

  • February 18, 2019
  • Author: Amir Rezaei

If you walk the sustainability talk on your campus you are likely familiar with the AASHE’s STARS program or similar sustainability/greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reporting mechanisms. Our goal is to assist you through an existing NYSERDA funding opportunity through December 2019 (REV Campus Challenge Technical Assistance for Roadmaps) to boost these energy and carbon tracking efforts. We call it ICECAP – a collaborative effort between a partner organization and us to create a data-driven, interactive and comprehensive energy/carbon action plan leading to carbon neutrality. Unlike traditional masterplans, we dive deep into granular energy/carbon data at building and campus levels to identify reduction strategies and responsible parties. This process involves several campus stakeholders from offices of planning, facilities, institutional data analysis, sustainability and the student community.

We have discovered that many organizations have these data points scattered in many places not available to decision makers at the right place and the right time. We believe that such traditional masterplans often lack data granularity required to make them actionable, that is why we deliver a data-driven, interactive online platform to capture and track a campus’s carbon footprint and most importantly make it accessible to the whole campus community for greater transparency and informed decision making. Through this funding opportunity, we are currently working with the University at Buffalo on such Integrated Collaborative Energy and Climate Action Plan, which will set the roadmap for UB to reach carbon neutrality. We believe that your campus could take advantage of this opportunity as well.

What are ICECAP Benefits?

  • A highly interactive data visualization of baseline campus energy/carbon footprint
  • Insights from data previously not accessible due to lack of data integration at campus level
  • A data-driven carbon reduction roadmap for the entire campus
  • Democratized access to campus carbon/energy data: students, researchers, executives…
  • Immediate realization of operational cost trends and reduction strategies
  • Ability to capture and visualize metrics for social stewardship and sustainability reporting
  • Create a data-driven positioning tool for capital budget and funding opportunities
  • Crowd-sourced feedback from the campus community via an online platform
  • Create competition among departments, buildings and residence halls to reduce carbon footprint
  • An interactive educational tool to engage students as opposed to a static masterplan report

How Does it Work and How Much Does It Cost?

  • Hassle-free application to NYSERDA through a third-party consultant (CannonDesign)
  • A cost-shared funding source available through NYSERDA
  • Maximum funding available in cost-share per institution: $150,000
  • Multiple institutions are encouraged to team up – funding is per institution and additive with more institutions joining forces
  • 100% Cost Share tasks: Establish reporting protocol and report to voluntary third‐party energy or GHG certification organizations
  • 75% Cost Share tasks: Establish baseline energy consumption, complete GHG gas inventory, develop a climate action or sustainability plan

For more information, email Amir Rezaei or call at 716.774.3459

CannonDesign Wins at ASHRAE Net-Zero Design Competition

  • October 1, 2018