Building (and Rebuilding) for Net Zero with Architect Lori Ferriss
On this episode of the Decarbonization Race, Lincoln Payton dives deep into the world of sustainable architecture with architect Lori Ferriss, who’s worked across her career to square sustainability, historic preservation and aesthetic concerns in cities swimming in history, like Boston.
As the Director of Sustainability and Climate Action at Boston architectural firm Goody Clancy, Lori leads research initiatives and project design and implementation serving a range of sectors including higher education. For Lori, building reuse is a significant form of climate action. Her far-reaching work has expanded the role of architects while simultaneously elevating building reuse as a prime way to combat climate change.
Lori and Lincoln discuss the interplay between both operational and embodied carbon in buildings, debating investments to reduce carbon emissions through retrofitting or new-build construction (including with the Carbon Avoided Retrofit Estimator or CARE Tool, which Lori helped develop), policies passed by cities like London and Cambridge, Massachusetts that prioritize life cycle assessments and emissions disclosure, and changes in the materials being used like biogenic materials for insulation or green cement or steel.
- Boston has implemented policies and ordinances to achieve net-zero operations for commercial buildings such as the Building Energy and Reporting Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO 2.0) to achieve net-zero operations for commercial buildings over 20,000 sq ft. BERDO 2.0 requires disclosure and reporting followed by reductions, with a financial penalty for non-compliance. Boston’s zero net carbon zoning policy complements BERDO by requiring new buildings to meet similar standards.
- Biogenic materials are becoming more viable for commercial construction. These natural materials like wood, cross-laminated timber, hemp, and straw bale are becoming more viable for commercial construction, with their environmental benefits dependent on where the materials come from, how they are produced, and they are disposed of or repurposed at the end of their life cycle.
- Lori helped develop the Carbon Avoided Retrofit Estimator Tool to help planners, owners, and design professionals calculate the total embodied and operational carbon of existing buildings after energy efficiency upgrades or renovations. CARE can help estimate the environmental value of reusing existing buildings, and inform decisions on whether to retain buildings or demolish and build new ones.
- A Better City blog post, “BERDO 2.0 Explained“
- Carbon Avoided Retrofit Estimator (CARE) Tool
- Architecture 2030
Dana Dohse: On this episode of The Decarbonization Race.
Lori Ferriss: Recently, within the past two years, the AIA has made climate action a core part of its mission organizationally. And so that’s led to a lot of restructuring within their strategic plan, reallocation of resources to really focus on raising the floor and raising the ceiling of the practice of architecture as a way to combat climate change as well as equity. Equity is another core piece of that mission right now.
Dana Dohse: Lori Ferris is a principal and the Director of Sustainability and Climate Action at Goody Clancy, an architecture, planning and preservation firm serving educational, governmental, and private sector clients and communities nationwide. In her career, she’s worked to advocate for both sustainability and historic preservation in cities steeped in history like Boston at Goody Clancy. And in her broader work, Laurie leads extensive research initiatives, project design and implementation, serving a range of sectors, including higher education. She is a champion for preservation of our built heritage as a key measure towards meeting climate mitigation goals and an advocate for building an equitable sustainable world at the local, national, and global scale. Ready to lead the sustainability pack? This is the decarbonization race.
Lincoln Payton: Hello, everybody. This is Lincoln Payton, the CEO of Cleartrace. And I’m delighted to welcome you to another thrilling installment of the Decarbonization Race. Great guest for you today. Great to have Lori Ferris here who is the Director of Sustainability and Climate Action at the well known Boston architectural firm Goody Clancy, also the chair of the Architectural Association, the AIA. We’ll talk about that in a second, the Committee on the Environment there. And Lori, great to have you here.
Lori Ferriss: Great. Thanks so much, Lincoln. It’s great to be here.
Lincoln Payton: Awesome. So, first of all, let’s start off with you. What’s your story that gets you to working? A high profile, prestigious architectural firm in the Northeast?
Lori Ferriss: So I’m an architect now. I also have a background in structural engineering and in architectural conservation and preservation, actually. So my entire career has really been focused on sort of intersections between cultural stewardship and environmental stewardship. And I grew up in southern Louisiana, deep in Cajun country. And I think that’s part of what’s influenced where I ended up today, actually, is growing up in an area with a really rich cultural history that’s very tied to its heritage but also really connected to climate. And with growing up, climate change up here, I think, is a newish concept. But back then it was really just part of everyday life to understand the flooding of the Mississippi River and how that impacted settlement patterns and the way that coastal erosion impacted development and ways of life and how that was integral with the sense of identity in place. So I think that really just created this real interest and passion for me in the relationship that we have with our built environment and how the built environment is this intersection of how we live within nature and within the natural world.
Lincoln Payton: That’s a very cool story. So why architecture and engineering? What took you in that strongly technical, long education process pathway? What part of the world did you go to school in and how did that work out?
Lori Ferriss: I’ve always had a sort of left brain, right brain balance. I’ve always been really interested in arts and music, but also very inclined towards science and math. And architecture seemed like the perfect intersection of those left brain, right brain ideas. So I went to MIT to study architecture. I immediately became really interested in their building technology program and in the science behind how buildings work, how they’re built, how they perform over time, how they feel to us. So that led me down this path of not just the concepts designed behind architecture and how they feel and spatial organization, but also the tectonics and that real sort of technical backbone behind them. So that led me into structural engineering. My passion has always been around existing and historic buildings, which then brought me back more towards preservation and really back into architecture, where I get to grapple with these big picture questions like how is the built environment supporting the mandates of our times, like climate change, like social equity? And what is our role in helping to improve this situation?
Lincoln Payton: Awesome, look and again, very relevant for our listening audience. You ended up in this prestigious architectural firm. What have your focuses been professionally before becoming the sustainability focus that you have right now? Have you been drafting out new buildings? I know that you like the focus, you already talked about managing existing buildings, and that’s particularly relevant, attractive ones. But what are the steps that have got you to where you are on the professional side now?
Lori Ferriss: I’ve actually worked on a really broad range of project types, particularly in my consulting days. I worked for the engineering firm Stillman in that capacity, I did a lot of new construction. I did everything ranging from high end residential to museums. I worked on the Grace Farms complex by Sauna in Connecticut, which is beautiful. Serpentine Pavilion – I worked on the renovation, the restoration of the Harvard Art Museums, which converted from the Fog to the Harvard Art Museum. Some high touch preservation work, really a pretty big range. And at Goody Clancy, I’ve done a similar blend here, mostly higher education, which has been interesting to really focus on working with institutions with really elevated missions and values and trying to play that out within their facilities, their physical facilities. I was the Sustainability Lead for the Irving Institute for Energy and Society at Dartmouth College, which is now their highest performing building on campus with a very high tech natural and automated natural ventilation system. So that’s a high tech new construction end all the way back to infrastructure. Master planning, figuring out how to change out all of the HVAC systems in a lab building without impacting the users at all. So very detailed questions. The nitty gritty up to really high tech.
Lincoln Payton: I prompted you on that question because I think it’s very relevant that you’ve done the new greenfield development and you’ve done also protecting what you’ve got from a number of valuable angles, but also upgrading sustainability and environmental focus there the AIA. So tell me a little bit about that. What is it? Who are members, what are the objectives, and what do you do and what are you setting as objectives for it?
Lori Ferriss: Yes, the AIA, the American Institute of Architects is a professional organization for registered architects. It’s, I think, over 94,000 members at this point across the country. And it also has partner organizations around the world, AIA chapters globally. And recently, within the past two years, the AIA has made climate action a core part of its mission organizationally. And so that’s led to a lot of restructuring within their strategic plan, reallocation of resources to really focus on raising the floor and raising the ceiling of the practice of architecture as a way to combat climate change as well as equity. Equity is another core piece of that mission right now. And so what I do is I am the chair of the Committee on the Environment, which is about a 14,000 person membership within the AIA. I think we’re on our 27th or 28th year. And really, it’s been the group within AIA championing sustainability and environmental responsibility for architects for decades now. And so we do that through a number of different courses, including publications we issue occasionally. And our flagship program is the Coat Top Ten Awards. And every year we award ten projects that really demonstrate not just sustainability, but holistic design excellence. So it’s not just a high tech sustainability award. It’s really about buildings that are beautiful and delightful and environmentally responsible and socially responsible and elevate those examples and publish them and publish the data behind them, the outcomes that these projects have achieved both to inspire practitioners and also to chart the course, to chart the leading edge of design.
Lincoln Payton: How fun, frankly, because you don’t lose the beautiful aesthetic pleasing to the senses elements, but you’re trying to balance that with the sustainability side of things. So let’s talk now about what you’re doing today. What’s a typical day for you in your architecture firm?
Lori Ferriss: Yeah, so I lead our practice area, what’s called a regenerative renewal practice area. And it’s really about it’s blended our preservation practice that we’ve had historically with the new sustainability work that I’ve been leading, bringing those concepts together day to day. I do a lot of project work. I’m the principal in charge on many projects that include everything ranging from preservation of historic buildings on higher education campuses to decarbonization planning for campuses, to a lot in between. And I also do a lot of firmwide work around sustainability. So working on creating and moving forward our whole practice, our whole firm’s practice around sustainability, which includes things like creating standards, creating new project roles to really help train people and encourage growth within, particularly the middle of the firm around sustainability skills. And also just professionally, how to have an impact within the design team. So that’s a big part of it. And then obviously outward facing. I do a lot of representing the firm, but also trying to represent the profession and educational environments that conferences, podcasts like this, publications, quick snapshot of that.
Lincoln Payton: I’ll go back to what we mentioned earlier, which is let’s compartmentalize a little bit the built environment and you by all means disagree or subdivide that further. But I think in terms of existing footprint, how do we make existing footprint more efficient, better, more sustainable? There’s obviously the new build, how do we do that better? And then there’s operationally. And that’s particularly where, for example, a firm like ClearTrace comes in terms of measuring and managing and optimizing the energy supply. So you’re putting renewable in there and the operational side is very efficient. Let’s take it in order. So when you’re talking to people inside the firm, inside the architectural world or whoever it is that you’re explaining, what you do, let’s take the existing, definitely worth keeping. So has some value, some intrinsic value building that needs to be made more sustainable in today’s world. What are we thinking of? What’s your thought process? What’s the roadmap for that?
Lori Ferriss: I think it’s a little bit different for every building. I think that what you said is really important, that intrinsic value and I think an important first step is establishing that underlying value and making sure that everyone’s really on the same page and understands that. And it usually is some blend of environmental, of social, of community value, memory, et cetera, or just financial value. Obviously, for many owners, it just is more viable to keep buildings. For that reason, really understanding what’s important about the existing building to carry forward is step one, I think. And then in terms of performance, there’s a lot of value in understanding your baseline. So that’s something that we’ve really worked hard on or understanding the metrics you have to establish upfront how much energy is the building using and what are the low hanging fruits. What we found is a lot of this is tied up in deferred maintenance, like things like sealing your windows and doors, making sure you’re not leaking air is the number one impact you can make to improve performance. Even though that’s not the glorious glamorous.
Lincoln Payton: It’s very true, it’s not the high tech sexy. The world has brought the technology to the forefront that can save us, but the biggest is basically the most fundamental.
Lori Ferriss: Exactly. And then from there, it’s really I think, again, we rely heavily on analytics. I mean, obviously there’s the gut. Seal the building, reduce the loads as much as you can and then bring in technology to help mitigate the heating and cooling and ventilation and other loads that are required, but really understanding where the biggest impact is. I think that’s one thing that we’ve developed over the past few years is a more robust early design modeling process so we can tell where you’re going to get the best ROI, not just financially, but from a carbon perspective. Where is it the envelope? Is it the systems? It really depends on your geography on the program. Is it a lab building, which is going to be very different from an office building or a residence hall and then trying to prioritize investment in the areas where it’s going to make the biggest difference?
Dana Dohse: How do we preserve buildings but make them more efficient? Is that the right choice, or should we focus on demolishing and replacing nonhistoric buildings with more sustainable ones? That’s the dilemma Boston and other cities with lots of heritage properties are facing today.
Lori and Lincoln referenced Boston’s revised Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance, also known as BERDO 2.0, which sets requirements for large buildings to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of BERDO 2.0 is to help Boston’s buildings, which represent the largest slice of carbon emissions, to reach net zero by 2050. Unlike New York City’s Local Law 97, which is working to advance similar goals, but only applies to existing buildings.
But Boston also has a parallel piece of legislation for new construction that Lori talks about later on. The Net Zero Carbon Building Zoning Initiative, proposed by the Boston Planning and Development Agency would also require new buildings over 20,000 be built at the lead gold standard, which is a big boost from the current standard. While the zero net carbon building zoning proposal is still open for comments and revision, the city’s goal is to prioritize low carbon building construction practices and encourage the use of onsite and offsite renewable electricity sources.
As Lori discusses later in the episode, that’s where resources like the Carbon Avoided Retrofit Estimator or CARE Tool that Lori helped develop can come in. The CARE tool is intended to help planners, owners and design professionals calculate the total, embodied and operational carbon of existing buildings after energy efficiency upgrades or renovations. That way, they can make more informed decisions about whether it makes more sense from both a financial and environmental perspective to retrofit existing buildings or to demolish and build new ones to get the best benefit.
This breakout is brought to you by Cleartrace. For more information on how our platform can help you at your stage of the decarbonization journey, visit Cleartrace.io.
Lincoln Payton: Okay, so if that’s the established, intrinsically valuable, worth keeping building, let’s go to the next bucket, which is new. Okay, so now we’ve got a greenfield building. Always wonderful for an architect because there’s the opportunity for design and flair and imagination, as well as married into the practicality. Now, when you marry the flair and the practicality, together with the sustainability end, what’s the similar roadmap there. What’s the thought process as you’re doing that?
Lori Ferriss: I think with new construction there are really no excuses to use a lot of energy anymore or to build a building that’s not very efficient with resources, water, energy, other materials, all resources. The process almost it starts earlier because as you say, there’s so much freedom. So you can really be informed by things like massing and solar orientation and wind patterns and all of the you can really look at the site and kind of understand what building wants to be there, both aesthetically but also performatively similarly. I think early modeling is really important and as you say, the tools are proliferating. So I think now our problem is not having the data. It’s rewiring our design process to really use the data thoughtfully and to truly do data driven design, not just to tack the analysis on at the end to justify or post rationalize. I think it’s maximizing passive features obviously is really important. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. Again, reducing your loads. But how much can we achieve passively through better shading, through very tight envelopes, through very efficient envelopes, very thermally robust envelopes, through high efficient systems. And also it’s been really interesting working with clients on how far they’re willing to give in terms of Occupant experience and maybe backing off on temperature ranges a little bit and accepting that people might want to wear short sleeves in the summer or they might need to just keep a scarf with them in the winter. And small behavioral changes like that that can make a big difference as well.
Lincoln Payton: That’s resonating with people. They’re accepting that because it’s definitely one of the ways for managing. Again, talking my own book here, energy consumption in the built environment. Human change is a very significant component there.
Lori Ferriss: We’ve had some luck with this, especially in buildings that have more transient spaces like an atrium or a very large space that could have a very high heating and cooling load if you were to condition it very tightly. But understanding that people are moving through that psychologically, there might be different expectations around comfort already in a space like that. Those have been really good opportunities to reduce energy use. I think it requires more education and more discussion with users, which I think is a really good thing to reconnect people with their physical space. But it is a little bit of a mental shift. And I think this is one area where thinking about how the practice of architecture and the services architects provide need to evolve a little bit. I think one of those areas is really in post Occupancy. We’ve seen this when we do post-occupancy evaluations that people may be unhappy because they’re not comfortable, because they don’t know how to use their thermostat and that’s something that can be fixed or that they didn’t realize that they should open their window during this time so that Occupant conversation, that communication is really key.
Lincoln Payton: And I think it goes to the earlier point. We were chatting about education, which is if you can get the word out there, I think people are much more bought in to pulling a jacket on or opening a window, which has not been perhaps the previous few decades approach to certainly commercial real estate in terms of setting it to the temperature and leaving it there. So we’ll come back to operationally in a second. But in terms of materials around the new build, the greenfield environment, what are the choices and what are the genuine improvements? So I’m not talking now actually just about the operation of the building, I’m talking about the construction. Is there a menu of good choice that makes a difference there for today’s architect?
Lori Ferriss: Yeah, absolutely. Just to put a name on, I think we’re talking about embodied carbon, the emissions associated with materials extraction, manufacturing, transportation, which are really important because those are the emissions that happen day zero before anyone gets into the building. And particularly with the urgency of the climate crisis at this point, I think we really have to be careful and keep an eye on how much carbon we’re spending to save carbon. Essentially, like what is this upfront investment that we’re making, all the materials that we’re using in order to build these net zero buildings? Because even if it’s net zero, we’re going to have to get over this hump of carbon that we’re essentially generating right now.
I do think there are a lot of good options available now. We’re seeing policies like in London, for example, where lifecycle assessment is being required for buildings. And the city of Cambridge in Massachusetts, where I am now, also just passed an embodied carbon policy to require lifecycle assessment and disclosure of emissions and then to start requiring reductions. So I think it’s coming and the market is working in that direction. There’s a lot of innovation and we’re also seeing the regulation about the carrot and the stick coming to propel this forward.
As you mentioned, there are some low hanging fruit. Substitute cementitious material using less cement, which is the most carbon intensive part of concrete, even just that, using better concrete, using steel that’s made with an electric arc furnace, for example. Those kinds of strategies at the structural level can lead to emissions reductions in 20% to 30% range. So that’s pretty good. That’s a good starting point.
We’re also seeing the individual material level. A lot of environmental product declarations, EPDs are a nutrition label that give you this data and those are becoming more and more prominent and especially as they’re required in green building rating systems like lead or others. So those really, I think, allow architects or owners or anyone to make a smart choice because you’re able to have that transparency.
I think the other big thing here, obviously, is biogenic materials or natural materials like wood like CLT heavy timber construction, or wood fiber insulation, or hemp, or straw bale, all of these things which are having a resurgence, I think, as major materials that are viable for commercial construction. The caveat there is that we know that it relies on forestry techniques and it’s not really about the carbon in the material, it’s about how much is stored in the soil. So I think there’s no debate that using biogenic materials is a good thing. There’s a lot of debate about to what degree and specifically what materials are better than others. And is heavy timber really the best solution? I think it depends where is it coming from, how is it produced, what’s its end of life, what’s its whole life cycle going to look like. But certainly I think the biogenic materials is an area that we really should embrace as a community.
Lincoln Payton: You touched on something that’s interesting and leads very much into the third bucket, which is the operational side. So you’ve got the Greenfield building, what are the various inputs both at start and ongoing? You’ve got the refurbishment, which is certainly attractive from not starting many of those processes, carbon emitting again, and then you got the operational side. You touched on regulation. You mentioned lifecycle analysis in London. The US. Has been pretty light on regulatory frameworks in this respect. First of all, quick comment on how you understand the lifecycle assessment requirement for London. But then I’d love to translate that into some of the leading operational regulations that we’re seeing, particularly in our part of the world. Local Law 97 in New York, BERDO in Boston, in your hometown, which for me is the beginning of the thin end of the regulatory wedge. What’s the lifecycle analysis that you’re talking about there? And then we’ll take that into BERDO and Local Law 97.
Lori Ferriss: My understanding is that in London now, there is a requirement for commercial products to perform a whole building lifecycle assessment as part of the approvals process for projects. So projects actually have to quantify measures. There’s a framework established for how to do this measurement, how to perform this measurement, so that you’re disclosing those embodied carbon emissions associated with the project, not just having to meet an operational net zero. That’s similar to what we’re about to talk about in the Northeast, getting back.
Lincoln Payton: Mainstream, the regulatory road rising up to require more and more measurement, verification, reporting. It’s definitely coming. And London and Europe has generally been ahead of the United States in that respect. And I think there’s more transparency in a lot of the things they do, including, by the way, in the electricity and the renewable energy supply. How does that bridge into BERDO and Local Law 97 in our part of the world here on the operational energy supply for the real estate, as you say.
Lori Ferriss: Those policies have been coming into play first in New York and then in Boston with BERDO. And you mentioned that 40% number in terms of the contribution of buildings to global greenhouse gas emissions in Boston. Here it’s more than 70%. I think it’s around the same in New York City. So it’s really a huge percentage of the city’s carbon footprint. Here in the city of Boston, BERDO is first the disclosure and reporting and then the enforcement mechanism to force commercial buildings over 20,000 sqft down to net zero operations. And that’s been an interesting process to see. I’ve served on the Technical Advisory Group for the city for that and I think at the beginning it was about reporting. And I think one of the most important things about this is that it improves literacy first.
That’s step one is to socialize the concept and start asking for just disclosure and reporting so that people can get systems into place to even measure and understand their carbon impacts. And that’s been happening for several years. And now that we’ve moved into the next phase, which is to start requiring reductions and to have a financial penalty essentially associated with not meeting the reductions, that has trickier, obviously. And I think it works differently in New York with Local Law 97. It’s different in other municipalities in Massachusetts. So that’s one of the challenges, is that the rules change depending on where you are. It’s been interesting to see how it impacts new construction.
And Boston has, in tandem with that, has been working on their Zero Net Carbon Zoning policy, which is really an important counterpart because BERDO is about existing buildings, reducing the emissions of existing buildings. But as we know, all new buildings are existing buildings as soon as they’re built. So the zoning piece of it is setting new buildings up to then comply with BERDO once they’re operating. And then we’ve also seen challenges on the historic building side and I think there’s been a lot of focus on how to upgrade commercial buildings. Standard office building, what have you do the windows address air infiltration insulate if you can insulate the roof, replace your systems when they’re at end of life. But there are a lot of historic buildings in Boston as well, where it’s much more challenging. I think owners are still figuring out what this is going to look like. I think New York is slightly ahead of us, but in Boston certainly, we’re still trying to figure out what do you do with a building where you really can’t make that much improvement because it’s really historically significant.
Lincoln Payton: You mentioned Cambridge, Mass. So a particular town, what’s an example there of what a particular town is doing in terms of focusing on this challenge?
Lori Ferriss: Yeah, Cambridge has been really, I would say, on the leading edge, but they’ve been working on Embodied Carbon pretty intensively and recently developed their Embodied Carbon language to require lifecycle assessment for commercial buildings. I think as of now, residential buildings have been exempted. I think there’s so much concern around housing shortage. It’s a real social problem, a real economic problem. There’s some hesitancy around putting any further regulation on residential development, for better or for worse. But I think they’re one of the municipalities. There are a number around here who’s starting to tackle embodied carbon. And then our energy code in Massachusetts is very the new energy code is extremely aggressive, especially the opt in specialized stretch code which essentially mandates all electric passive house construction for new buildings. So that takes care of the operational piece just as the baseline, which is pretty exciting.
Lincoln Payton: Last question on this, and particularly in your part of the world. How are you advising clients to comply or what to do about complying with this new regulatory wave that has begun and is coming with BERDO and Local Law 97?
Lori Ferriss: I think a lot of it has to do with planning, both budgetary and logistical planning. Understanding what it’s going to take to meet the requirements, understanding that you are going to have to put funding towards this in order to avoid the financial penalties. So obviously there are some trade offs there like is it worth it to just take the financial penalty or to do the upgrade? But I think more of what architects have to offer is an understanding of how to meet these goals. And a lot of it has to do with, frankly, just maintenance planning facilities, maintenance planning and understanding the lifecycle of different systems and the turnover and understanding what’s feasible to do incrementally while space is occupied versus what you really need to decant a space to achieve. And those are really hard conversations and hard decisions. I know they’re hard for clients to make. Can you lose the square footage? Do you have tenants that you cannot essentially kick out for the amount of time it would take to do an upgrade? Because we know that it’s most effective and most financially efficient to just do it all at one time and to make your envelope more robust so that you can make your mechanical system smaller up front when you replace them, to have the space empty, to be able to do all of this in one sweep. But that’s typically not how it that’s a pretty lucky situation to be able to do it in that way. So really helping to understand if you have to change out of a piece of equipment, if you’ve got failing sealant on your windows, how can you take incremental steps that are all working towards that goal in the end? So that you’re being smart and efficient and not having to do things over and take out new work and spend a lot more money in the end.
Lincoln Payton: I know that in the assessing and evaluation you’ve come up with your own sort of software approach. If I’m right, it goes by the acronym CARE. C-A-R-E. What is that, Lori? And what does it help with that we’re discussing here?
Lori Ferriss: Yes. So the CARE Tool is an abbreviation for the Carbon Avoided Retrofit Estimator Tool. I was one of the original development team. The idea actually started with Larry Strain, who is a former principal of Siegel and Strain, architects out of the Bay Area in California. And so the two of us, in partnership with Architecture 2030 and specifically Aaron McDade there, developed this tool to really answer a question that Larry was asked by a campus, by a higher education campus. We have all these existing buildings. We’re reusing them. That’s got to be worth something environmentally. Where do I find the number for how much carbon I’ve saved by retaining these existing buildings? And there wasn’t an answer. There really wasn’t a tool or a simple way to do that. So that was the gap that the Care Tool is trying to fill. And that’s what it does.
It’s meant to be a pre-designed tool ideally used by planners, by owners, as well as by design professionals to ask this question. I have an existing building. What do I do with it? If I upgrade it to a certain degree of energy efficiency or a certain amount of internal renovation, what is the total carbon embodied and operational? And how does that compare to a new building? If I tear it down and start over, what if I can get a net zero building? What if I want to add square footage? What if I change the program and really gives you the high level carbon numbers so that you can make a smart, informed decision up front about how to treat existing buildings?
Lincoln Payton: Terrific. You’ve done some very interesting things on the build, the refit, the design, the operational contemplation, the measurement. But for you, what’s next? What’s next on the horizon? And maybe let’s take that first for a player like Goody Clancy in terms of okay, there’s the basic business that you’ve been doing for a long time. There’s some new evolution. You could argue what you’re doing is a new evolution relatively. What comes next for a big franchise like that? In terms of focus, yeah, I think.
Lori Ferriss: You talk about base services, and I think that’s it it’s almost elevating basic services that I think the role of the architect now so integral to our clients goals around climate and our professional obligation to health, safety and welfare, and so really making that a core part of our services. It’s no longer an add-on to pursue lead. It’s not an add-on to think about healthy materials. That’s just how we have to practice architecture. So I think that’s really part of the evolution. And I do think that the planning and regulatory side is really important and architects playing a bigger role in that, as you say, the practicalities of it, that we’re where the rubber hits the road. And it’s great to have these very aspirational policies, but it’s another thing, as you say, to implement them and make them real. So I think architects having a bigger presence in the development of these policies is really important. But I also think us thinking about the services we’re offering as that being part of our core services is important in things like decarbonization planning and deferred maintenance planning and bringing that in line with carbon goals. How do we start to bring together all of these plans? How do we bring them together into a single implementation plan, action plan? I think that’s a really big area where architects are going to hopefully be important over the next two years.
Lincoln Payton: So then that leads to the penultimate question, what about you then, the next five years?
Lori Ferriss: That’s a hard one, but I think the CARE Tool has been a really exciting activity for me personally and professionally. As you say. Architects don’t often get the chance to develop a software, so you learn a lot doing something new. And I think where we’ve gotten it now, it’s very useful for architects and it’s very useful for people looking at one building at a time. But a big next step for us is, as you say, tying that into policy, looking at the portfolio scale. So that’s something I’m hoping to contribute to with Architecture 2030. And over the next few years is how both with the tool itself, how do we make the tool work at that scale, but also how do we work? With other stakeholders, with city governments, with commercial real estate players to incorporate that kind of thinking into their management policies, into their climate action planning, so that we’re thinking holistically about whole life carbon and really thinking about leveraging the existing buildings as an asset towards climate action.
Lincoln Payton: Good. No look, it sounds very interesting indeed. Last question. What do you like to do in your spare time that makes you appreciate what there is?
Lori Ferriss: I do work a lot. You’ve identified that correctly. As you know, I have an almost five year old, so I spend a lot of time parenting, a lot of free time. But that is actually a great way to experience the world. We do a lot of traveling. We experience things for the first time. For example, we just went to our first symphony concert together because we couldn’t do that with the pandemic. So things like going to the symphony for the first time are so exciting to see that for yourself and through a child’s eyes. And I do play the violin as well, so it’s still a hobby that I played my whole life, essentially since I was three. So that’s a really important moment of beauty and release from the world for me as well.
Lincoln Payton: It’s excellent. I’m going to introduce you to a few fun people that you’ll have some things to talk about in those three areas. The sustainability, the architecture background, and the music as well. Very cool. It’s been lovely talking to you. Look forward to staying in touch and keeping up to date. And if you have new things, particularly new thoughts and approaches, particularly as the regulatory world evolves, we at ClearTrace have a very particular angle on that in terms of the renewable energy supply there. But just across the board, I think that the regulatory framework is going to keep evolving and I think you’re in a super interesting spot to pass that on and pass on the advisory thinking to our membership. So thank you very much for joining us today.
Lori Ferriss: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Dana Dohse: Thank you for joining us on the Decarbonization race. For more resources to help you lead the pack in the most important race of our lifetime, visit Cleartrace.io/podcast.