After a whirlwind two days at DesignDC, an annual regional conference for architects and the like, I am left feeling motivated and encouraged by the quality and depths we are going as responsible contributors to our built environment. Learning about designing for disaster, for biophilic cities across the world, for a more sustainable, diverse, and inclusive future for Washington DC, I feel it is my due diligence to share some resources and touch on some big takeaways.

Sustainable DC Plan

In 2012, the Washington D.C. Mayor, Muriel Bowser, committed the city to achieve a 50% cut in energy usage, 50% cut in GHG emissions, and 50% increase in renewable energy by 2032 (fun fact: WDG has committed to the AIA 2030 plan). The Department of Energy and Environment indicated buildings are currently responsible for 76% of GHG emissions in DC, therefore the city is working towards net zero energy for new construction and net zero energy for retrofits to be implemented with code changes over the next coming years.  The 2032 goals are a response to climate changes evident today and the impacts on this region specifically being storm surges, rising sea level, extreme weather and precipitation, and longer heat waves.

What this means for us as designers, is we need to think ahead. If 2032 is the goal, then we can potentially see 2026 code requiring net zero energy. If we design per a current code that will be taking leaps and bounds every time our jurisdictions adopt new versions we won’t be doing our clients any favors. Where we are headed must be part of the discussion today, especially for our long-term owners who can face costly retrofits down the road. There is infrastructure that can be included now that allows buildings to be adaptable to the more stringent energy codes to come, we need only work with the DCRA, and the DOEE to find those solutions. Not to mention all the incentives developers can tap into to make these solutions feasible, such as the DC Green Bank and PACE as examples.

To learn more about the 50/50/50 goals: http://www.sustainabledc.org/

There is an overwhelming list of workshops and educational training opportunities offered by the DCRA, which can be found here: https://www.buildgreendc.org/ and there is also a mailing list to join to stay current. WDG’s Sustainability Committee is another great resource.  

If you are interested in reading up on studies performed by the DOEE regarding our built environment please visit: https://doee.dc.gov/

The Missing Middle

When it comes to residential architecture, there are two types of missing middles prevalent in our region; one being a “FORM” type middle related to housing density, where we jump from low density single family homes to high density sky high condos without an in-between. The second, being a “MARKET AFFORDABLE” type middle related to new construction where there are no housing options for those who make too much for affordable housing yet cannot afford market rate either. There is often discussion about Millennials leaving the city when they start their families for more space, but I suspect more often it’s in fact due to affordability. If you have felt this void in DC as much as I have coming from Montreal, Quebec, Canada (a city with a middle) then you can understand my excitement in knowing it has been given a name in just the past few years; which means progress.

To accommodate the middle, we must supply the demand. However, many factors work against this goal from higher risk development to unconducive code regulations, and even communities afraid of change. From journalists, to city officials, to architects and other industry leaders, the discussion brought awareness to this topic and is advocating for teamwork; we can play a part in inventing the middle if we work together and get creative!

To learn more about the missing middle, please visit: http://missingmiddlehousing.com/

A great article to read from one of the panelists: https://nextcity.org/features/view/cities-affordable-housing-design-solution-missing-middle

Biophilic Cities

There are so many resources, networks, and organizations wanting to bring nature back to our urban landscapes. From the minimum green roof areas to extreme city planning around natural habitats and wildlife, one thing proves true: humans feel better, are less stressed, more productive, and sleep better when connected to nature in one way, shape or form. As designers, we have an opportunity to find meaningful connections between our built environment and the natural one. There were some fascinating studies discussed, and this “love of life” approach to design became quite compelling. Who knows, maybe it is time for a rebirth of FLOWER POWER from the 70s. 

To learn more about biophilic cities, including Washington D.C., please visit: http://biophiliccities.org/

 

Fiona Lougheed is a rising multifamily Architect, with a Bachelor of Architecture and minor in Urban Affairs from Virginia Tech. As a Staff Architect at WDG, her primary focus is collaborating with the Pentagon Centre C project team on unit design, skin detailing and development, as well as consultant coordination. She is active on WDG’s Emerging Professionals Committee and serves as Chair for the Multifamily Residential Committee. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, she came to the United States in 1998 with an appreciation for heritage, diversity and a sense of community. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. with her family and embraces the rich history and ever changing urban fabric of this metropolitan area.