A leading and inspirational voice on sustainability within the built environment, Eric will champion and optimize our firm’s commitment to sustainability in all of its embodiments: How we design buildings, talk about them, operate our own sustainable business practices, and strengthen our overall commitment to corporate responsibility. Eric will help us advance our firm’s legacy of sustainable design leadership.
“Living with a sustainable focus is important to me,” says Brad Lukanic, CEO of CannonDesign. “I know our behaviors can create a better world for the future. If we lead with optimism, reinforce our goals and aspirations about who we are as a design firm, we can have a serious impact on those around us. Our collective sustainable actions are an opportunity to build upon CannonDesign’s foundation to global environments and the communities connected to them. We’re challenging Eric to ask how we’re going to approach design and infrastructures differently and what steps are needed to accommodate change.”
Eric brings a unique combination of practical experience, academic research, and thought leadership to our team. He’s authored 11 books on sustainable design, has been featured in media ranging from the New York Times and CNN to HGTV, Good Morning America and Sundance Channel, and facilitated sustainable design workshops and discussions for more than 300,000 people. A practicing architect with an emphasis on urban design, Eric has contributed to the design of more than 40 LEED and net-zero projects, consulted on hundred more, and been named one of the 10 Most Influential Green Architects.
As part of his announcement, we connected with Eric to capture his thoughts on his new role and what success will look like moving forward.
You’ve had success in essentially every realm of your career, what motivates you to join CannonDesign as Director of Sustainability?
Eric: Throughout my career, I’ve always sought new ways to boost my impact. While I’ve loved working with non-profits over the past decade, I’m an architect at heart and I deep down I’ve always wanted to find a firm I could call home.
CannonDesign is a special place with the right mix of design chops, innovation culture and diversity of project types to really scale our collective impact. There are so many great things that we will achieve together. For the environment, for our people, for the organizations we work with… this is an incredible opportunity. There’s so much good trouble that we can get into.
What do you mean by good trouble?
Eric: Most of our clients are currently creating their own Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports to look at their carbon and energy footprints. They’re establishing new goals to reduce those footprints and help the environment and look at their commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You might think that’s happening in the future – but it’s actually happening right now.
So imagine if we could speak about clear, deployable strategies about how our work can help our clients achieve their ESG, CSR or SDG goals. Imagine if we could fully articulate how our skills as designers and creative problem solvers could help them achieve their vision. Let’s instill in them a vision for how they can achieve their first net-zero energy-building, or their first carbon-neutral campus. Let’s get bold in how we lead others to a resilient, regenerative future. That’s the kind of “good trouble” I see us getting into on a daily basis!
Do you think you’ll focus more on design or business practices? How do you see your role evolving?
Eric: I don’t think you can focus on one without the other. They are two sides of the same coin. What if we designed the most sustainable building in the world, but it was a slaughterhouse? We can’t treat design and business as separate silos if we want to thrive.
I want to nurture a culture of bold thinking and action when it comes to energy, carbon, equity, diversity and more. I want to empower others so in every project team, every office, there are people willing to lead on these vital topics. My job is to ensure we never miss an opportunity to make a difference.
What achievement(s) do you hope the design community can talk about in five years when it comes to sustainable design?
Eric: I think everyone working in the deep green building space has their own wish list of achievements they hope to see by 2025. Unfortunately, the climate crisis will mean we have a tough century ahead of us and the world will need our creative problem-solving skills to adapt. I expect by 2025 we’ll see:
- Established codes and best practice requirements around resiliency and building performance
- New limits around embodied carbon and operational carbon for construction
- Mandatory measurements and limits of carcinogens and red list materials for interior environments
- True circular economy approaches to waste and health in the construction industry
- Even more beautiful buildings that make people feel healthy, safe and happy using deep green principles
…. And CannonDesign will be part of that transformative future.
There are moments when data around climate change seems especially daunting. How do you stay inspired?
Eric: The news can certainly be depressing, but I’m more inspired now than ever before in my life. Everywhere I look there is evidence of great progress being made toward a sustainable future. It’s easy to be inspired by the amazing things taking place if you look for them.
In some of your bios you’re referred to as hilarious and/or a comedian. Tell us your favorite sustainability joke?
Eric: I don’t like the term “climate change.” It sounds too clinical. I also don’t like “global warming” as it sounds too pleasant. I’ve stopped using those terms. Instead, I call it “climidia.” Make it sound like a disease, nobody wants our planet to have a disease.