Small steps make big impact toward decarbonization of the built environment

14 OPN staffers

4 sustainability experts

4 project puzzles to be solved

8 hours

491,350 kg CO2e, saved


If we can reduce the equivalent of 64 homes’ energy use for one year or 8,125 tree seedlings grown for 10 years in just one day with 18 people, imagine what can be accomplished in 365 days by 120+ people.

That is the challenge OPN Architects has set for ourselves this year.

In 2024, we will:

  • Set operational energy and carbon goals for our projects
  • Propose and advocate for all-electric design options
  • Conduct early-phase energy modeling for projects ≥ 5,000 square feet
  • Set targets for high-performance building envelopes and optimize the details to meet the intended performance
  • Assess options for on-site renewable energy
  • Request energy metering data so we can learn from our work
  • Make a case for building re-use by accounting for embodied carbon impacts
  • Quantify embodied carbon reduction strategies on every project
  • Decarbonize our specifications by specifying lower carbon materials and requesting more Environmental Product Declarations

We design buildings. It’s not news to us that buildings’ operational and embodied carbon account for 39% of global carbon emissions.

We are keenly aware that our practice has the potential to reverse the course of climate change, which is inextricably linked to the amount of carbon released into the earth’s atmosphere. But, the responsibility can be daunting when we read statistics like this one:  

At a global level, emissions reductions need to be roughly 1 to 2 billion tons each year to hold global warming below 2°C relative to preindustrial levels.

What if we reframe the challenge?

What if it’s not our responsibility but our privilege to solve this global problem, together, one decision at a time.

We know that each of the strategies outlined in our approach to decarbonization are actionable.

Fourteen of our staff members, guided by four experts in building performance and decarbonization –  Mikhail Davis, Director, Global Market Sustainability at Interface; Amy Leedham, Associate Director at Atelier Ten; Andrea Love, Principal & Director of Building Science at Payette; and Mike Walters, Principal at Salas O’Brien – spent just eight hours in a recent one-day workshop focused on developing recommendations for implementing these strategies and exploring how these strategies could impact four current OPN projects.

The results were inspiring.

If a fraction of our staff were able to problem solve our way to a potential reduction of -491 metric tons CO2e in one day, we could potentially see a reduction of -179,215 metric tons CO2e in a full year. That’s the equivalent of 23,360 homes’ energy use for one year or 2,965,625 tree seedlings grown for 10 years.

Then multiply those numbers by the 119,906 architects practicing in the United States alone.

Alone we can make an impact. Together we can change the course of history.

We’re just getting started. Who’s with us?