The Future of Sustainable Infrastructure


Sustainability focuses on how we as people coexist with the planet. What does it take to build designs in an adaptive capacity? As professionals of the built environment, we have the expertise to guide design to a path that benefits the planet and society.

Welcome to the inaugural season of Architecture 5 10 20! I’m your host, Guy Geier, Managing Partner of FXCollaborative Architects in New York. Guests from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences related to the built environment will come to share their thought leadership. Our conversations will start with understanding how they arrived at what they’re doing now. More importantly, we will focus on discussing their vision for the future, looking out 5, 10, and 20 years.

Today, we’re joined by Fiona Cousins, the Arup’s Americas Region Chair, and a sustainability specialist whose leadership in energy efficiency and resilient high-performance building design has shaped both public and private environmental policy. Fiona’s career in mechanical engineering has allowed her to provide a deeper insight into the importance of improved building systems and adaptive infrastructure. As achieving the highest level of sustainability becomes ubiquitous in the design and construction industry, Fiona’s experience and her vision of the future of the built environment can inspire further transformation.

Listen to Fiona speak about designing with resilience and adaptive capacity for the triple bottom line of economic, environmental, and social impacts. Design constraints around projects became more complicated as society demanded intentional, impact-driven spaces. Design criteria is not limited to a “nice” building, but the process now questions the ripple effect of design choices. Fiona points out how this is especially true in a city-based project as she recalls the thrilling and challenging process for completing Fulton Street Station in New York City.

As the design process evolves, how can we promote and advance the existing sustainability metrics to address tomorrow today? Fiona’s work is a testament to the need to approach environmental change at the individual and systemic levels simultaneously. Larger sustainability goals must be met through enhanced interdisciplinary collaboration, resulting in not only the preservation of humanity, but also, of the planet.


Time stamps:

[01:43] – Fiona Cousins talks about paving her path as an engineer when there weren’t many women in the field.

[04:35] – How did Fiona start working with sustainability?

[06:42] – Fiona gives her thoughts on pay-back-calculations when including sustainability in building designs.

[09:17] – Listen to Fiona proudly talk about the collaborative efforts to complete the Fulton Street Station in NYC.

[12:05] – What is the impact we can make as experts of the built environment?

[14:21] – Sustainability focuses on how we as people coexist with the planet.

[16:20] – Fiona discusses resilience and adaptation in architecture that needs to be responsive to the environment.

[18:08] – Social issues also really matter in design criteria alongside environmental impact.

[19:53] – How important is the LEED accreditation system?

[22:22] – Fiona explores the connection between sustainability and digital tools to improve measurements.

[24:42] – You lose and gain information throughout the design process. Listen to Fiona describe how this happens.

[27:29] – What does it mean to “go deep” on your craft?

[29:31] – Develop a commitment to learning.

[31:08] – Thank you Fiona for reminding us of the need to approach environmental change individually and systematically.


Guy Geier

Guy Geier FAIA, FIIDA, LEED is Managing Partner of FXCollaborative and host of the architecture 5 10 20 podcast.

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