Since 2019 RKD has been developing a practice-wide sustainability initative, called Better Buildings for the Future, to ensure that our practice and projects create places for people to thrive, now and in the future, by combining our leadership in sustainability with high quality architecture and urban design.
Through this initiative we now publicly launch our Sustainability Charter, signed by RKD’s Board of Directors, which establishes 10 key commitments by 2025 for our practice and projects, and 40 indicators to track our progress along the way.
This public charter is our way of being transparent about the measures we are taking to proactively address the global climate and biodiversity emergency, failures in responsible resource management, and ensuring the health and wellbeing of our employees, our supply chains, and the users of the environments we design.
The Charter was adopted in January 2022 and will be reviewed and published every year for full transparency of our progress.
RKD is already a leader in the design and delivery of sustainable buildings. Over the past 10 years we delivered more than 200,000 sq. m of commercial offices, industrial facilities, 3rd level faculty buildings, and data centres, with green building certification.
We are now committed to continuing this leadership by scaling up and ensuring all our projects are designed, delivered, and evaluated to ensure their performance meets the challenges ahead of us. This is why we developed the Better Buildings for the Future program.
For our practice, the program provides a framework for RKD’s ESG Policy (Environmental, Social, Governance), a toolkit to upskill and stay ahead of future changes of policy and legislation (such as the ambitious targets outlined in the EU Green Deal), and a roadmap to ensure our workplace provides thriving employees and a healthy environment.
For our projects, it provides steps to optimise building performance through all stages of design and delivery, providing better outcomes for our clients and for our end-users. It also ensures that we evaluate all projects based on their whole life-cycle and compare their performance against best practice benchmarks.
In alignment with intergovernmental policies such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the EU Green Deal, and Level(s) (the EU associated performance framework for buildings), RKD has outlined six key principles of sustainable design and delivery that we are committing to integrate and track across all our projects. These principles are:
As part of this initiative, we developed the RKD Better Buildings Playbook and RKD Sustainability Workstage Toolkit to assist our clients and project teams with the integration of the key principles in every project.
As part of our Sustainability Charter, we created a roadmap to achieve our ambitious commitments. We set up dedicated action groups within the office to progress development of each indicator and will host a yearly review of our progress which we will also share with the public.
Prior to launching our Charter, we covered a wide range of research and development tasks to bring our shared sustainability goals closer.
Begun in 2020 and completed in 2021, we conducted our first carbon footprint calculation of our headquarters office on Northumberland Road in Dublin to start our journey towards becoming certified with Science Based Target initatives. Using the year 2019 as a baseline (due to the unusual years of 2020 and 2021), we calculated our Scope 1, Scope 2, and part Scope 3 carbon emissions to be 170,755.7 kgCO2e.
This number is relatively low compared to many offices thanks to our previously established initiatives such as supporting employees biking to work and our office-wide recycling program. However, our footprint is still the equivalent of every RKD employee getting a return flight from Dublin to New York, twice!
By 2025, we hope to bring this number down as low as possible and achieve carbon neutrality for all our offices. We have already initiated opportunities to reduce our emissions by 53% and started on an energy efficient retrofit plan for our office on Northumberland Road.
As signatories of Built Environment Declares—a global movement of more than 7,500 practices worldwide working collaboratively to address the climate and biodiversity emergency—we believe in the importance of collaboration and sharing knowledge.
We have increased our engagement with various industry initiatives addressing sustainability, Irish Architects Declare being one of them, where, as part of the steering group, we have contributed to monthly webinars, a sustainable and healthy materials library, and a practice guide.
We are research partners with Share Your Green Design, an initiative set up to create a digital ecosystem of buildings, materials, methodologies, and ideas that showcase sustainable architectural design.
RKD Director David Browne is an ambassador for IGBC Building Life Campaign and Ireland’s Whole-Life Carbon Roadmap for the Built Environment. David is also chairing a cross-practice and cross-disciplinary research group called Irish Cities 2070 looking at the sustainable development of our cities for the future.
David Browne and RKD Research Lead Karolina Bäckman represent RIAI (Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland) on the Construction Sector Group’s Innovation & Digital Adoption Group with a particular focus on sustainability in the Irish Construction Sector.
With our Better Buildings initative we are looking to the future, but here at RKD sustainable design thinking has long been part of our culture. During the last two decades RKD has designed and delivered projects with exceptional sustainability performance.
Visit RKD’s Sustainability Services to learn more about the full range of sustainable design solutions that we provide for clients, including Whole-Life Carbon Assessments and Post-Occupancy Evaluations.