A month of the largest collective climate activist events in history culminates with the launch of the Climate Positive Design Challenge that enables the global landscape architecture profession to take climate action. The Challenge, founded by Pamela Conrad, Principal of CMG Landscape Architecture, establishes targets for reducing emissions and sequestering carbon in the built environment, with a goal of going ‘beyond neutral’ – sequestering more carbon than emitted and providing a positive contribution towards reversing global warming. The Challenge is part of an initiative that includes tools landscape architects can use today.
“Landscape architecture is the only design profession that can not only reduce emissions but also increase carbon sequestration,” says Conrad. “To date, we have not had the tools, guidance, or resources to make this contribution. With these now in place, it is time that we rise to the climate crisis. It is not only an opportunity to reimagine how we design our world from every aspect but a responsibility.”
Conrad is a 2018-2019 Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) Fellow for Innovation and Leadership. The Climate Positive Design initiative is the product of years of research and collaboration with Atelier Ten. Designers can meet the goals of the Challenge by logging projects into a web-based application called the Pathfinder. The app encourages design strategies that sequester more CO2 than they emit – becoming Climate Positive.
The goal of the Challenge is for global landscape architecture projects to collectively sequester more carbon than emitted between now and 2030. If the targets are continuously met, the profession has the opportunity to take one gigaton of CO2 out of the atmosphere beyond project emissions by the year 2050.
A web-based app called the Pathfinder is a landscape carbon calculator that guides designers on the path to meeting the goals of the Challenge and becoming Climate Positive by calculating the embodied carbon, operational carbon, and carbon sequestration of any landscape project. The sooner the project offsets the carbon footprint of the site, the greater its impact can be on drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere.
By providing tools, guidance, and resources, the initiative seeks to enable positive changes that can be made now and do not require new regulations or policies – merely activism through education. Beyond the Pathfinder, the website provides additional educational resources including a Design Toolkit and Case Studies that assist with making Climate Positive Design decisions.
CMG Landscape Architecture is incorporating the initiative into its practice and invites firms around the world to join them.