A coalition of eight architecture, landscape-architecture, and design organizations is pushing to create a new National Academy of Environmental Design. As a new part of the National Academies, the National Academy of Environmental Design would focus on the built environment, and how buildings and cities could produce less waste, consume less energy, and contribute to healthier living and work spaces.
The creation of a National Academy of Environmental Design is supported by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the Environmental Design Research Association, and other organizations.
A news release for the national academy, put out by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, notes that the built environment produces half of the world’s greenhouse gases and consumes 40 percent of the world’s energy. Those figures are much higher when applied to sectors of American society. For example, a recent report by the National Wildlife Federation on the business case for climate neutrality estimated that 70 percent to 90 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted on a college campus come from buildings.
Green building has become extremely popular in recent years, and silver, gold, and platinum ratings in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program have become a standard way of building on campuses. Yet many have said that the LEED program is just a start. After all, “net-zero buildings,” or buildings that produce more energy than they use, are still novel. So are buildings that deal with wastewater in unconventional ways. So are buildings made of some natural and recycled materials.
A proposal for the creation of the new national academy, distributed in November at a joint conference for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, called for an academy that would “serve the world by providing expert advice and assistance in the sustainable design and maintenance of landscapes, cities, and buildings, including their relationship to environmental effects on life-support systems of planet Earth.” New ideas in the environmental design and construction of cities and landscapes are always under way, the proposal said. “To deliver this knowledge in the most timely and powerful way to colleagues in allied disciplines and, more importantly, to the public, it is necessary to create a multiprofessional, multidisciplinary organization responsible only to the public.”
The proposal also said that the National Academy of Environmental Design would be a “parallel structure to the existing National Academies,” with members who are internationally recognized experts in their fields doing pro bono work for the public. —Scott Carlson