The practice of architecture, by its nature, carries responsibilities that extend far beyond ensuring the integrity of the buildings and spaces we create. For KPMB, this understanding of our profession’s broader impact is at the heart of our vision: We are committed to shaping a sustainable and equitable future to improve people’s lives through design. And our commitment is reflected in our core values, which include a pledge to seek positive social, environmental and economic impact through our work.
The environmental impact of architecture is a longstanding concern that has only intensified with the growing urgency to address the threat of climate change. As many governments, businesses and other organizations join forces in a wide range of climate action initiatives, architects have a crucial role to play. At least a third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the built environment. To dramatically reduce our collective carbon footprint, we need to shift our thinking on every aspect of how buildings are made, from the scale of the architecture to the techniques we can use to gain higher performance from time-tested materials. And in all of these efforts, we must leverage the latest scientific research to develop innovative, cost-efficient solutions. This is the kind of work we’re spearheading at KPMB LAB.
Equally important, as architects we understand that new forms of environmentally focused design must also consider the social and economic dimensions of sustainability. Our work remains anchored by our belief in the transformative power of community and reinforced by our efforts to advance equity, diversity and inclusion.
KPMB has been exploring and advancing sustainable design for a long time.
A prime example is Manitoba Hydro Place, completed in 2009 and still recognized as one of the most energy-efficient large-scale buildings in North America. This electrical utility headquarters was the first major office tower on the continent to be certified LEED Platinum, predicated on passive design principles. To reduce environmental impact while creating a healthy, supportive workplace, the building passively delivers 100% fresh-air ventilation with hydronic heating and cooling; uses passive technologies to drive ventilation systems with minimum energy; and optimizes workflow and interactions within a thoughtfully designed, human-centred environment.
KPMB’s holistic approach to sustainable design is evident across our portfolio of current projects. At Boston University, for example, the Center for Computing and Data Sciences will not only be an iconic campus landmark; it’s designed to be 100% fossil-fuel-free and will be the largest carbon-neutral building in Boston when completed. Similarly, the new Research Centre we’re creating at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto combines a mass timber structure with a double-facade system of wood and glass to exceed the LEED V4 Platinum standard. The result is an interior filled with fresh air and natural light, as befits an organization devoted to understanding and improving mental health.
The consistent theme running through our work is that architecture can’t simply respond to its surroundings; we have an obligation to protect and sustain the natural environment.
We also have a responsibility to support our clients as more and more organizations consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in their decision-making – and as many make explicit commitments, such as the widely endorsed pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Through our partnerships, we’re showing how architecture and design add crucial perspectives and tangible solutions to the business case for sustainability, particularly for clients who adopt a longer-term perspective in assessing the return on their investment.
In fulfilling this strategic role, we’re constantly reassessing how KPMB’s work contributes to community building, health and well-being, social equity, economic prosperity, and ultimately the resilience of our planet. Buildings have never just been buildings. But as the scope of our design mandate expands to contemplate everything from advanced green technologies to the impact of public spaces on social justice, we’re more focused than ever on the longer view – the view beyond the building – as we work with our partners to achieve a sustainable future.
Read more on KPMB’s approach to the challenge of climate change.