3 Takeaways from Living Future 2021

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3 Takeaways from Living Future 2021

Once again, Living Future 2021 convened a brilliant group of thought leaders and practitioners to discuss the intersection of climate, health, and equity in the built environment. Centered around the theme of inclusion and unity, the 15th annual Living Future conference showcased big ideas across the realms of public policy, private sector leadership, and community-driven solutions to the most pressing challenges in real estate.

Here, our team shares key takeaways and points of inspiration from Living Future 2021.


In “The UN and National Academy of Science Set Policies to Accelerate a Regenerative, Living Building Environment,” Scott Foster, Erin Rovalo, and Vivian Loftness outlined the critical role of the built environment in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals through U.S. policies. A new report, Accelerating Decarbonization of the U.S. Energy System, presents a crucial policy blueprint that outlines “critical near-term actions for the first decade (2021-2030) of this 30-year effort, including ways to support communities that will be most impacted by the transition.” Policies include setting a U.S. emissions budget, enforcing an economy-wide price on carbon, establishing a new Green Bank capitalized at $30 billion, and tripling federal investment in clean energy RD&D.


In “Harnessing Meaningful Change: Integrating Embodied Carbon in the Design Process,” Manuela Londono, Kathy Wardle, and Jesce Walz shared how Perkins and Will established its carbon leadership strategy and put it into practice. They outlined keys to success in Zero Carbon, which they summarized in 5 C’s:

• Context – understand site and resources
• Commitment – set firm goals
• Circularity – prioritize reuse, biogenic carbon, and deconstruction
• Certification – measure progress and share outcomes
• Collaboration – communicate and advocate for transparency

Demonstrating this approach in action, the University of British Columbia Gateway building uses exposed mass timber for the building’s structure, which resulted in a 30% embodied carbon reduction.

As for baselining a portfolio’s carbon emissions, Perkins and Will presses that the baseline should be what the project was at a point in time. Trying to play the system with buildings that were never going to be built anyway won’t lead to meaningful change on the urgent timeline we face.


CLT is on the rise, and we’re not just talking about cross-laminated timber. In “Permanently Affordable: Community Land Trusts at the Intersection of Climate and Community Change,” Kathleen Hosfeld, Ed Nusser, and Sherry Taylor demonstrate the role of Community Land Trusts (CLTs) in providing permanent affordable and sustainable housing to the communities that need it most. Serving low and moderate income residents across rural, urban, and suburban communities, CLTs are a permanently affordable option that hedges against displacement and gentrification while contributing to land revitalization and social and economic justice. The Hazelwood Community Land Trust is putting this concept to action and is pursuing Living Building Challenge Core certification. For those wanting to support CLT efforts, in-kind service as a volunteer from the design community is highly sought, and Grounded Solutions Network is leading CLT efforts across the U.S. and provides resources on how to get involved in this community-driven affordable housing innovation.

As always, we’re immensely grateful for this inspiring community and proud to work alongside those leading the way through inclusion and unity. Here’s to an igniting LF21 and to much more progress to come!