by Pamela Conrad, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, and Paulina Tran, Affiliate ASLA
Climate change is front and center as the world is experiencing unprecedented natural disasters, wreaking devastating, visible impacts on our society and the planet.
CMG Landscape Architecture Principal Pamela Conrad and her team of landscape architects, environmental designers, data scientists, and tech gurus continues to advance Climate Positive Design—a movement to improve the carbon impact of the built environment through collective action. Since its launch in the fall of 2019, Climate Positive Design provides accessible tools, guidance, and resources to have a positive impact on climate change.
Available on ClimatePositiveDesign.com, the Pathfinder is a free web-based app that provides project-specific guidance on reducing carbon footprints while increasing carbon sequestration. Users receive instant carbon feedback and a Climate Positive Scorecard with detailed statistics that can be plugged directly into Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and design suggestions to improve carbon impacts.
Pathfinder 2.0 was released August 2020 with new features and improvements since the initial launch on September 30, 2019 that include:
Addition of custom material, plant, and operational inputs
Comparison of design alternatives
Analysis of existing conditions
Understanding site impacts
Existing tree impacts (cutting down trees, mulching, converting into timber and site furnishings or biochar)
On September 12, 2018, San Francisco hosted international leaders of various countries, states, regions, cities, and businesses, celebrities and environmental justice pioneers invited by California Governor Jerry Brown for three days at the Global Climate Action Summit. This group shared Climate Action initiatives to support the Paris Agreement goals and made bold new pledges for a future low carbon economy – specifically to prevent a 1.5 degree Celsius increase and to ensure a climate turning point of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations by 2020.
As part of the Summit, CMG Landscape Architecture hosted an event titled “Climate Positive City Design” – a multidisciplinary panel discussion and salon bringing together over one hundred people to discuss how thinkers, academics, innovators, and designers can work together to strive beyond neutrality, and bring about positive change to our climate. The group of nationally recognized leaders in environmental design and policy included Ryan Allard – Senior Fellow at Project Drawdown, Claire Maxfield – Director at Atelier Ten, Lisa Fisher – Sustainability City Team Lead, San Francisco Planning Department, and myself with panel moderation by Chris Guillard, ASLA – Partner at CMG.
The conversation ranged from how designers can implement solutions from Project Drawdown to how we can collaborate with City agencies to make policy adjustments towards a lower carbon urban environment – but unanimously across the panel and around the room, the message was clear – we all need and want to take action.
The climate is changing. Temperatures are rising along with sea level, and the IPCC recently produced an updated report on the urgency of the situation. It is clear that we have a critical role to play in adapting to the effects of climate warming along coastlines, but is there anything we can do as a profession to mitigate the causes of climate change?