News | October 21st 2023

CBT Design Leaders Speak at First-Ever Climate Beacon Conference

Where would someone hear references to “climate Paul Reveres,” the new “Blue Economy,” and “moving at the speed of trust” in just two days?  At Climate Beacon 2023.

Boston’s inaugural Climate Beacon conference, hosted at the New England Aquarium last week, brought together climate experts, elected officials, policymakers, private sector leaders, and problem solvers to discuss Massachusetts’ transition to a clean-energy economy — and to take on some of the most pressing issues facing the environment. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu reminded attendees — in case they needed reminding — “Climate action impacts everything.”

CBT’s participation at Climate Beacon was threefold: as an inaugural sponsor, as voices on conference panels, and as attendees gathering insights to share with colleagues.

CBT Principals Kishore Varanasi, Devanshi Purohit, and Henry Celli brought expertise to three panel conversations, speaking about how to focus our efforts to accelerate progress:


Director of Urban Design Kishore Varanasi represented CBT on the cross-industry panel “Building More Resilient Communities: Voices Across the Commonwealth,” emphasizing that conferences like this are vital because "There hasn't been a playbook or toolkit to deal with [climate change.] We're all writing this together right now. That's why this conference is so important. We are writing the playbook together."


Championing the need for human adaptability, Senior Urban Designer Devanshi Purohit, a panelist on “Massachusetts: Beacon of Our Future,” joined the Secretary for the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Mayor Wu and others in a discussion and posited: "We can't work in silos. We have to go across the table and hear ideas from wherever they can come from. We have to have an open mind and be open to new ideas, irrespective of the source."


CBT Senior Architect Henry Celli moderated one of the event’s “Solutions” panels, exploring the prompt, “How do we design and construct buildings and supportive infrastructure to make a positive impact on the climate resiliency of the communities they are built in?”

A passionate group of conference attendees from CBT were inspired and energized by the experience. Here are some of their impressions:

casey and greg

Greg Scarmo took in the conversation “Building a Better World: How Climate Action Creates Opportunity” called the experience a “heartening two days!”

Following the Boston Mayor’s opening comments, CBT Architect Casey Orlando lauded the Mayor’s holistic and hands-on climate action leadership, which embraces the need for EV school buses to scaling up renewable energy efforts, to developing long-term biodiversity plans, to retrofitting multi-family buildings.

Urban Climate Researcher and Designer Rajji Desai attended the discussion on “Accelerating Our Clean Energy Transition” between David Turk, US Department of Energy Deputy Secretary, Maria Belen Power, Massachusetts’ Undersecretary for Environmental Justice, and several others. Rajji underscored how very complex this imperative is. In her own words: “For meaningful progress, we must decouple emissions growth from economic growth, ensuring that economic prosperity doesn’t come at the expense of the environment. And inclusivity and environmental justice are non-negotiable.”

The powerful positivity, pragmatism, inspiration, and determination that we experienced at this first-ever Climate Beacon conference is echoed in the resounding remarks by Climate Beacon President Mary Skelton Roberts: “This is the first of what we hope will be many years of bringing the best innovations, smartest ideas, collaborations, and solutions from across the Commonwealth. We’re here to talk about what’s working, what’s not, and what we can do next, as we focus on the goal of reducing emissions and doing this in an equitable way. No one can do this on their own—no one sector, no one political party. We need all hands on deck.”

Count us in. CBT is on heartily on board for this journey, as practitioner and ongoing seeker of climate change solutions. Both at this inspiring conference and in the years ahead, the firm has many hands — and minds — making headway on this still largely uncharted sea.