“I think as a profession [architects] we need to be more vocal, and we need to be making bold and emphatic statements about things that we think are positive and things that we think are negative.” 

Jim Taggart

If you are at all familiar with the building and design sector in Canada you will know that Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine (SABmag) is the go-to source for green design news and commentary. Our podcast guest today, Jim Taggart, is its editor and founder.

Jim started his career as an architect, receiving his Master’s degree in architecture from the University of Sheffield (UK) in 1980, and then working in design and construction for 12 years in the UK and then Canada before leaving architectural practice to pursue parallel interests in education and communications.

Over the past 25 years, Jim has lectured and written extensively on sustainable design and urban development, with a particular focus on the use of wood in contemporary architecture.

He is the author or editor of some 20 books including the award-winning ‘Toward a Culture of Wood Architecture’ in 2011, and ‘The Architecture of Engagement’ in 2019, and he is currently working on a second edition of ‘Tall Wood Buildings’ with Vancouver architect Michael Green.

Jim has also taught in the Bachelor of Architectural Science program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology since 2004.

In this podcast I talked with Jim about what he wants to do with the SABmag ideas platform he has created, and his thoughts on how we might design buildings to be more effective in addressing the impacts of climate change; what the future looks like, or could look like; and what advice he would have for someone setting out to make a difference.

Jim at work editing SABmag
Jim at work editing SABmag

 

What Gives Jim Hope:

When I’m teaching at a BCIT I find my students give me hope. They give me hope because …I see in them the change in values that I think is essential to us actually solving our problems. I think that the 20 something-year-olds are probably not quite ready to be in decision making positions. But, as I said, they’re the ones who really feel the impacts of climate change or all of this stuff, who have a lifetime of it to confront, the ones who feel it viscerally are the ones who should be in the decision-making positions. I really think that that is where the hope lies.

Jim’s Advice to His Students:

I don’t know whether you’re familiar with a New York based sustainable lifestyle blogger called Alden Wicker but she ran a very successful blog talking to people, her followers, about where they should buy their best local organic produce and what coffee was more ethically sourced than others. And then she suddenly had an epiphany and she turned around and she said, “You know what really we should be doing? Instead of devoting that extra time and extra money that it takes to go out to the farmer’s market and go here and go there and to walk to that store that’s got the ethical coffee, we should be spending at least some of that time advocating.”

And from an architectural point of view, I don’t think that means that we as architects stop designing the best buildings we possibly can, but I think as a profession we need to be more vocal, and we need to be making bold and emphatic statements about things that we think are positive and things that we think are negative. Whether it’s legislation or whether it’s all manner of things, I think we need to stand up and be counted because we are a creative bunch. We are trained in problem solving. I would argue that for a lot of us the systems-based problems have got more complex than we were trained to solve.

What Jim Asked of Listeners:

I’ve given lectures on this topic to my students. I’ve expressed these opinions to my peers in the architectural profession. Sometimes I’m viewed as a little bit of a heretic, but I’d be really interested to know what listeners think. Does any of this resonate? And if so, what resonates?

Obtain a copy of Jim’s Most Recent Book:

The Architecture of Engagement at: https://www.jimtaggart.net/self-published-books

Where You Can Reach Jim: