The Future of Sustainability: What’s Next? 

The built environment has devoted the better part of the last three decades to reducing the energy use and carbon emissions of buildings. Third party sustainability rating systems and guidelines have played a key role in this effort, conjuring up buzzwords such as ‘net-zero emissions’, ‘net-zero water’ and ‘net-zero waste’.

Progress towards these targets has indeed been made. In the United States, for instance, despite adding an astounding 62.5 billion square feet to its building stock (equivalent to about six cities the size of Boston each year), CO2 emissions witnessed a remarkable decline of 28.4% from 2005 to 2022[1]. This progress is due in part to the increasing use of energy-efficient materials and technologies, as well as the growing emphasis on healthier indoor environments and water conservation

However, the current ‘net-zero’ approach falls short in addressing the fundamental challenge at hand. If we truly aspire to live in harmony with nature, a profound shift in how we design the built environment is imperative, for which a new term is required.

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