Corporate Social Responsibility and THE MAJOR BIG OPPORTUNITY for Architecture and Sustainability

Alyson Hallander / October 3, 2019

Across all industries, brands are choosing to be a force for good by recognizing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A few motivations are driving the movement:

  1. In order to continue to thrive and maintain profitability, brands recognize they have an important role to play in a changing social and environmental landscape.  CSR helps brands be resilient to change.
  2. Consumers are putting their money where their morals are.  CSR helps brands tell their stories of social responsibility to appeal to consumers.

The fun and interesting part about CSR is that there is no perfect equation to accomplish corporate social responsibility or report on it.  Everyone is trying to figure out how to best execute CSR and tell their story to consumers.

So… tell me how this relates to architects?

I’ve been on the sustainability software side of the industry for a while, which has offered me the opportunity to speak with A LOT of architects.  Most want to be more sustainable in their design efforts, but struggle to make it happen.

I often ask architects, “What holds you back from just designing to code minimum on more projects?”  The answer is usually: My client isn’t asking for it.

To that, I ask, “Who are your clients?” and second, “Are they doing CSR or thinking about it?” Because if they are, they probably do NOT have it 100% figured out.

THIS is your MAJOR BIG OPPORTUNITY to start a conversation! Say, “Hey! We can (1) design your buildings to lessen or neutralize your carbon impact.  (2) We can do it in a way that financially works for you. AND, (3) we can help you tell your story about how your efficient buildings translate to social value for CSR reporting.

 

For you as the architect, this helps you win BIG because a path has opened to better incorporate sustainability into your project AND you have gained more trust with your client by adding more value to the way they operate.

What does this look like in practice?

Leverage technology! There is a tool for everything.

Employ energy modeling from the very start of a project even before pencil has been put to paper.  PlanIT Impact makes it super easy and fast to find the best cost-effective design strategies that save energy and maximize return on investment for your client.

If you’re thinking, “I can’t do energy modeling – that’s only for engineers or the starchitects.” – YOU CAN. PlanIT Impact is designed to be used by just about anyone, especially architects of the everyday.

You can also use PlanIT Impact to make better decisions impacting indoor and outdoor water use and stormwater impacts from landscape design decisions.

Free online calculators like the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalency Calculator convert energy savings into metrics that people relate to more than kwh. As an example, let’s say that you used PlanIT Impact to save 500,000 kwh of electricity.  Input that into the calculator to get the below:

 

Not-so-free (but worth every penny) tools like Autocase create a full Triple Bottom Line Cost Benefit Analysis (TBL-CBA), which monetizes social and environmental impacts.  Autocase outputs exactly the type of metrics that fit perfectly within a CSR report.  Outputs from PlanIT Impact can be directly be input into Autocase for a fully fleshed out TBL-CBA.

 

 

Finally, tell a strong story.  In writing this post, I read a lot of CSR reports that give a ton of numbers, but are lacking in storytelling.  Urge your client to include a case study of your building in their CSR report highlighting the design process and measures that went into that building, and the value that came out of it.  Also, make sure they cite you for the design in their report.

If you need help implementing an approach like this, ask! Email me at ahallander@planitimpact.com.  I want to help.

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