RATCLIFF Launches Sustainability Planning Service to Address Climate Change

RATCLIFF, the San Francisco Bay Area architectural firm that has developed such Web-based "green" design tools as GreenMatrix™ and Green Action Plan, has expanded its capacity in order to address climate change, moving beyond "green" architecture into systems-wide sustainability planning.

Established in 2010 and headed by architect Ross Levy, AIA, LEED, the firm's Director of Sustainability, the Sustainability Planning group includes firm president Kit Ratcliff, FAIA, NCARB, LEED® AP and Brian Feagans, AIA, NCARB, LEED® AP.

The service guides the firm's new and existing clients in academic, civic and healthcare sectors to assess their planned--or existing--facility and ultimately eliminate detrimental climate impacts from all activities where the organization has influence.

One of Levy's first initiatives was to organize a workshop for K-12 educators in the San Francisco Bay Area. Thirty teachers, administrators, trustees and faculty representing a dozen campuses came to RATCLIFF's offices on November 11, 2010, where they were led through a group exercise to collectively gain an understanding of how their efforts to "green" their schools might be better organized.

In the second phase of the process, Levy and Feagans are visiting each campus to gather baseline data on current sustainability practices.  This information will be distilled and published in an online format using "CoolClimate Carbon Calculator," http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/, a tool developed by the UC Berkeley Institute of the Environment.  Schools will then be in a position to compare important performance metrics and share best practices.

"Architects can and must lead the building industry in making critical changes in infrastructure and building design," Ratcliff said, in announcing the new division and Levy's appointment.  "Ross Levy is this kind of leader.  He has the knowledge, dedication, influence and passion to bring our firm to the next level, offering our clients a comprehensive sustainability solution."

Levy views the solution as comprising systems that are adaptive and resilient, mutually supportive, flexible and overlapping so that necessary functions may be fulfilled in a variety of ways.  "Adaptive system planning brings us towards a vision of the future with the knowledge that we live in a dynamic environment," Levy said.  "By engaging in the sustainable discourse at the most encompassing level, we are gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge that we are bringing back to our architectural practice."

"All of our actions have associated consequences, many of which are not considered in traditional practice," Ratcliff said.  "In this sense, we are re-inventing the practice of architecture, expanding the definition of environmental design by looking at complete systems, inputs and outflows and taking responsibility for long-term resilience and sustainability."

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