IDEAS + Observations on

Sustainability in Action


Why did we title this Sustainability in Action? On the heels of Glasgow Conference of Parties 26 (COP26) it is plain to see that “Action” is the critical ingredient and sorely lacking. The first Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-1) met in Berlin in 1995. 26 years later we ask ourselves what real progress has been made? Certainly, some truly remarkable advances have been made in green energy production, technology, and broad awareness to the dangers of rising global temperatures, but a consensus is emerging post COP26 that there is too much talk and not enough action from our leaders.  

As architects, engineers, landscape architects, and planners, we have a significant responsibility when you consider that buildings contribute nearly 40% of annual global carbon emissions from operations and materials production. Flash forward to 2060 and global building area is expected to double – this will be equivalent to adding an entire New York City to the world every month for 40 years. Sobering. None of us as responsible environmental stewards can turn away from this critical issue. It affects every person on every continent, rich or poor, powerful or not. We are serious about taking action on climate change in the work we do. Researching, learning, teaching, designing, innovating, and initiating action. We make this pledge because it is our responsibility, it is the right thing to do, and because it must be done. 

– Erik Justesen, CEO 

“We at RRM Design Group, acknowledge the role that the built environment is contributing to global climate change, water shortages, habitat loss, extreme weather events, and general environmental degradation. As stewards of the environment, we believe it is our obligation and mission to create a vibrant, healthy, and sustainable future in all things we do. RRM Design Group strives to deliver on this vision and hold ourselves accountable to these core values from how we operate our firm, through education and training of our staff, in our design approach, and through advocacy in our communities.” 

– RRM Sustainability Committee

Ideas + Observations from our Professional team and Partners

Beyond the Buzzwords: Design That Listens

What do you think of when you hear the word “sustainability”? Perhaps you think of metal straws or recycling. In the context of the built environment, you might think of add-ons like solar panels, shading fins, or drought-resistant plants. Let’s redefine the often narrow interpretations of sustainability and remember what true, sustainable design is at its core.  

Stormwater and Sustainability

Prior to the 2000s, stormwater design primarily involved moving rainwater into pipes and channels then sending it to the ocean (or lakes for the inland audience); essentially, transporting the stormwater away from our homes and businesses.  Today, stormwater is much more complex and touches a variety of engineering, environmental, ecological, and economic topics.

The Integrative Design Process

As designers, we sell our time to the clients and in return, they expect that we use that time to produce concepts and ideas that lead to project development, approval, and eventually construction. Often times the route to construction is complicated, can take a different turn, and sometimes lead to some of the best ideas getting removed. What if there was a process that evaluated the project development system as a whole, gave designers a framework to understand project relationships, and to see a project through cohesively and justly?

Passive House: Building for today, tomorrow, and the Future

What is Passive House? In this interview-style article, you’ll learn more about the concept of Passive House, its history, the five core principles there are to developing housing in this manner, as well as its sustainable impacts for the future of home development. 

Modular Architecture: An Interview with Modular Consultant, Prefab Logic

One mantra we have at RRM is that you can never stop learning. With that in mind, we are always on the lookout for ways in which we can bring better value to our clients, whether that be lowering costs, increasing sustainable metrics, or shortening construction timelines. With modular construction, we saw opportunities to do all three. Recently we’ve partnered with PrefabLogic to deliver a modular affordable senior housing project in Ventura County, CA.