Flight of the footprint

I was recently given a charming document by Edward Cullinan Architects – its annual sustainability report for 2011. It talked abut green projects but also about the practice’s own environmental behaviour, detailing, for example, how its own carbon footprint has reduced over the years. It also showed the individual carbon footprints of all members of the practice, in a graphic designed as … a pair of footprints!

Despite listing the individual actions that members of staff have taken to reduce their footprints – draft-proofing sash windows, installing solar panels, growing fruit and veg, and taking staycations – the figures aren’t that impressive. Many were well over the UK average of 5.5t CO2e, with the highest a whopping 13.4. The clue lies in a footnote which says that this includes long-haul flights, which have a disproportionately enormous effect.

Of course, these flights are largely in the service of creating green architecture around the world, and any decent architect would argue, quite rightly, that they could not design a building without understanding the site at first hand. Doubtless other flights are in the service of winning work. It is a real dilemma and an ironic one for a practice where cycling to work seems to be part of the DNA.

And of course the only reason that I can draw these conclusions is because the practice has taken the laudable step of measuring and publishing the carbon footprints. I don’t have a clue what mine is – do you?





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