Mina Hasman is sustainability director at Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM), the architectural firm behind iconic projects including One World Trade Center and the Burj Khalifa. This year, Hasman’s team launched a system that measures carbon emitted during a building’s construction and throughout its lifetime. The Whole Life Carbon Accounting service can evaluate the emissions potential of any project, enabling more carbon-conscious design industry-wide.
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
With the economic means to investigate new resilience measures, I hope that wealthier nations can accelerate climate resilience by investing in innovation to support developing countries, particularly those in the Global South—like my home country of Turkey—where some communities are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. All governments urgently need to invest in better climate adaptation and resilience programs, and see resilience as an opportunity for dramatic innovation. We have already seen the acute effects of climate change through devastating wildfires and floods, which have had a particularly severe impact in already fragile and conflict-affected countries.
What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why?
This year, I hope the public will use their purchasing power to pressure big businesses to take more meaningful climate action. We’ve seen a great effort from consumers to address climate change. In England, the use of single-use plastic bags has fallen by 98% since retailers began charging for them in 2015. But to make a serious impact at a global scale, we need to see this kind of dedication from private corporations. While business-driven economic activity contributes most to climate change, innovative businesses also hold the solutions to prevent and mitigate its adverse impacts on the planet.
What is a climate technology that isn’t getting the attention or funding it deserves?
Direct air capture [pulling CO2 from the atmosphere] urgently requires more investment and policy support. If applied universally across the built environment, it could be transformative. According to research my team and I have conducted at SOM through our Urban Sequoia project, direct air capture is more effective at reducing carbon emissions in buildings than any other technology available. While efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions should always take priority, direct air capture—scaled to buildings—can position the built environment as a solution to the climate crisis.
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