Seriously, Guys

Heavy hitters of U.K. architecture declare a “climate emergency”

Storm clouds rolling across the ocean. (Courtesy NASA)

A group of 17 architecture firms from across the United Kingdom, including Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects, David Chipperfield Architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, released an open letter affirming their commitment to heading off climate change and building a more equitable future for their profession. The planet is in “twin crises,” the letter declares, under the heading “UK Architects Declare Climate and Biodiversity Emergency.”

The full list of founding signatories, all 17 of which are RIBA Stirling Prize winners, is as follows: Alison Brooks Architects; Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, AL_A, Caruso St John Architects, David Chipperfield Architects, dRMM, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Foster + Partners: Haworth Tompkins, Hodder + Partners: Maccreanor Lavington, Michael Wilford, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Stanton Williams, WilkinsonEyre, Witherford Watson Mann, and Zaha Hadid Architects.

Together, the group declared that as the construction and maintenance of buildings account for 40 percent of the world’s energy-derived carbon dioxide production, the architecture and construction industries have a responsibility to change their practices.

Their list of demands compiles practical changes that can be taken to mitigate further climate change, and to stem the ecological destruction that comes with new construction and urban sprawl.

“For everyone working in the construction industry,” reads the Architects Declare statement, “meeting the needs of our society without breaching the earth’s ecological boundaries will demand a paradigm shift in our behavior. 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.”

Those measures include collaborating with engineers, clients, and contractors throughout the project’s lifecycle to reduce waste: retrofitting older, existing structures instead of razing them for new construction whenever possible; enacting whole-lifecycle carbon and occupancy analysis; minimizing waste; sharing knowledge with colleagues whenever possible on best practices; incentivizing climate change and biodiversity loss mitigation through awards, and many others.

At the time of writing, 155 U.K.-based firms had signed the pledge. Earlier this week, Foster + Partners became the first architecture studio in the world to sign on to the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, meaning that all of their projects would be carbon neutral by 2030.

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