In 1938 Buckminster Fuller coined a term ephemeralization. It’s an idea that, technological advancement can do ‘more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing’.  His vision implied accelerating increase in the efficiency of achieving the same or more output while requiring less input. With his idea, Fuller was ahead of his time and at odds with his contemporaries. Today this brilliant architect’s vision has become a necessity and shares lots of similarities with the concept of sustainability.  Most importantly his vision is close to ZJA philosophy and an inspiration for ZJA-SDG team.

The future is now

In the coming decade the world must step up to address the challenges of climate change, biodiversity and equity. Global carbon dioxide emissions should be brought to net zero by 2050 in order to limit the global temperature rise to 1,5 degrees Celsius. We as architects and specialists can contribute hugely to achieving this goal.

In 2019 and 2020, ZJA set out it's ambition across a suite of sustainability areas ranging from net zero carbon, climate resilience and circular economy to health, wellbeing and social value. To meet the many sustainability challenges facing society and us as an architectural studio, we have built up our in-house sustainability specialist group called SDG Team.

Sustainability has been a part of ZJA’s DNA for a long time, therefore SDG team has a lot of projects to get inspired from. Check out how a pleasant microclimate was created by a special composition of membrane layers in a shaded dome or learn about different ways structural elements were reused in Thialf Heerenveen.

With sustainability as a driving force, we intend to create long-term value for our clients, for ourselves, for society, and above all for the planet. 

Sustainable development goals

SDG stands for “sustainable development goals” - a guideline developed by United Nations helping institutions and companies to incorporate sustainable practices within its structures. We as ZJA work on projects on different scales: from large scale infrastructure planning to designing buildings and pedestrian bridges and creating the conditions for sustainable living environments.

All the 17 goals are a framework for our work however six of the goals are particularly important, as it is these that we have the opportunity to pursue in our projects and within ZJA workspace on a day-to-day basis. These are:

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
Daylight, Stimulate physical activity, Indoor environment

Goal 4: Quality education
Sustainability awareness, sustainable lifestyles, contribution to sustainable development

Goal 9: industry, innovation and infrastructure
Facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development, resource-use efficiency

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Safe and secure environments, Equal and accessible, Involvement of users, Sustainable mobility

Goal 13: Climate Action
Climate neutrality, Low embodied carbon of materials, Climate adaptation of outdoor environments

Goal 15: Life on Land
Ecosystem services and biological diversity

ZJA-SDG Team focuses on two broader themes: external and internal. The external theme focuses on sustainability interfaces of a project: how to make a project as energy efficient as possible, how to enhance biodiversity of the project’s site, how to make infrastructure resilient, how to optimize and select materials, how to make sure that the well-being of users is ensured to name a few. The internal theme focuses on sustainability interfaces within ZJA workplace: the inclusivity, office energy usage, office’s interior design and furniture and social cohesion within ZJA.

Our sustainability expertise

All projects at ZJA are unique and entail different challenges. To identify risks, prioritise aspects and formulate goals, it is important to carry out a sustainability analysis at an early stage. Our analysis links to the SDGs, but it also identifies more specific sustainability aspects for the project in question.

ZJA SDG Team has developed a sustainability toolkit. The toolkit is structured by chosen SDGs, with each briefly explained and then related to the implications each poses to the built environment. Various principles and strategies are presented for each goal, with each identifying the specific challenge and the site-specific solutions that could be employed. These are meant to highlight and approach, in specific terms related to the relevant SDG.  Some of the world’s most reputed certification and sustainability indicators (e.g., RIBA sustainable outcomes guide, GPR, BREEAM, WELL, LBC, etc.)  have been used to condense the knowledge and deliver it in a most approachable way.

 Based on this toolkit, our specialists can offer opportunities, approaches, coordination, process management, strategic definition and analyses in the areas of environmental consultancy, climate, energy, materials, biodiversity, etc. Our strength lies in being able to put together interdisciplinary teams, and jointly maintaining a holistic approach to the entire process. This means we can drive sustainability from vision, through project planning, to design elaboration and project completion.

ZJA is also actively working towards obtaining CO2 Performance (Prestatie) ladder level 3 certification by end of the year 2022. It is an instrument that helps reduce organisation's carbon emissions, in projects and in the business sector.

ZJA incorporated its expertise into many projects, and can help if there are any questions. You can reach us at