GreenWorks Solves Tough Problems: Climate Change


Not long ago, during the sharing portion of our Monday morning meeting, several of our staff brought up the recent (and somewhat alarming) Climate Change report released by the United Nations. They posed the question: what can landscape architects do to address problems of this magnitude with our work?

To answer the question, our team is meeting every other week during lunch to discuss topics like:

  • Climate Change

  • Equity/Inclusion

  • Houselessness

  • Resilience

  • Novel Ecosystems

  • Design for Health

  • Universally Accessible and Culturally-Sensitive Design

Led by Associate Principal Jason King, the group is evaluating outside research and resources as it examines one issue each meeting. First seeking to better understand the issue itself, the group then brainstorms how we can contribute to solving the problem at hand through thoughtful landscape architecture and environmental design.

The team kicked off this new initiative with two meetings on climate change and looked at a variety of resources including Drawdown's 100 Solutions to Solve Global Warming. Some of us were surprised to learn that Refrigerant Management sits at the top of the list. While it wasn’t immediately clear how landscape architecture could play a role in refrigerant management, with a little creativity and conversation, we ended up with a number of ideas including tree plantings to reduce building temperature with proximal shade and cooling through leaf transpiration.

From there the group discussed everything from science-based methodology, metrics to measure climate change effectiveness, the pros and cons of sustainability certifications like SITES and LEED, how we can avoid greenwashing and make truly effective design decisions, and the important role of soil.

Action items included looking into collaborations with the research community, developing our own internal calculators for measuring the effectiveness of sustainable design, redefining our GreenWorks sustainability filter, and developing soil restoration plans to include with project specifications. Stay tuned for updates on our progress!

Though the group is excited to discuss other issues in the months ahead, for GreenWorks the conversation about climate change and sustainability is never over—it’s at heart of what we do everyday.

Why? Because as Nancy Somerville said at ASLA this year, “there are many voices and many experts leading the charge on reducing carbon emissions, there are fewer voices and even fewer experts who understand what needs to be done to help communities adapt to the changing climate. This profession has unique knowledge and a profound responsibility to help address the issues of climate adaptation and community resilience.”