The Role of Carbon Smart Building in Creating a Compassionate World

Andrew Himes was the coordinator and emcee for Carbon Smart Building Day, an event that took place on September 11, 2018 in San Francisco and was affiliated with the Global Climate Action Summit. A daylong conference with over 300 participants from 250 companies and organizations, Carbon Smart Building Day provided concrete steps that governments, corporations, organizations and individuals can take to lead the industry transformation necessary to realize our vision of a Net Zero Carbon (NZC) built environment:

  1. New Buildings — Operations and Embodied Emissions. All new buildings and developments are NZC by 2030, with increase in carbon-storing material use.
  2. Existing Buildings — Operations and Embodied Emissions. Extend building lifespan to 100 + years and retrofit existing buildings to NZC operations by 2050.
  3. Health and Equity. All new building (material production, construction, and use) is healthy, equitable and just.

Opening Remarks

A few years ago, I was the founding director for the Charter for Compassion International, a global movement founded by Karen Armstrong, endorsed by the Dalai Lama, by many other spiritual leaders, and by hundreds of cities that were part of our compassionate cities initiative.

Our operative understanding was that compassion is not merely a feeling of empathy or pity for those less fortunate. No, compassion is not some vague emotion. Compassion is practical action with measurable results to alleviate suffering, to create a world that works for all.

In our world, every major challenge we face is driven by climate change: violent conflict, famine, resource depletion, melting icecaps and rising sea levels, extreme weather events, the extinction of species, homelessness, disease, millions of refugees fleeing impossible situations.

So even as my work was to help build a global compassion movement, my driving question became, “What are the structural imperatives in the system that we can leverage to help to drive us toward solutions, toward health, toward a sustainable human community defined by our compassion instead of our disfunction?”

We all of us in this room know that the built environment is responsible for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. This means we cannot solve the problem of climate change without solving the problem of buildings.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to drive that number from 40 to zero. This an astounding moment, a magical moment. Three months ago, this conference did not exist. Yet now, here we are, 300 people from over 250 different companies and NGOs drawn from across the industry.

Today you’ll hear from some extraordinary speakers, and they’ll be saying some things worth hearing. But the change we’re looking to create won’t be made by a few experts spouting wisdom from a stage.

Look around you. Please, stop and look around you. Notice who you are sitting next to. These are the people who will create the change we need. You are the people history has been waiting for. The most important thing you’ll do today is meet the people who are sitting all around you.

Learn more about Carbon Smart Building.

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