As the current U.S. Administration struggles to articulate a cogent response to irrefutable climate change and lurches out of the Paris Agreement, it falls to states, cities, municipalities and individuals to step into the serious breach of leadership and take up the work of rescuing our world. In the U.S., over 40 percent of energy is consumed by buildings; as a stakeholder in a small design firm, I’m painfully aware of the small role I have to play in the scheme of things. And, yet it will be through the efforts of hundreds of thousands like you and me that we will literally build a cleaner, more secure and more sustainable world. We can all look to the small but important ways that we can contribute to a positive future worthy of our aspirations.
For buildings under about 50,000 square-feet, or for larger “thin” buildings whose cores are proximate to their skins, climate energy loads dominate over internal ones. That is, small or thin buildings’ energy performance is largely, though not entirely, given by their responsiveness to climate. For large buildings, internal loads—occupancy, equipment and lighting—generate most of the energy that building systems must mitigate for thermal comfort. Even large buildings, however, may have zones that are heavily influenced by climate. Designing for climate is therefore critical for any responsible architect. Furthermore, climate-indexed design provides ready opportunities to find formal expressions that are functional, while beautiful.