During childhood, when Maria Fujihara’s friends asked her the profession of her parents, she replied, “they are gangsters”. By “gangsters” she meant her father was director of IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) and her mother was manager of Burle Marx Park, a green strip in the middle of buildings in the south zone of São Paulo city.
In a home like this, Maria grew up dealing with her contradictions. She liked the environmental area due to her parents’ profession, but she also liked to travel, and was interested in arts, culture and humanities. She started a degree in Economics because she wanted to be a diplomat to be able to travel the world. When she was already in College for three months a car accident put her away from everything for a year. “It was my turning point, when I decided to drop everything and assume my passion for architecture”.
Recovered from the accident, Maria joined the Architecture University, where she got her attention caught by the fact that no teacher of any discipline talked about sustainable architecture. “The Academy is always the last one to change, the last to receive any innovative subject”, she laments. But with the DNA of environment in her blood, she didn’t rest until a professor indicated her to Green Building Council Brazil NGO (GBC), an organization that promotes environmental certifications to the civil construction industry, and where Maria got her first job as an architect.
Maria works more precisely in the dissemination of a certificate called LEED, the acronym for “Leadership Energy Environmental Design”, considered the world’s largest building certification. And it is with shining eyes and full of passion that Maria crosses the country and travels the world disseminating more sustainable ways to construct buildings, homes, condos and neighborhoods. “The way we build in Brazil is very contaminating, it has a lot of waste”, she explains. “Non sustainable constructions have an average of 15% cost increase because of the waste”.
When questioned about the most sustainable model being more expensive, she pulls out a presentation and has all the arguments to prove otherwise. “With the certification, planning time is longer and construction time is less long. So the cost is diluted during the work”. She shows with practical examples, of projects she has followed, how the management of demolition waste, for example, can reduce up to 60% water consumption and 40% of energy. “The construction industry uses many natural resources. If you don’t plan well, it wastes a lot, it’s like you polluted twice”.
Currently, Maria is involved in a project of neighborhoods certification that eventually led her to fall in love with the theme of cities and to do a postgraduate program in City Planning and City Management at the University of São Paulo. On a personal level she tells how her work directly influences in her lifestyle. “I stopped eating meat, I share rides, I buy from local producers, I swap my clothes in bazaars to avoid buying new ones, and my house looks like a forest”.
Maria strongly defends that her lifestyle can not be contradictory to what she searches everyday in her work at GBC. “The generation of our parents is the one that began to talk about and study environment, but they don’t put this in practice. We are the generation that will apply practically what we study, and we won’t accept this life with contradictions anymore”.