It is easy to get so focused on our daily tasks we lose sight of the big picture, the “why” behind all the activities we fill our days with. For those of us focused on designing, constructing and operating buildings the goal is both straightforward and monumental: to make buildings that are better for the people in them and the planet we share. The infographic below provides data points articulating how buildings impact people and the planet as well the magnitude of the challenge we face.
2.5 billion more people in cities over the next thirty years will demand massive new investments in infrastructure and construction. This demand needs to be met while simultaneously lessening our environmental impact. This only considers new buildings, but with only 1-2% of the global building stock turning over each year it is always existing buildings that represent the greatest challenge and opportunity to reduce energy consumption and related emissions. Increasingly the aspiration to build better buildings is there, as more people around the world see and acknowledge the benefits. Of course, the constraints are there as well. Time and budgets are always limited, both serving to reduce once grand aspirations to more modest outcomes. While this may be unavoidable in the building industry we cannot let it become an excuse to not try harder.
What if those inevitable value engineering meetings at least asked the question “is this the best building we can reasonably offer, for people and the planet?” while still asking “can we knock another X million off the cost?” Budgets and time will always be practical constraints, but letting them constrain our aspirations, our goal of building better buildings, is a choice we make each and every day. Let’s hope in 2019 we all do more to remember why what we do is important and strive to do the very best we can.