The last 12 months have been unprecedented in terms of environmental impact. The environmental movement started about 50 years ago and in that time, despite the warnings we have seen an escalation in habitat destruction and Green House Gas emissions around the world. For some years there has been an acknowledgement of the negative impact climate change will have and the need to address these issues. We now also face questions about what the post-Covid world will look like and are investigating how architecture and design can address contagion as well as climate change.
Our industry has responded through broadening environmental expertise, campaigning for improved regulations, and delivering to sustainability and wellbeing accreditations such as BREEAM, LEED and WELL. However the climate events and record breaking temperatures of 2019 and global health issues of 2020 have highlighted that our response to date has been inadequate. Urgent action is now required to prevent irreversible changes to our climate and the implications of these changes.
With all the other current challenges we are facing, it is vital to remember that in October 2018 the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their latest report highlighting the impact of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It identified pathways and a timetable to prevent this- widely interpreted as 12 years to save the planet. This is based on the evidence that if the 2030 carbon reduction target is overshot it will be very difficult to achieve the remaining 50% reduction by 2050. This has given the movement a focus and a deadline. There was a key shift in the debate within the media and society at large. Student climate strikes spread rapidly around the world alongside the rise of peaceful civic disobedience by organisations such as Extinction Rebellion. Governments, including the UK, local authorities, and institutions such as RIBA, declared a climate emergency.
Becoming signatories to the UN Global Compact supports our vision to create a better world and aligns with other commitments and initiatives the Practice has implemented over the last year.
In 2019 Scott Brownrigg joined 900 other architecture practices in signing the UK Architect’s Declare Climate and Biodiversity Emergency. The declaration states, “For everyone working in the construction industry, meeting the needs of our society without breaching the earth’s ecological boundaries will demand a paradigm shift in our behaviour. Together with our clients, we will need to commission and design buildings, cities and infrastructures as indivisible components of a larger, constantly regenerating and self-sustaining system.”
Since then we have:
- signed up to the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge that sets a series of targets for practices to adopt to reduce operational energy, embodied carbon and potable water
- sought measureable and continuous improvement by assessing our activities against the B Corp Certification criteria.
- developed a 6 point sustainability toolkit as a project management tool to integrate sustainable thinking into design, construction, handover and operation.
As an international collaborative practice, we are well placed to tackle this challenge. Our Environmental Sustainability strategy focusses on providing practical support to all our architects and designers. We want to create designs that improve and regenerate our environment.
We want to enrich lives.
These new commitments and initiatives support our intent that sustainability and protection of the environment are integrated in our design approach, our design advice, and our design solutions. Our Sustainability Toolkit, defines our six key themes
> CARBON REDUCTION
Target Carbon Positive
> ADAPTATION AND RESILIENCE
Design places to be adaptable and account for future changes to our climate.
> RESOURCE DEPLETION
Reduce resource use in construction and operation.
> EQUALITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
Act responsibly and ethically. Understand the broader impacts of our design decisions.
> HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
Contribute to a healthy environment. Prevent pollution of air, water and land.
> CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Design for the whole project lifecycle.
All our projects are reviewed against these themes.