Where Has Innovation in Sustainable Design and Construction gone?

Someone’s taken it and we want it back.

With the AIA announcing the 2016 COTE Top Ten Green Projects list yesterday, it’s very interesting to see that the innovation and technology hub of the world has no showing. In fact, apart from one placing in 2015 there has been no other Boston or New England projects receiving a top ten award in over six years.

Sorry to be the bearer of even more bad news – out of the 100 award selections over the last ten years, Boston has placed only twice and New England a total of only seven times. What’s that about…?

Sure, there’s been loads of LEED-certified buildings and spaces constructed over the last decade, and we’ve come a long way by making sustainability and energy-efficient techniques a given benchmark in building design – and that’s great. But, take a look at the AIA COTE Top 10 for 2016. These award winners thought a long way beyond the usual and basic best practices.

In a place where researchers are manipulating gene structures at a microscopic level to develop new life-changing therapies, or expanding the possibilities in artificial intelligence and robotics – groundbreaking achievements that will inevitably change our entire world – there seems to be a lesser degree of creative thought in our design and construction community in exploring, planning and constructing buildings that take us a few innovative steps further in the field of sustainability. Advancing ideas to create spaces and structures that reduce the environmental impact they have on the very planet that is our entire world.

Well, if we are going that one step further, we don’t seem to be telling anyone about it.

Did anybody enter a local project this year? If so, stand up and make yourself known. It would be good to establish whether we just weren’t ‘cutting-edge’ or inspirational enough with our green building ideas and technologies. Or, we just didn’t have much worthy of an entry.

The reason being either predominantly one way or the other is a little unfortunate – wouldn’t you say? Especially considering the way (quite rightly) Boston and Cambridge is perceived by the rest of the world at the moment.

It’s likely just a blip… As we go through this unprecedented period of major construction growth in our region – we are certain those great minds, local champions (with the means), the leaders of our industry and the powerful within our world-class institutions see the potential that’s laid before us. They are avidly focused on showing the world that we haven’t forgotten to trail-blaze the next stage of green building technologies while we have the chance.

That’s optimistically written as a statement. But, should it be a question?

Let’s hope we haven’t missed the fork in the road. The place where we had two possible directions to go in – one path where we’ll end up doomed to lament over a major missed opportunity or the other that led us to dominating the winners’ list for the remaining part of the decade.