Above & Beyond: A Data-Driven Commitment to Sustainable Design
November 2021 / By Mark Taylor, Russ Hazzard
Architect and AIA 2030 Founder Edward Mazria once said, “We tend to rush toward the complex when trying to solve a daunting problem, but in this case, simplicity wins. Better buildings, responsible energy use, and renewable energy choices are all we need to tackle both energy independence and climate change.”
Straightforward, responsible design has long been at the core of MG2’s strategy and philosophy, with sustainable principles and applications woven into our projects at every opportunity. Our three sustainability values—Environmental Stewardship, Purposeful Efficiency, and Restorative Measures—are a simultaneous embodiment of where our firm was the year they were defined and reflect where we want to be in the years to come. MG2 has worked to raise the bar on our designs over time, evolving to match—and where we can, exceed—sustainable certifications and benchmarks.
“We had always reviewed our specifications for opportunities to suggest sustainable products and methodologies to our clients, which when we started were just better choices from a location and ‘better for the environment’ point of view,” says Russ Hazzard, President of MG2.
“Today, those sustainable vendor and materials recommendations aren’t just convenience, they’re a fundamental part of our DNA and design process. As a result, clients who once might not have been open to alternatives are looking to us as experts and advocates, armed with the right solution to set them on a path toward a more sustainable future.”
As architects and designers of built environments, the implications of everything we do, of every project we take on, are unmistakable. AIA’s 2030 Challenge outlines two specific goals that pledge firms must strive toward:
- A 90% reduction in built environment operating energy systems by 2025.
- A 45% reduction—a percentage imposed by our own team—in built environment embodied carbon by 2025.
“Greenhouse gas emissions reduction is the challenge of the century for the entire industry.” states Johnny Klemke, Building Performance Analyst at MG2, “How do we keep building more and more while producing less and less impact in the natural environment? That’s the question we’re taking on at MG2. By helping teams come up with more efficient, less carbon-intensive solutions for their designs, we’re also showing clients that sustainability doesn’t need to be a cost burden on the project.”
By helping teams come up with more efficient, less carbon-intensive solutions for their designs, we’re showing clients that sustainability doesn’t need to be a cost burden.Johnny Klemke, Building Performance Analyst
“Our greatest hurdle is bringing the industry along with us,” says Jon Guerechit, a designer at MG2 helping to lead our operating energy initiative, “One benefit is that indisputable data makes it easier to convince clients that a cost-saving measure can also serve the environment. But the numbers aren’t always in our favor. Embracing the mindset of being a steward of the environment is harder because it forces stakeholders to think differently and invest in the distant future. It’s a mentality we’re pushing for across the board.”
Today, as we continue to evaluate and evolve our firm’s sustainability action plan, we’re committed to going above and beyond the goals outlined by AIA’s 2030 challenge by adding two more of our own:
- A rigorous commitment to working with forward-thinking vendors and using sustainable materials that adhere to the highest standards possible.
- A reduction of water consumption—30% to 45% for indoor and 50% for potable outdoor—in all of our projects by 2030
Adding materials to the mix.
From improving indoor air quality to reducing construction waste, the materials our architects and designers specify matter. Our choices represent an enormous opportunity to enhance the health of the planet and the people who live on it.
In addition to becoming proud signatories of the AIA Materials Pledge, MG2 has created our own rigorous Materials Evaluation System. Using a stoplight structure, our specialists analyze and rank every vendor, product, and material we use, to ensure that where and whenever possible, we’re adhering to the highest attainable sustainability standards for a better future.
PCC Community Markets—the largest grocery co-op in the United States—has partnered with MG2 for years on their journey to better their store’s materials and target LBC Petal Certification. In its Ballard location, the first grocery store in the world to be certified, over 40% of the materials—just shy of $1.4M—were sustainably sourced, with 9.2% of those derived from within 100 miles. Additionally, 100% of the store’s wood is FSC certified, with 10% of the elements reclaimed or reused.
“There is a misconception that we need to pursue green building certification to push for sustainable materials, or that we must only use sustainabile materials to make a difference in the world. Neither of these are true.”Candon Michelle Murphy, Materials Specialist
With MG2’s data-driven materials system comes a deep reservoir of knowledge and insight, but continuous education to overcome misconceptions and help our clients and partners understand the financial and environmental investment is still critical.
“The largest challenge around the selection of sustainable materials is the misunderstanding of what costs are associated with it.” mentions Candon Michelle Murphy, MG2’s Materials Librarian, “It is true that there are specific material categories on the market that represent a high cost add if the sustainable selection is desired, but there are quite a few categories where there is no or nominal fee add to make a far more environmentally-sound final installation.
“There is also a misconception that we need to pursue a green building certification to push for sustainable and healthy materials, or that we must only put in sustainable materials to make a difference in the world. Neither of these is true, however: any selection that supplies a reduction of embodied carbon, lesser the amount of VOCs put into interior spaces, and provides for reclamation of materials or diversion from landfills still makes a difference.”
Fundamental impact through water reduction.
Water is one of the earth’s most precious resources. While many of us take fresh, clean water for granted in our day-to-day lives, architects who create built environments in areas where this resource is not so abundant continually have its preservation, reduction, and recyclability top-of-mind.
MG2’s water conservation goal—our fourth and possibly most ambitious sustainability initiative—is to reduce indoor water use in appliances such as toilets and faucets by 30% to 45% and to reduce potable outdoor water consumption in landscaping and irrigation by 50% in every single one of our projects by the end of 2030.
“Among dozens of reasons, a reduction of water in our projects is important because it can lower water withdrawals from local water sources,” states Maribel Barba, designer and co-lead of MG2’s water conservation goals, “allowing us to better harmonize with the local environment, increase water availability for all, and improve community relations.”
While our water conservation goals may be new to many of MG2’s clients, some have been pioneering innovative technologies and water reduction tactics in their build environments for years. For example, longtime partner Costco has been working with MG2 on implementing water solutions programming into its warehouses throughout Mexico and the Southwest US for years, an initiative that awards them a 20% annual water savings.
The wholesaler giant recently took an even more significant leap into the future of water conservation with its Costco Santa Fe store. Complete with a one-of-a-kind green roof that acts as a natural extension of Parque La Mexicana, the Santa Fe location was designed with numerous water-saving technologies, including toilets and landscape irrigation that utilize recycled water and a stormwater collection system in the Parque lake. Restroom fixtures were also installed with 50% less water demand, according to baseline.
“Even when water conservation processes have been implemented for several years, I think it is still being a challenge for firms to sell this idea to some partners.” says Christian Razo, designer and co-lead of MG2’s water conservation goals, “Many do not realize how much water you can save, or even the consequences of not saving water. We do our best to educate every one of our clients on the rewards of implementing these processes, including the satisfaction of knowing that what you’re doing is helping future generations.”
We’ve come a long way in our sustainable design practices and are immensely proud of the benchmarks many of our projects and partnerships have achieved. But the reality is, MG2 is just getting started.
“When we set out to create MG2’s formal framework for sustainability, we knew it needed to resonate with all staff and be embedded in the culture of the firm.” says Mark Taylor, MG2’s Sustainability Lead, “Our data-driven approach speaks directly to the results-oriented nature of the firm and will be the backbone of our success as we continue on our journey.”
MG2’s Sustainability Action Plan
Learn more about our above-and-beyond commitment to the future of our planet in our AIA 2030 Commitment Sustainability Action Plan, or by reaching out to our sustainability team.