This is the final installment in our Carb-Unloading series examining our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and ways we can reduce it.
As architects, we are constantly exploring and implementing measures to make the buildings we design more energy-efficient and to reduce their carbon footprint. To do so, we consider both the materials and systems that go into our projects. This effort is also consistent with one of HMFH’s guiding design principles: Betterment.
In 2016, we signed the AIA’s 2030 Commitment; last year, in honor of our 50th anniversary as a firm, we examined our office operations to understand our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Our goal was to determine how we could modify our behaviors and practice to reduce that impact. We have called this effort “Carb-Unloading” and posted updates about the data we collected along the way.
Our investigation focused on the main components of our practice that contribute to our carbon footprint: our electricity and gas use, material consumption, waste production, travel to job sites, and employees’ commutes to the office. In each case, we examined our impact, then set definable goals for reductions.
HMFH’s total carbon dioxide equivalents are approximately 121.5 tons per year. The largest components break down as follows:
The biggest portion of our greenhouse gas emissions comes from our transportation, which includes both daily commuting and our regular business travel. The transportation needle is difficult to move, but we are taking incremental steps. We provide no-interest loans to employees who want to purchase bicycles to promote biking to work; we subsidize joining a bike-sharing program; and we are encouraging carpooling to construction sites. We are considering the purchase of an electric vehicle for use by employees for their trips to construction sites and meetings. We continue to request electric and hybrid cars from the rental company we use.
We switched to purchasing 100% renewable energy for the portion of our electricity consumption that we control—that which runs through our electric meter. If we didn’t purchase this renewable power, our energy consumption could be twice as high. We also use automobiles more than the typical office given our necessary travel to job sites and evening community meetings. Our building’s management company determines the energy sources and systems used to heat and cool our office. To date, we have not convinced them to switch to renewable sources, but we are pushing for this change. In the meantime, we are trying to be conscious of our choices.
Our internal waste is not called out separately in this graphic, but is part of our office energy-use total. We have implemented operational guidelines that will reduce our waste and recycling in our office and with our lunch vendors, such as buffet-style rather than individually boxed lunches, to cut down on single-use cutlery and bottled drinks. We have also identified an independent composting company for future use.
Every effort comes with its own challenge, reminding us that no one can do this single-handedly. For now, as we continue to explore options, we have decided to purchase carbon credits to offset our greenhouse gas emissions. We considered a variety of projects and collectively voted to support a renewable energy project in Honduras that provides clean water. We will continue to monitor our emissions with the goal of reducing our global warming impact—with the ultimate goal of reducing and someday eliminating the need to purchase carbon credits to offset our emissions. At that point, our carbon credits would allow us to become carbon-negative!
We look forward to working toward that future and keeping you informed of our efforts.