Designing for people and planet

by Matt Gifford, AIA and Pete Rasmussen, AIA

Creating human-centered designs

At Shepley Bulfinch, we approach sustainability holistically, evaluating the broad range of elements that the term “sustainability” encompasses and pursuing those most relevant to the project and place. Studies have found critical links between the design of the built environment and the physical and mental health of its occupants. Our teams approach each project with this in mind throughout the design process. At a project’s onset, we work closely with the client to understand their values and outline the various ways in which the building’s design could impact its users and the broader planet. This allows us to create a customized design approach that reflects the client’s priorities around the health and wellness of people and planet.

With each of our three major market sectors–education, urban development, healthcare–we’ve seen the importance of adapting our sustainability approach to the client’s needs. With learnings and studies on our planet evolving in education, students and faculty are incredibly well-educated as they’re absorbing the latest events in real time through their academics. With urban development, we have found some users prioritizing the environment upon their housing search by looking for buildings that have LEED ratings. And lastly, with healthcare, our clients are focused on how substantiality impacts the wellness and occupants of the building.

Guided by Trajectory, our strategic plan, we developed four aspirational goals related to people and planet. We will utilize our approach to achieve these goals by 2030. Our goals are:

  1. To incorporate healthier materials and be red list free (no red list materials)
  2. To reduce the embodied carbon in our projects by 65%
  3. To make 75% of our active projects carbon neutral
  4. To prioritize wellness while integrating inclusivity and equality in our sustainability commitment
Hamline University | Anderson University Center
As designers, we know the impact our work has on people, communities, and the planet. We believe that it is imperative that the built environment is part of the solution to our climate crisis. We look forward to continuing to partner with our clients to unlock the potential of their projects while addressing the critical needs of people and planet.
University of New England | Danielle N Ripich Commons (l). Loyola University | Fernandez Center (r).

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