We know our climate is changing and we’re having to plan for that in our buildings too.
I started Precipitate four years ago to really accelerate the change to carbon neutral architecture in Minnesota.
I see carbon neutral architecture as completely tied to environmental justice. You can’t achieve one without the other. So running my practice and business in a way that is as equitable as possible is really important to me.
The majority of our work is actually affordable housing and doing “passive house” levels of efficiency for affordable housing. That’s really important because energy burden, the percent of your income you pay for energy, is a lot higher for people who are living in affordable housing. And people who live in affordable housing tend to be in the demographics that are most impacted by climate change as well.
We worked on Hook and Ladder, which is an affordable housing development that’s passive house certified. And then under construction currently is West Side Flats in St. Paul, which is 82 units of affordable housing. So it’s definitely a growing approach to making buildings energy efficient with affordable housing.
In terms of a Green New Deal, the thing that would make the biggest impact is if we could get grants early on to provide energy models for these projects from the very beginning, because what often happens is the buildings get designed, then they get their funding a couple of years later. And then they’re like, can you make it passive house certified? Well, it’s too late. You really need to have us on board right away. In Massachusetts, they have funding for pre-design services for passive house. And that would be the biggest leverage point to actually making these things happen because then you get accurate budgets.
Figuring out that financing piece is really important — who’s paying for it? If society as a whole is benefiting from fewer carbon emissions in the built environment, then it shouldn’t have to be up to each individual project owner and developer to pay for that.
At Precipitate we do climate action planning and resilience planning. In addition to the energy efficiency piece, we’re planning for futures that are going to be different and I’m trying to work with community members who know that they want to be more resilient in the future.
We need everybody to figure out how their job can be a green job. How can you find the pieces that are a green job within your job? Just lean into those. The climate urgency necessitates that. I think it’s hard when you’re like, “that’s not my job description”. Well, it is your description as a human being on this planet. We all have to be looking for those opportunities.
I have so much joy every day in the work that I do. And I think we can have joy in the face of such an existential crisis and bringing that joy to our work is an act of resistance in itself.