Episode 10, Sustainability and Inclusion

Climate change is one of the most urgent problems of our era. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report number 152 from 2017 focuses on climate change and social inequality. The report identifies three main channels through which the inequality-aggravating effects of climate change develops,
(a) increase in the exposure of the disadvantaged groups to the adverse effects of climate change;
(b) increase in their susceptibility to damage caused by climate change, and
(c) decrease in their ability to cope and recover from the damage suffered.
The report shows the relation between climate change and marginalized populations.

Jutta Treviranus and John Peterson

John Peterson and Jutta Treviranus on Sustainability and Inclusion!

Hi, we are Arezoo Talebzadeh and Kaveh Ashourinia, and this is our podcast on inclusion.
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Quantization is an independent project with the support of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University.
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Kaveh: Hello and welcome to episode ten of Quantization.

Arezoo: Climate change is one of the most urgent problems of our era. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report number 152 from 2017 focuses on climate change and social inequality.
The report identifies three main channels through which the inequality-aggravating effects of climate change develops,
(a) increase in the exposure of the disadvantaged groups to the adverse effects of climate change;
(b) increase in their susceptibility to damage caused by climate change, and
(c) decrease in their ability to cope and recover from the damage suffered.
The report shows the relation between climate change and marginalized populations.

Kaveh: We decided to focus on these issues in responding to marginalized populations in a series of conversations.
How these issues affect cities and societies and at the same time, urban planning and decision making of future growth?
Are these top/down or bottom/up issues?
Is economic growth against sustainability?
And how to empower the marginalized population in the process of climate change?

Arezoo: We are starting with Sustainability and Inclusion. A conversation between an architect and a world expert in the field of inclusive design.

Arezoo: You are listening to Signal on Quantization podcast. This episode: “Sustainability and Inclusion.”

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Jutta: Do you need us to do the introductory?

Arezoo: Yes, do the introductory.

Jutta: OK!

John: We introduce ourselves?

Jutta: Yes!

Jutta: I’m Jutta Treviranus. I’m the director of the Inclusive Design Research Center at OCAD University.

John: And I’m John Peterson. I’m a senior associate at MJMA Architects in Toronto. I’m also the director of Sustainable Design & Building Innovation.

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Jutta: And we’ve had quite a number of local events, global events that have brought these two topics together. One of the thing that is happening currently is reactions and efforts towards something called Architects Declare. Can you tell me a little bit about that John?

John: Yeah. The Architects Declare movement started in the UK in May of 2019 and it’s been a bit of a groundswell across the Commonwealth, particularly with Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, all having their own Architects Declare. And the Canadian Architects Declare movement came out of the RAIC’s [Royal Architectural Institute of Canada] committee for regenerative design and it came to being in around labour day weekend in September of 2019. And so far we’ve got over 170 signatories on it and it’s just grown from there.

Jutta: And what do the architects commit to that are signatories?

John: Well, the UK Architects Declare particularly looked at the climate emergency that we are currently in, with a particular focus on biodiversity and an idea toward that all design should be regenerative as well. Within the Canadian context, and this is a kind of a great laudable aspect of it, is it brought in ideas of indigeneity, brought in ideas of circular economy and kind of a little broaden the ask a little bit more of what people were signing on for.

Jutta: That’s great. And so there are quite a few resonant ideas within inclusive design and within the various movements that support sustainability, one, you mentioned biodiversity and certainly inclusive design can be characterized as designing for diversity and designing in such a way that we engage diversity and we think of the full diversity of potential users or stakeholders or individuals that are impacted by the design. Can you think of other ways in which the two fields might be resonant?

John: Well, I think one aspect in terms of the work we do at our office, we have a very strong aspect of community design and we’re seeing a lot of the aspects of resiliency fitting into that and resiliency at its heart really wants to be inclusive and diverse within how it’s responding to the community. So we do a tremendous amount of community engagement process and how to really vet out the programs that we’re putting into some of these public buildings. So you can see that there is really a great, really strong synergies between inclusivity and these community design especially when you’re talking about some of the kind of the more communities that are at risk. And particularly when you’re talking about the climate emergency, you’re talking about when there’s a storm event and maybe there are power outages, where do the people go? And those kinds of the idea of resiliency centers are really strong and are becoming much more of a requirement amongst some of the work that we’re doing in the cities.

Jutta: Yeah. In inclusive design, we talk about the benefits of designing right to the edge and engaging individuals that have difficulty with or can’t currently use the urban plan or the current existing designs that’s where we get further innovation, that’s where we actually create a system if we’re designing to encompass that edge that is much more adaptable and much more flexible and responsive. One of the things we also talk about is recognizing that we’re currently designing in a complex adaptive system, whether it’s a city or a building or a community. And there we need to attend to individuals that are at that edge because they are, as you say in climate disasters or any of these scenarios that are coming up faster and more furiously, the individuals that are at the edge or that can’t use or have difficulty using our current urban plans or our current designs, whatever they may be, are the first to feel the effects. They are the stress testers, the canaries in the coal mine, as we say.

John: Absolutely. Yeah. I think they’re also probably some of the most soft-spoken within the communities. They’re the ones that don’t vocalize. And so you’re hoping that the design team is able to advocate for those players within the design. And I mean, it’s always a challenge when you’re in kind of meeting space and you’ve got a number of people around the table and the most soft-spoken one may not be the one or maybe the one that needs to actually be saying the most. So, we try to encourage engagement at many different levels and in terms of kind of how we go about, whether it’s through kind of community design where you’re going to specific communities themselves, we have a project up in Western North York where we had a meeting at a community center, but then we also actually went out to the local high school and actually had a session there with all the students that would be engaging within that building complex. But you get the feeling that there’s also a lot of people that might not have come out. And so there were online surveys that we tried to put out as well, and I’m trying to, again, it’s how do you engage the people that are not really wanting to be engaged?

Jutta: Well, one of the things that we’ve certainly heard from communities that we try to engage is that there is either some consultation fatigue within the disability community, there are five groupings that people like to check off. We’ve encouraged or we’ve had the participation of someone who’s blind, someone who is deaf, et cetera. So designing participation and giving voice to people who may not have the resources or have been excluded from the decision-making table before is a big part of what we focus on inclusive design. How do we design the table? How do we determine who’s missing? How do we bring people in to help us design a table, meaning a decision-making table that would include their perspective and would respect their perspective? What types of strategies do you use?

John: I mean, in terms of the strategies that we try to employ, it’s as broad a tool kit as you can possibly imagine. It’s online surveys, it’s mail outs, it’s creating a website, creating a social media presence, hands-on where we’ll have a big community meeting and we’ll be out there on forces, get a third of the office out just to basically meet with people and talk with them and try to understand what they desire and supply food and drink so that they can actually be there with their families as well so that the kids aren’t too bored. You got to become a part of the community almost to really engage with it. And it’s super interesting when you start to kind of anticipate and what do we need to do now. One interesting thought that I’ve seen over the past soft of while is this idea of community resilience.

Jutta Treviranus and John Peterson in the Quantization Studio

John: But when we design these buildings, for the community to be an active member and kind of enhancing but sometimes there’s organizational resilience, which is a really super interesting conversation to have and this is like, is there a potential there where you can actually help the community organize themselves so that they can better serve and be resilient for themselves and so like getting understanding whether there’s an elder or ageing population that comes in and they need to meet more regularly and you design maybe I don’t want to say you’re designing the group but it help the community organize themselves to become a little bit more resilient, especially when it comes to in times of emergency and it’s like if there is a power outage and this person hasn’t been seen for a couple of days, how do you go about in those moments of crisis, pick up the phone or knock on that door to find out if that person is okay.

Jutta: Right. Yeah. We have a strategy that we call embedded co-design where what we do is we create a kit that helps community organizations to co-designer, to be able to articulate and capture what it is that they require. It sounds like you’re using similar tactics.

John: Yeah. Well, I mean, we haven’t been able to use this one in particular, but I know it’s something that we’ve been talking about internally. And I’m excited to think about what that means for the next building that we designed. And the idea of enhancing community especially kind of talking about future climate. I mean, the modelled pieces that the City of Toronto has gone ahead and hired consultants to actually predict what the future climate is going to be by 2050. It’s startling to see the shift of what we’re looking at. And the design of buildings that we’re doing now should function just well enough for that same future climate. And when you’re talking about changing complete climate zones within that in the next 20 years, 30 years, it’s really quite startling. So you hope that using the best passive strategies you can possibly use will actually make the building flexible and adaptive to those and future climates and making sure that you’re not creating something that’s going to be a bit of a burden to the community later on.

Jutta: So most of our work at the moment is in the digital space where there is much more opportunity for something that is adaptable, that’s mutable, that’s plastic, where you can have behaviours that change over time. Are there similar things within architecture, or within the industrial design or community design?

John: Well, I mean, architecture is a very digitally adept profession, particularly within the kind of practices that are particularly interested in this aspect of responding to climate change. Being able to kind of actively using data and metrics to kind of drive some design aspirations within the project, and understanding what impact that gesture is going to have in terms of the use of the space, in terms of how it operates or is it a detriment to it later on down the road. I think these digital files or whether they be a building information model, or even just something as dumb as a small graphic model, I think they all have their influence within the projects, and particularly how we put them into analysis software so that we can better understand where they’re going to fit and when they get built, as well as in another 20 years in that future climate.

Jutta: So these are predictive models that you use to plan and then execute the design of the building?

John: Exactly. Yeah.

Jutta: Do you anticipate that there will be greater use of designs that can respond to changes, that can respond to … So I know there’s been a discussion of things like 4D printing or embedding behavioural aspects into a variety of different structures within buildings. Is that actually coming to fruition in any way?

John: I think there’s a lot of research going on around the world in terms of the expansion of how digital processes, as well as new manufacturing techniques, can influence architecture. Sometimes the best piece of architecture though, that you can do is something that’s adaptive and flexible within its own structure. And one of the greatest kinds of examples of what would be the Victorian warehouse building. Those are adaptable. Those are resilient materials, their natural materials tend to be wood structures with some brick veneer, and those who have housed many startups, many design firms, anything it can possibly be, they can be put into these flexible environments in an urban context. And they’re all around this particular neighbourhood that we’re here in Toronto. But that just goes to show that you can have something that is over 120 years old and still be truly effective in terms of it being adaptable and resilient within the context of what it needs to be as an architectural framework.

Jutta: And you were speaking about using data to predict and to help you to make decisions. One of the things that I’ve been quite concerned about is the data analytics that we use that are based upon statistical significance and predictive modelling, which of course, takes you away from those individuals at the edge that we were talking about because you require a large margin of sample in order to make any conclusive determinations. And the prediction or probability always reverts to the mean. So, do you have any practices where you are looking at the edge and outliers, small minority edge scenarios that I would think that would be quite relevant, especially as you’re trying to predict climate changes or weak signals of disruptive or unexpected events that might happen with the buildings?

John: Yeah, I find that kind of funny like, just thinking about it now that the use of data, like when you’re collecting all of this data, particularly from whether it be for surveys is that you do your best to try to kind almost rationalize the data, and sometimes that tends to push out the outliers. So you can kind of get smooth it all out. So you can actually get something that’s more about the mean and the median. So that is complete the antithesis of actually looking for those outliers. I mean, in a kind of a weird way. So I would say that I don’t think we’re at the stage yet where we’re looking specifically within the data collection processes we use to try to achieve or attain the voice of those people that are at risk, and maybe that’s just an inadvertent aspect of how we’re collecting this data. Maybe we need to ramp up our game to actually be able to hear these groups.

Jutta: So you think it’s an issue of the data gap, or do you think that there’s some way they announced this happen.

John: I think maybe assist our own skills within the office, maybe we just have to become a little better at what we do there. But I know that when you get these big massive data sets, and you get to collect, you are trying to winnow them down to something that is tangible and say, “Yeah, well, there’s one correlation there that we can pull out”. So, yeah, interesting. I never really thought about it that way. But in terms of the algorithms that go into understanding that data, or like whether using generative design to utilize that data, to inform something else. I mean, these are things we’re starting to explore a little bit. But again, an algorithm, it’s a bias in it, like you’re writing a bias.

Jutta: And biasing towards the largest homogenous group, its majority rule.

John: And majority rules. Unless we start to rethink our algorithms to kind of pull out those outliers. And seems like you go for the long tail. And yeah, that’s an interesting discussion.

Jutta: But it’s also the weak signals. I mean, as we said at the beginning, the individuals that are at the edge are the first signs that something’s going wrong. They’re the most vulnerable. And so they’re the best stress testers of whatever your design might be.

John: Yeah, well, that’s an interesting way to put it. You run through, you get your data, you run through with your algorithm to kind of define that design and then you test it against with the outlier.

Jutta: I think there’s general agreement that we’re in moving into or we are already in the complex event horizon. So it isn’t the usual Gaussian curve or the normal distribution in terms of what events are coming down the road, things are becoming more and more complex and more entangled and interactive. So its complexity theory needs to be part of our thinking. And within a complex terrain, you need that diversity and you especially need the individuals that are unlike the typical or the average because they are the bellwether of something that you may not have considered, that isn’t anticipated. That’s not within your current vision.

John: Yeah, no, definitely. Definitely.

Jutta: So one of the things we say an inclusive design is that inclusive design is a precarious value, that nobody would disagree, that it’s a good thing that you should do it. And, in fact, inclusive design, inclusion, diversity have become these buzzwords that to some extent, are losing their real meaning.

John: Same as sustainability. Yeah.

Jutta: Right. Same as sustainability. And whenever there’s a budget crunch or there’s a time crunch, they sort of fall off the table, or they are relegated to something that’s going to happen afterwards. Is that a similar phenomenon in sustainability as well?

John: Yeah. Well, you can see that within the Architects Declare movement because they’ve reframed it. It’s in a climate emergency. And just to let people know that is something a little bit more drastic. It’s not something that’s going to be like 30 years, we’re talking … We have like, 10 years to respond. The bringing out new language idea of regenerative design, although it’s been around since the 70s. And really emboldened during the 90s and early 2000s, the aspect of biodiversity, bringing all those pieces out is super interesting. And I think really important. The aspects of inclusivity I think within decolonization and indigeneity is a super poignant one for Canadians. And I can’t wait to see how that comes to fruition within the design as we move forward. I think it’s probably one of the hardest, hardest ones to hit. Because the groups again, just don’t seem to have the voice within the communities that we’re doing the work in.

Jutta: Yeah. Well, it requires a huge paradigm shift in terms of what, how we need to rethink, not just our processes, our assumptions, and it’s critical that it does happen. There are quite a number of affinities between inclusive design, especially inclusive design research and indigenous research methods. And the emphasis on multiple perspectives, the holistic view of what you are intervening. One of the things that we’ve been exploring is this idea of epistemic justice, where epistemology being ways of knowing, and there has been a tendency to ignore certain ways of knowing or disrespect certain ways of knowing, and some people or many people also talk about at the epistemicide, meaning that we’re sort of killing off to some extent the various ways of knowing, and those ways of knowing are additional perspectives that we need for that diversity of approaches that we need to take to the complex adaptive system that we’re working with right now.

And certainly, indigenous communities have a much richer, more fulsome, or more multi-perspectival sense of how to look at something, how to explore the possibilities that are there. And the science tradition is all about using data as from the past, there’s very little there with respect to imagining futures or thinking about what might be, it’s more about predicting what might be from, what was in the past or what is currently in the present, the data that we have. So I think we need to go well beyond that if we simply use data and data analytics and evidence as we currently think of it, then we are restricting our views to optimizing from the past. It’s not a way to change the culture. It’s not a way to do something that is a paradigm shift. That’s significantly different.

John: Yeah, definitely some of the kind of indigenous principles that have come out in the past little while, like in a sense of how designers can respond to it and looking at the three generations back, the current generation, and three generations forward is a super interesting way to really think differently about the project and trying to figure out what that means.

Jutta: Yeah, and our responsibility to future generations that put in that.

John: Yeah. And it really comes down to place and understanding, like going back those three generations is a powerful message and understand that of those people that were in that particular place. And there was an indigenous design conference in Ottawa a couple of years ago and done in conjunction with the RAIC festival, and it was really amazing to see some of the worldwide leaders in terms of indigenous design come forward. There was a group out of New Zealand that was kind of … One presenter, she was doing her master’s thesis on the idea of stories in place. And it was really just beautiful in terms of what she was using in terms of GIS mapping and bringing in stories of place and how that means in terms of what or who she was within her community. It was really just mind-blowing. But it was all very beautifully done in terms of the process that she went through. And the technology she was actually using was really quite wonderful.

Jutta: Right. And certainly within the science tradition or the Western tradition, what we’re doing is we’re winnowing down to a more and more siloed more fairly specific and reductionist view of planning.

John: Yeah, non-expansive.

Jutta: Not expansive, not connected. Yes. Neither connected through generations nor connected even through disciplines or fields. And, yes, I think we definitely need to broaden our horizon in terms of the types of perspectives we include.

John: Yeah, and I think coming to it from just a maybe on like a fundamental concept of trying to what does it mean to decolonize your design? How do you get past that western tradition? For architects, it’s an incredibly difficult conversation to have especially with all old white males like myself, so little bit of a problem there.

Jutta: Yeah. And in our area of, because we’re frequently dealing with individuals with disabilities, there is this tendency towards charity models, which I have similar issues. One of the things I frequently talked about to try to communicate the types of futures that we could have is I say that there are three types of potential futures, the one is the continuing with the type of competitive notions of what is Darwinism evolving through survival of the fittest meaning, our misinterpretation of what it is to be fit, which generally means the more powerful as opposed to the more adaptive. We seem to have misinterpreted what Darwin actually meant. And there what the future is ignoring the individuals that are weaker, taking away resources, exploitative, competitive systems, which of course means that we need to spend more and more on defence, we need to create rigid structures, we become monocultures, and it becomes a fairly dystopian thing.

The second is a charity model where we have the haves, being generous to the have nots, but that sets up this terrible power and imbalance where you have a race to the bottom in terms of who is most pitiable. And you have charity fatigue. And that degrades to a very similar scenario to the first scenario. And then the third scenario is something where we are more inclusive. And collaborative and collectively find our way out of this current disaster that we’re in or the multiple disasters that we’ve created. I think we almost need to upend the values that we are currently promoting or that are most popular at the moment. And in fact, I think in the area that we work in, digital systems, the only value that is being communicated is popularity, popularity devoid of any other particular value, with respect to likes and hits and clicks and things of that nature. That’s how we seem to be determining our decisions is through what is most popular.

John: Yeah, I think that in architecture, particularly within the space of community design, it’s really important for us to understand the success of our projects so that we can enhance those pieces so that we are encouraging that third option. I know to say that I mean, and one aspect that it kind of gets under noticed or underserved is the aspect of the kind of creating beautiful spaces and spaces that people want to be in. And one thing we try to do in all of our work is to really just talk about trying to prioritize kind of human comfort, trying to try to prioritize like how people feel comfortable within a space and connection with nature and kind of aspects about failure are all becoming very, very popular within it, but they’re all very strong in the sense of creating those comfortable spaces.

But we’re going through the process now and trying to understand and trying to create a process of validating the work that we’ve done, and to make sure that we can continue that work. And we can understand when things don’t exactly work for that particular community or we found that some communities want to have group cooking events, maybe recent immigrants there were they going to do group cooks, where there are many different families come together. And so you have a community kitchen, which is an industrial one in heavy use, beautifully. And it’s really kind of exciting to see that you’re enabling that within the community. But it’s hard for us to know that that’s going to be a success. Even if someone says they want it but, is it really going to be used? Because there are other examples where they weren’t exactly using that successfully.

Jutta: Yeah. And I guess it also depends on what is under your control and what isn’t. What are the other elements that you need to bring in, that are not under your purview?

John: Well, I mean, we typically with a lot of this community work that we do, the program that’s brought to us is flushed out to a certain point. But it’s validated through all of these community aspects and community work and engagement and process that we go out to ask the people what they want.

Jutta: Right. And if people are brought in as and have agency within the decision making, then they’re invested in it. And they have some sense of responsibility and engagement in the design as well.

John: Yeah, the hard one is when you get into some of these community meetings, and there are some people with an oversized voice, and it’s like, it’s okay. There might be like a couple of people shouting for one particular thing. And it’s just like, well, there’s another 20 people over there being completely silent. Let’s go for secretly to 20 people who are looking for it. So that’s again, talking about those outlier pieces of data that you’re trying to like, let’s not look at that particular one. I know they’re very vocal. They have a big voice, but we do have to look at other people. Yeah.

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Jutta: One of the concerns that I have, we work in a space that is the technology space is seen as space, which needs to continuously progress or there needs to be this transformation. Certainly, IT companies feel that in order for business sustainability, which of course is a completely different interpretation of the word. They need to continuously innovate, continuously progress. And there is this graph that Thomas Friedman has in his book, which shows that technology is adapting at an exponential rate. I mean, it’s Moore’s Law, of course, nods to that as well. But people are adapting at a linear rate and this in order to maintain that exponential growth or that open growth curve, there needs to be continuous innovation and even a paradigm shift, continuously a new paradigm shift, coming faster and faster all the time.

So there is pressure within the companies within the market within the economies that are dependent upon these technologies to continuously accelerate the progress as it’s called, which of course, then sacrifices quite a number of the things that we’re talking about. I actually think that it’s worse than that graph shows. I think that the way that we’ve been designing our systems, certainly our technology systems, our social media, the artificial intelligence, the data systems that we’re going to be deploying all over the place, whether it’s in smart communities or other innovations are causing people to be less adaptive.

And I would also say that there is a similar curve where technologies are becoming more and more connected. And we are reducing the person to person connection through many of the technologies that we’re designing and that connection or tying together of a diversity of perspectives and creating adaptivity amongst people is something that is required for both sustainability and for inclusive design. But for whatever reason, because of the other forces and pressures at play, we seem to be moving further and further away from that is, do you share that?

John: I mean, architecture ultimately needs to get built. And then I think construction is probably one of the least technologically adept at this point in times, pieces of that puzzle. But I see, whether the adoption curve is linear or whether it’s more flat is one thing because … but I think I feel positive that there is going to be some change in terms of how things get built, and particularly in the future and hopefully, we get into this in terms of utilizing aspects of it in our current designs or future designs. That is the idea of the circular economy where you’re actually talking not only about it being built, but actually part of it being disassembled and reused.

And I mean, I have very high hopes in terms of that in the digital process being a part of it, because I mean, there’s no reason to think that as we go about building or building information models, that the information that goes into them can’t be something that can be put up into a kind of a public database, which talks about these buildings as a resource within your community and say, within its timeline, it’s coming free, and you suddenly realize, I can have all of this wood or I can have all of this steel that can come back into play in terms of the next designs that come up.

And I have high hopes in terms of those digital aspects playing into it. Whether that comes into a kind of enabling kind of people within a community or individuals within, I think that they’re not quite at the same end of the spectrum on that. But I do have high hopes for the kind of at least the ability of our profession from architecture, to constructors to everybody that’s part of this building environment. I do have high hopes for what we can do for the future.

Jutta: That’s great. Yeah. So you were saying adoption being at a linear, in fact, that the graph is about adaptation or adaptability that the technology is adapting, we’re not adapting and that I like the discussion of a circular economy because of full environmental costing, I think there are a corollary and full social costing. So what are the implications of our designs with respect to all of the individuals that will be impacted by it? What economists are now calling externalities that we’re not currently considering? And in fact, I think to some extent, the full social costing is piggybacking or learning from the full environmental costing that is happening in the built environment or in the industrial design stages. But it’s probably easier to come up with what are the actual externalities, when we’re talking about the environment, it’s quite difficult from a social perspective to be able to show that by virtue of displacing these individuals, these are the costs that have come about or by virtue of excluding within your design, the participation of this group, these are the health costs, the mental health costs, the poverty costs that you might be coming up with.

John: Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting that you bring that up, because just on this recent project that we were doing with the City of Toronto project, we actually were able to be part of a little bit of a test of utilizing this triple bottom line software. So bringing in the social or political aspects along with the environmental and the economic, all into play, so you could actually make more informed decisions, and it utilizes a whole raft of studies that are done around the world in terms of being able to find those social-political costs and to find out what are the values associated with it in terms of what’s the social benefit of having a lower carbon footprint in your building.

There are studies that are out there that are relevant to it and being able to put numbers to it was really an amazing process. And I’m hoping that we can start to utilize that for most of our projects moving forward to be able to kind of pinpoint those things for our clients to see, to understand that it’s more than just a building that they have to run, it does a lot of other things, it engages and touches on so many people in this idea of externalities, it perfectly touches down into those triple bottom line.

Jutta: And you were talking about the divest movement, can you say some more about that?

John: Yeah. No, I mean, Jennifer Cutbill who is one of the key drivers behind the Architects Declare movement here in Canada was just texting and emailing with me about some recent movement that she’s kind of involved within Architects Divest. It’s about; from what I understand, it’s about trying to kind of have a little bit more clarity in terms of the financial support for things that are not related to things that produce, that are part of a carbon economy. So to try to have some of the larger financial organizations not to divest themselves of some of their kind of maybe oil sands investment or such.

There was one stat I read where since 2016, there’s been over $400 billion worth of investment by the four major financial institutions in the oil and petrochemical industry. So I mean, that is quite startling to think that in the past three years that amount of money going into it. So I think there’s a bit of a moving forward in terms of trying to encourage our financial institutions to divest and also talk about architects and how we’re involved within that as well.

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Jutta: And one of the concerns, of course, in this space is there are very few incentives to do those types of things. Do you think there’s a role, a regulatory role or a government role or how do you think we’re going to have a sufficient critical mass to actually make a difference with respect to sustainability or these types of ethical investments and ethical planning?

John: I think it’s absolutely crucial for our regulatory boards to get involved in set limits because I think that’s the only way that the market can respond, particularly in how things are built. We need that, I think that one of the more successful countries out there such as Germany have legislated these things quite handily over the past couple of decades, and they’re far more advanced than we are in terms of meeting their obligations and goals within their everyday building stock. We’ve got a long way to go. I mean, architects, we don’t have a tremendous say in terms of like, we impacted maybe like 2% to 3% of the buildings built in Canada.

So it’s quite startling to think that. So I think that to make an impact on all of the other buildings, even buildings that already currently exist that need to be brought up to standards. We need the government to take a strong stance and help set guidelines that can influence our clients to tell us what to do. Because ultimately, we’re responding to our clients. We are consultants and we work to what their goals and aspirations are. We tried to advocate for certain betterment but ultimately it’s their pocketbook. It’s their money so they’re going into the investment in their communities. And all we can do is basically try to influence something a little bit in terms of movement over, if you’ve got a heavy legislative or regulatory backbone behind it, then it makes it a lot easier to actually make the buildings that we should be building.

Jutta: So one of the things, of course, that we see here in Canada, but certainly more even in other areas is this widening disparity, which is made worse by displacement of communities because of the pressure to have more buildings, housing, the city is growing et cetera. How much of a role do you think architects can play? And what types of things could architects do to help reverse some of that disparity?

John: I mean, I want to be aspirational for what architects can do. Because I think architecture as education is a really profoundly robust and quite round one, I think it really kind of allows you to kind of like strategically analytically think about things well as keeping an overall holistic view. But the impact of what architects can do, a lot of people don’t even really quite understand what we do as a profession anyways. So it’s hard for us to think that we can have an overlarge kind of view of things. But I think architects are very well placed to be leaders within the community. And maybe that’s just something we need to do a little bit more of. We need to become more of these outgoing leaders within the community to maybe it’s more political offices more, getting onto committees within communities and just basically having a bigger voice, something that advocates for all of the things we’re actually talking about today.

Jutta: Thank you

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John: Are we done?

Jutta: Well, I’ve got the signal.

Kaveh: Thanks for listening to this episode of Quantization and Jutta and John for accepting our invitation.

Arezoo: For more information, please visit our website at quantization.ca

Kaveh: Especial appreciation to Marshall Bureau for scoring all songs.

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