The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released its latest assessment on how human influence — particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation — has warmed Earth's climate. Coming as the report does amid a summer of unprecedented wildfires and flooding around the world, it's not surprising that the secretary general at the UN, António Guterres, called the report "a code red for humanity."
This might seem an odd way to open the editor's letter for our 41st annual Facilities of Merit™ issue. However, judges this year overwhelmingly emphasized sustainability and the responsible use of materials in their assessment of the 43 Architectural Showcase submissions for 2021. Business as usual, they suggested, is simply not an option.
Whether a given facility's green attributes tipped the scales for any of the five judges selecting this year's winners is unclear, but I felt that wasn't necessarily the case. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated supply chain issues and sent material prices skyrocketing, I had the sense that our panelists were speaking to an industrywide awareness that resources are indeed limited, the planet is warming, and as designers of major athletics, recreation and fitness facilities, they have a responsibility to be leaders in this area of concern.
We often ask judges for feedback on how we can improve the judging process. This year, nearly all agreed that Athletic Business might consider giving a project's sustainability efforts — use of renewable energy, material selection, reuse of materials — more weight in the judging criteria. One judge went so far as to suggest that a net-zero carbon footprint should be the expectation for a well-designed facility, noting that some institutions and municipalities are already mandating that all new facilities projects achieve that goal.
While this year's panelists did not limit their assessment of these projects to sustainability alone — clearly our 10 Facilities of Merit are exceptional on many levels — I came away from this year's judging encouraged that the architects of these oftentimes massive facilities are putting sustainability at the forefront of their work. Ever a bellwether of trends in facility design, we hope that this year's Facilities of Merit give our readers inspiration on how to plan their next project with a mind toward promoting not just the health of its occupants, but that of the planet, as well.
This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Sustainable Facilities of Merit" Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.