Looking to Decarbonize Your Practice? Start with EPDs

The built environment’s share of global greenhouse emissions is well known, but actionable strategies to reduce them are mired in government and private sector finger-pointing. If you’re an architect at any size firm working on any type of project, you have agency to cut through the blame game to take direct action to decarbonize your work. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hit ambitious net zero goals tomorrow (although that would be a great idea at this point), but it does mean you can make a big dent in both embodied and operational carbon in your next project—and across your entire future portfolio.

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Virginia Tech’s Opening Gambit for the NoVa Tech Scene by SmithGroup is a Window to the Future

Person talking on mobile phone in a colorful hallway at SmithGroup’s Start-Up Space for Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Innovation Campus
SmithGroup’s Start-Up Space for Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Innovation Campus offers the school an administrative presence in a rapidly changing tech scene (not to mention a place to manage the broader four-acre campus project). © Judy Davis

The word innovation isn’t just a rejoinder to the debate in education about value these days. It seems to also suggest a new typology of flexible and adaptive spaces. Virginia Tech is currently developing a four-acre Northern Virginia Innovation Campus in Alexandria, which will open in 2024 with a 300,000 square-foot Innovation Center Academic Building (ICAB) designed by SmithGroup. Its principal-in-charge, David Johnson, AIA, says that the emerging typology is less about form and more about accommodating the changing needs of an array of user groups. “The intellectual framework for the innovation center is about accelerating ideation and discovery by bringing together competing and interdisciplinary interests,” says Johnson, “but to be more precise, most, if not all, of our design goals were related to human centered design.”

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Sefaira for Analyzing Building Performance

Designers are frequently using performance analysis tools in-house in order to get quick feedback on design decisions (rather than relying on outside consultants).

Several contributors to articles to our Energy Issue referenced Sefaira as one of the tools their firms use for analyzing building performance. In fact, according to the AIA’s Habits of High-Performance Firms, it’s the most common performance tool used by architects who submit projects for the 2030 Commitment.

Sefaira allows designers to compare massings, layout, and envelope options as well as study natural ventilation and HVAC systems for a wide variety of project types. It can be used collaboratively for shared projects and allows for peer review and works with both SketchUp and Revit.