Whole Building
Decarbonization Solutions

and Everything in Between

Addressing climate change through the built environment is imperative.

As design professionals, we have a responsibility to help our clients work toward and meet zero emissions goals to accelerate decarbonization. With each project we take on, we apply our multidisciplinary design services to maximize energy efficiency; electrify building systems; integrate renewable energy; ensure holistic, high performance; and adapt and preserve existing buildings. Above all, we’re here to help you realize a successful project that is good for people and the planet.

Defining Decarbonization

Building decarbonization refers to the intentional reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with building design, construction, and operations. The built environment contributes approximately 40% of annual, global CO2 emissions, the primary contributor to global warming. With such a significant contribution comes an important opportunity (and great responsibility) for impactful and essential reductions.

The three scopes of emissions (defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol of 2001) categorize the different types of carbon emissions a company creates.

Scope 1 emissions. Green House Gas (GHG) emissions that a company makes directly — for example while running its boilers and vehicles.

Scope 2 emissions. GHG emissions a company makes indirectly, such as from the electricity or energy it buys for heating and cooling buildings.

Scope 3 emissions. GHG emissions associated, not with the company itself, but that the organization is indirectly responsible for, up and down its value chain. For example, from buying products from its suppliers, and from its products when customers use them.

Getting Started with Your Decarbonization Goals

Whether renovating an existing building or designing and constructing a new one, reducing building-related carbon emissions begins with measures to enhance the energy efficiency of the building envelope and the performance of all building systems. Decarbonization relies on leveraging all opportunities for buildings to transition away from fossil-fuel-based energy sources. 

Short- and long-term planning for this transition can include:


Energy Performance and Electrification. We can help you optimize your building’s overall energy performance through design strategies related to orientation, massing, building envelope, HVAC and electrical systems, daylighting, construction materials, and more to maximize energy efficiency and reduce energy needs. We can also help you pursue building electrification with the goal of exclusively utilizing electricity from renewable sources through a utility provider and/or on-site renewable energy, or ensure your building is solar-ready to serve future needs with expanded electric capacity. Learn more


Building Performance Analysis. To help you realize healthy, happy, productive places that are resource efficient and operationally resilient, we offer a holistic design perspective steeped in research-based methodologies that equate to long-term performance, adaptability, and a great user experience. Beginning in the early stages of a project, we use energy modeling to optimize designs and systems. After construction, we “close the loop” with post-occupancy evaluation. Custom-tailored to each project, the process includes steps such as analyzing utility bills to compare actual vs. modeled performance, surveying occupants, and taking on-site measurements of space conditions. Learn more.


Embodied Carbon. Strategies for tackling embodied carbon — the carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions associated with materials and construction processes throughout the lifecycle of a building or infrastructure — include prioritizing the adaptation and reuse of existing buildings and making thoughtful materials selections by sourcing products from manufacturers who intentionally reduce the environmental impact and carbon footprint of their products as well as the creative reuse of existing materials for new purposes. 


ESG Program Support. ESG (Environmental Social Governance) criteria are used by investors to make socially responsible investment decisions, considering not only financial performance, but also the broader impact a company has on society and the environment. Whether your organization has a mature ESG (Environmental Social Governance) program or you’re gearing up to establish baselines, our team offers the multidisciplinary capabilities to serve as your partner in the formation and implementation of your program and beyond. Learn more


Low or Zero GWP Refrigerants. Refrigeration management — reducing GHG emissions from cooling systems — is considered one of the most impactful steps to addressing climate change. With 4,000+ commercial refrigeration design projects, our team has undertaken groundbreaking work that includes the first ammonia/CO2 cascade system in a U.S. grocery store and delivering the EPA GreenChill Partnership program‘s first platinum rating for a grocery store. Our refrigeration engineering experts can help you plan for and/or switch to advanced, efficient, natural refrigeration systems through conversion, replacement, or modification to significantly reduce emissions. Learn more.


Funding Mechanisms. We work with clients to explore the total cost of ownership, or life-cycle cost, of all options to help you make informed decisions and help identify funding mechanisms to reduce the cost of the project and optimize your investment. For example, we use rebates available from local utilities to help offset the costs of efficient equipment; identify Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding opportunities; explore Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funding; and research a variety of grants and other ways to help you cost-effectively decarbonize your buildings.


Green Building Certification. To navigate the world of green building certifications, you not only need a partner with in-depth knowledge about the requirements for each, but someone who can help you align your design goals and needs with those specific programs and determine which will work best for you and your project. Our sustainability experts have experience in the implementation, documentation, and management of a variety of green building certification programs as well as state and federal government programs to help you make your mark. Learn more.

Multidisciplinary Decarbonization Services

All the ways we can support decarbonization goals for your project.

Design for a Better Built Environment

Our Climate Commitments

As a signatory of the AIA 2030 Commitment, we’re part of an industry-wide movement pushing for all new buildings and major renovations to be carbon neutral by 2030. Each year in support of this initiative, we use energy modeling to benchmark our projects against industry averages and track our progress toward meeting the fossil-fuel reduction targets determined by the 2030 Commitment.

In 2022, we reduced carbon emissions associated with our projects by 1.75 million tons of CO2 and are proud of the projects in our portfolio that are on track to meet the current AIA 2030 reduction target of 80% below the regional average performance standard. 

Additionally, Cushing Terrell is part of a group of 4,200 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who’ve committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half before 2030, achieve net-zero emissions before 2050, and disclose progress on a yearly basis. The SME Climate Commitment provides a path for SMEs to join the United Nations Race to Zero campaign — a coalition of businesses and governments committed to achieving net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.

The lessons we’re learning from our own decarbonization efforts provide us with the knowledge and experience to help guide clients who are interested in implementing their own zero carbon strategy.  

Multidisciplinary, Integrated Design =
Holistic Decarbonization

A cornerstone of sustainable design is a whole-building approach where all aspects of a project are considered as an interwoven ecosystem. At Cushing Terrell, we utilize the expertise of our multidisciplinary team — ranging from architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture to civil, electrical, mechanical, and structural engineering, as well as specialty services such as adaptive reuse, energy services, on-site renewable energy, commissioning, and refrigeration engineering — to help our clients realize a successful project.

Our design process is characterized by close coordination with in-house teams as well as early collaboration with project partners to identify synergies between design elements and building systems. Having all parties involved from the initial design phases creates a closer working relationship as well as opportunities for invention, resulting in holistic, lifecycle solutions. This approach is critical to solving today’s increasingly complex environmental design challenges such as decarbonization.

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Sustainable Design


Energy Services


ESG Program Support


Green Building Certifications