How Fear of Change Inhibits our Progress Toward a Sustainable Future with Laurie McGinley

We spoke to Laurie McGinley - ClimateTech Conductor and Founder at Via Lucent - on sustainable architecture, how storytelling can influence sustainable decision making and choosing a career path.


Karrah Krakovyak
Sustainability Innovator
More about Karrah Krakovyak
Highlights from this article

I knew I wanted to be an architect when I was in high school. So at seventeen I picked this route. And I think I was really close. That was probably the most accurate choice I could have made at that time about what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up. And at the time sustainability wasn't in the forefront of my mind that was circa 1995. And I grew up in a family that recycled pretty early and were conscious about the energy that we use, but it wasn't a major theme in picking the field. Certainly throughout undergrad, I became aware of it. But it wasn't until I decided to go back, I left the field for a bit and came back and it wasn't until I decided to go back that it was very much in the forefront of my mind. I became a web designer after my undergrad and decided to go back for my master of architecture in order to do something about climate.

I would say all - if not - nearly all architects I know are very aware of [sustainability] . They weave it into their practice. It's a conscious part of the decision-making. It's certainly part of our code of ethics as architect to, to care for society at large. And climate change is a piece of that now. So philosophically, I believe most, if not all architects carry that into the equation and the architects, aren't the only people at the table, but there are also owners and contractors and stakeholders and sometimes taxpayers who are involved in that equation.

The owner drives a lot of the decisions and sometimes it's a developer. It's not a long-term owner. And even given a firm that at its core mission is to do something about sustainability. Even that firm will be limited by what the owner is willing to pay for.

I believe that if we could truly hear the voices of the people who will interact with the building over the next 20 years, even if we could hear those voices at the drawings, we would make better choices .

We did months of stakeholder engagement, we brought huge materials where people can draw on them and do a design, charette type interaction with, and we were talking about how their neighborhood would change. So we were talking about majorly redesigning transportation nodes of two relatively busy streets and the type of building that would be built there and the type of. Community amenity that would exist there. So we were going into neighborhoods and talking to people about how their neighborhood would feel different based on our recommendations.

It's that thought that I believe fundamentally for humans, change can be very difficult because our bodies are hardwired to crave predictability. I know how that thing works. I know how that thing wears out. I know how to fix that thing. I know who to call to fix that thing... And so the thought that we would pick something that we haven't seen before, we haven't tested for 10 years personally, we don't know how the sand on the salt deteriorates it. We're not sure if the company we usually call the fix, it we'll be able to fix it. It's hard to choose unpredictable.

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