Just Architecture 2020 Practice + Design Conference
Day 2 Recap: “Just Sustainability”



By Victor Gonzalez

Architects have great power, and with great power comes the great responsibility of preserving our environment. The greatest challenges not only face our current profession, but also the design field as a whole. These were just a few of the takeaways from day two of the 2020 Practice + Design Conference focusing on environmental stewardship.

As architects, we are clear leaders in climate action and must direct our focus on sustainability. Staying resilient is what creates environmental stewardship, and with more focus on education and outreach in supporting our communities, we can achieve a more sustainable future. The conference today showcased innovative and vibrant designs that highlighted today’s theme, “Just Sustainability.” From the benchmarking requirements for museums by Joyce Lee to understanding the sustainable features of timber by Thomas Knittel and the maximized use of sunlight by Lake|Flato Architects, all entailed the influential factors of maintaining, “Just Sustainability.”

Afternoons were filled with member networking—of the digital variety. Each speaker held intimate breakout discussions and all reconvened for a thoughtful panel discussion. And from Denver to Durango, connections were made over happy hours with each of the sections with playful activities and reunions with old friends.

Below are key takeaways and along with a special illustration documented by a live illustrator Ellen O’Neill.





Joyce Lee | Just Culture

  • 1 of 300 LEED Fellows
  • Faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Serves on the COVID-19 taskforce
  • Part of a firm that takes the place of sustainability and wellness
  • Former national co-chair
  • Works on a variety of museums
  • Building benchmarking disclosures.
  • 3 museum Categories: art, history, and science
  • 3 size categories
  • Museum building age
  • Average site EUI by year
  • U.S. Climate Zones are new to museum owners who own a collection throughout the country.
  • Museum site EUI by climate zone
  • How do museums perform today?
  • Based on commercial building type and obviously there are consumption levels by climate zone.
  • Benchmarking cities
    • Example: Philadelphia
    • Sustainable Development Goals:
      • No poverty, zero hunger, etc.
    • ASHRAE CH 24
      • Collection: Public Space
      • Collect: Nonpublic Space
    • The culture of justice or just culture
    • Practice is focused on sustainability and balance.
    • Covid-19 Aerosol Transmission.
      • Open windows help with delusion.
      • Hospitals go through 12 air changes by hour.
      • Not all schools receive this air quality change, which is why there is such a concern for students and teachers.
      • Metropolis petition headline: Architects and designers are demanding healthier policy priorities.
    • “Just Culture” a longer term in cultural institutions. Architecture can improve life at all economic levels.
    • jlee@indigoJLD.com

Thomas Knittel | A Just Future Through Carbon-Balanced Buildings

  • Looking at a recently completed hotel in British Columbia
  • When we look at all the new construction that is projected to take place between now and 2050, we see the critical role.
  • This conference is fundamentally about ethics.
  • Architecture is a starting place of what it is available and what it can do.
  • Materials matter for planetary health:
    • Human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends.
    • Understanding that what is good for us must be good for the world, we must make the effort to know what is the best for the world, and change for it.
  • Rate of consumption per capita has significantly increased.
  • The material consumption has caused the increase of landfills.
  • The rural materials play a critical role in developing materials.
  • Change happens, and architects have a big role to play in the super sizer of construction
  • You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
  • Seeking planetary help in what would nature do differently in comparison to our destructive behavior.
  • Carbon fuel emissions are irreversible.
  • You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
  • It is more than carbon that we are responsible for and measuring.
  • 30 Regenerative keys: How we process energy, how mass timber can help.
  • Carbon-balanced buildings
    • Our material determines these emissions.
  • Cellular Flexibility
    • Clinic floor, outreach and training centers provide healthy air as possible.
  • This way it is key to work with our structural engineers.
  • Changing to curtain walls is one small, but significant example on how to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Orange County Sanitation District HQ
    • Board room, gathering space, and educational gathering space, acoustic clouds, a central core that includes gathering for common areas
    • Structural Carbon Balance Study – Mass Timber Option
    • Mass Timber alternatives complement the California building code
    • Timber should be recertified and reserved.
    • Must advocate for timber sourcing and forest tree practices.
  • There is a strong link between forest and people.
  • Ecosystem services must be preserved.
  • We must ensure that mass timber drives forestry.
  • Mass timber buildings could be four stories and 84 feet tall.
  • The story for the building is the tree itself.
  • Carbon reduction at the urban scale
    • Park City Initiative in China
      • The west mountains provide natural resources to the people.
    • The urban form that is proposed is to give a sense of place.
  • Buildings as carbon banks
    • Provide a new carbon cycle

David Lake and Heather Holdridge | Vitality and Livability of Communities

  • Urban design can strengthen the city.
  • Just nature, place, craft, restraint
    • Four ideals that drive work, that shows the best of “us”
  • Respond to the context.
  • Set sustainability goals for projects and then tracking.
  • Social justice, equity, justice, and inclusion is definitely an aspect of becoming sustainability.
  • “Just” label
    • Being more clear about our plan and term on social justice and inclusion.
  • Making sure that our building is day lit.
  • “Library of the future”
    • Every floor level had its own purpose and its connection to the other areas.
    • Have it connected by different age groups.
    • Stone civic building to demonstrate knowledge.
    • Animate the streetscape.
    • Add an event space.
    • Using the library to show a connection to nature.
    • Perimeter is lit by the daylight.
    • Goal: is oriented around the daylight capture. There was more dense shading provided, so there was no visual discomfort.
    • Maximizing daylight, reducing heat gain.
    • Testing the ideas through computer simulations.
    • How can we connect to the downtown district?
  • Confluence Park
    • Make sure that sustainability is present.
    • Storying water was expressed.
  • University of Denver – Wellness Center
    • Constructed out of mass timber.
    • Reduce the carbon impact emissions.