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Architects Declare responds to the IPCC Science Report issued today

It is clear from the latest IPCC report* that our economic and political systems are failing at the most basic level of protecting citizens, future generations and the web of life on which we depend. A world in which humanity can flourish within planetary boundaries is still possible and within reach, but we need rapid system change if we are to achieve this. The era of delusions about endless economic growth and fantasy technologies that will come to our rescue is well and truly over. It is time to define a new purpose for our profession that is truly aligned with planetary health and human wellbeing. While the IPCC describes extremely worrying scenarios it also makes the case for urgent action: “This generation can make the systemic changes that will stop the planet warming and create a world of peace, prosperity and equity” Inger Andersen, IPCC.

We in UK Architects Declare firmly believe that built environment professionals have solutions to play our part in addressing the planetary emergency and today we call once again on our government to engage with us in meaningful dialogue about how we can collectively rise to this challenge.

At the same time as pushing for high-level system change, design professionals and clients need to ask searching questions about our long-term purpose as individuals, as companies and as built environment institutions. To what extent are the projects on which we are working making things better or simply mitigating the extent to which we are making things worse? Where there are obstacles or limits to our agency, what do we need to do in terms of widening our influence to overcome these problems?

In the lead up to COP26, UK built environment declarations (www.constructiondeclares.com) will be asking all practices to support meaningful change across the spectrum of practice, regulation and policy.

We would welcome more signatories to join us in what needs to be a huge collective effort and we will be holding a Built Environment Summit on October 28th/29th. We acknowledge that change can be difficult but now is the time to step up to meaningful action with courage and conviction. We ask every signatory to look again at our declaration points and consider how we can work together towards realising a regenerative future within the rapidly narrowing timeframe that the IPCC have today re-emphasised.

Steve Tompkins, member of the Architects Declare Steering Group, said today that: “Architects Declare was founded after the 2018 IPCC special report to change the mindset of built environment practice, regulation and policy. Today’s report once again hammers home the need to transition rapidly to a zero-carbon world to avoid the worst consequences of climate breakdown. The science is clear, the evidence before our eyes is undeniable and the technical solutions are available: what we need now is political support and the collective courage to act.”


* Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, AR6 Climate Change 2021:
The Physical Science Basis (released 9th August 2021)
.

9 August 2021

: Statements

New Steering Group members

Architects Declare has welcomed seven new Steering Group members to join the existing team in developing our next phase of urgent action, leading up to COP26.

After an open invitation for applications, we interviewed many candidates and were extremely impressed with the level of commitment and knowledge displayed. We are excited to announce that our new members are:

Alasdair Ben Dixon - Collective Works

Anna Lisa McSweeney - White Arkitekter

Anna Woodeson - LTS Architects

Craig Robertson - AHMM

Duncan Baker-Brown - BakerBrown

Kevin Logan - Maccreanor Lavington

Zoe Watson - Levitt Bernstein


We would also like to officially welcome Tara Gbolade from Gbolade Design Studio, who joined us earlier this year.

Membership terms for all volunteers to the Steering Group will be between one and three years. In this spirit of rotation one of our original members, Peter Clegg, has now left after two years. We are very grateful to him for his time and valuable guidance.

Following responses to our funding request to signatory practices, and ticket sales from our April event, we have also engaged a Manager. Mark Goldthorpe will be working for Architects Declare two days a week, running our various workstreams.

5 July 2021

: Announcements

RIBA and Architects Declare announce expert advisors to Built Environment Summit

18 industry experts have been selected to help shape the first Built Environment Summit (BESt) that will take place from 28-29 October 2021. Grouped into panels corresponding with the six conference themes, they will help review open call submissions and programme the two-day event:

Panel for Theme 1: The Significance of the Built Environment

  • Mel Allwood, Director and Sustainable Buildings Lead, Ove Arup & Partners
  • James Mitchell, Co-Founder and CEO of BuildX Studio

Chaired by: Hélène Chartier, Head of Zero Carbon Development at C40 Climate Leadership Group


Panel for Theme 2: The Environmental Footprint of the Built Environment

  • Jake Attwood-Harris, Sustainable Design Advisor of Hawkins\Brown Architects
  • Michael Ramage, Director of Centre for Natural Material Innovation, University of Cambridge

Chaired by: Jane Anderson, Director of ConstructionLCA Limited


Panel for Theme 3: How to affect change in the Built Environment

  • Asif Din, Sustainability Director, Perkins & Will
  • Christhina Candido, Associate Professor and Director of Sustainable and Healthy Environments (SHE) Lab, The University of Melbourne

Chaired by: Duncan Baker-Brown, Founder of BakerBrown


Panel for Theme 4: The Built Environment Industry’s Capabilities

  • Sonja Oliveira, Founder of Radical Architecture Practice for Sustainability Network
  • Pete Winslow, Associate Director of Expedition

Chaired by: Nigel Tonks, Director and Senior Adviser to Climate Champions Team of Ove Arup & Partners


Panel for Theme 5: The Industry is Committed to Change

  • Adrian Campbell, Founder of Changebuilding
  • Ted Ochieng Otieno, Chair of Kenya Green Building Society

Chaired by: Caroline Pidcock, Director of Pidcock PTY


Panel for Theme 6: The Industry needs governments’ support to change

  • Ben Derbyshire, Chair of HTA Design
  • Judit Kimpian, Chair of Environment and Sustainable Architecture Work Group, Architects Council of Europe

Chaired by: Pooran Desai, CEO of OnePlanet.com


The international open call for research will close on Monday 5 July at 9am (BST).

Thu, 28 Oct 2021, 09:00 – Fri, 29 Oct 2021, 17:00 BST Click here for details and to book.

24 June 2021

: Announcements

RIBA and Architects Declare launch open call for climate action research

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Architects Declare have launched an open call for research to present at the inaugural Built Environment Summit and to form accompanying report, which will be presented to global leaders at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

Co-hosted by RIBA and Architects Declare, the Built Environment Summit (BESt) will take place in London from 28-29 October 2021. The summit will share examples of innovative practice and explore ways to harness political support to decarbonise the built environment, ahead of COP26.

The open call seeks evidence, research, and exemplar projects (built or un-built) under the following themes:

1. The significance of the built environment – research that demonstrates the social and economic benefits of sustainable buildings.

2. The environmental footprint of the built environment – analysis on the current environmental impact of buildings.

3. How to affect change in the built environment – research on the cultural, economic, and industry landscapes affecting the built environment.

4. The built environment industry’s capabilities – examples of innovative technologies and methodologies.

5. The industry is committed to change – initiatives and educational reforms that demonstrate commitment to climate action.

6. The industry needs Government support to change – evidence that shows the benefits of environmental regulation.

The deadline for these submissions is 14 June. More detailed information about all these categories can be found on the RIBA website here as well as an opportunity to register your interest in attending the Built Environment Summit in October.

Alongside the call for research, the RIBA and Architects Declare also invite Expressions of Interest to sit on the BESt Expert Advisory Panel. The Panel will support the selection of contributors and curation of the conference. Please apply by June 1 using this link

Architects Declare are recruiting

We are recruiting for members of both our Steering Group and Working Groups.

Steering Group (SG) - As the scope and reach of Architects Declare has grown, some SG members have become more involved with our umbrella body Construction Declares. This has provided an opportunity to recruit for four positions in an exciting time as we lead up to COP 26 in November 2021. Please click here for the role description and details of how to apply

Working Groups (WG) - We currently have two working groups engaging signatories with ongoing work, and usually led by a Steering Group member. We would like to expand these and move to a more autonomous model, so would like to recruit people to lead on these. Please click here for the role description and details of how to apply

17 March 2021

Statement on signatory withdrawals

Over the past 18 months, UK Architects Declare has grown into a collaborative force of more than 1000 architectural practices in the UK working towards transformative change, but last week saw the departure of two of our founding signatories, Foster + Partners and ZHA. We are saddened and disappointed that two such globally influential practices have found it necessary to withdraw.

It continues to be our goal to work collectively to bring about change while recognising that this is a journey and not a simple linear process. Different collaborative groups are needed to bring different perspectives. For example, AD’s role with practice signatories, is different to ACAN’s with individual members, and from the outset it has been AD’s policy not to publicly “call out” our signatory colleagues’ work. We recognise that practices have varying approaches to meeting the goals of the declaration. What unites us is a shared vision of a built environment that addresses the climate and biodiversity crises.

The reason we felt compelled to respond to Patrik Schumacher’s recent statements was because they appeared to represent a shift away from this shared vision and thereby undermine the principles of the declaration. Having read ZHA’s withdrawal statement, we regret not having sought further dialogue with ZHA before suggesting that they withdraw from the declaration. We would like to encourage both Foster + Partners and ZHA to consider signing the declaration again soon in order to be part of this growing collaborative network.

We believe that high ambitions for change will benefit from unity and the coming together of all architecture practices, large and small, and that this collective, practice-level action is central to the strength of Architects Declare.

8 December 2020

: Statements

Statement on Foster + Partners withdrawal from Architects Declare

We are disappointed that Foster + Partners has chosen to withdraw from the declarations and we would welcome a conversation with them on the points raised.

We recognise that addressing the climate and biodiversity emergencies challenges current practice and business models for us all, not least around the expansion of aviation. We believe that what is needed is system change and that can only come about through collective action. Architects Declare is not a ‘protest’ movement but a collaborative support network to innovate positive transformation. Our movement is global. As of today there are 1037 UK practices committed to the declaration and over 6000 companies signed up in 26 countries under the broader banner of Construction Declares.

The debate, and indeed the very definition of sustainability, has evolved considerably as the depth of the crisis we face has become ever clearer. Our declaration represents a positive vision of how our profession can respond to the planetary emergencies. This involves embracing new approaches and being realistic about what can be solved with technology in the next crucial decade.

We’re looking forward to working with our signatories to raise the level of ambition in preparation for the critical COP26 climate negotiations next year.

2 December 2020

: Statements

Statement on ZHA climate comments

Last week The Architects’ Journal reported that Patrik Schumacher of ZHA (a signature practice to Architects Declare) had asserted that ‘we need to allow prosperity and progress to continue and that will also bring the resources to overcome [the climate crisis] through investment in science and new technologies. That must be built on continuous growth’. He also warned against ‘those voices who are too quick to demand radical changes’.

We believe these statements are fundamentally in conflict with the Architects Declare commitment to ‘advocate for faster change in our industry towards regenerative practices’. We also believe these statements are scientifically flawed and decades out of date in terms of informed intellectual thought. We would like to explain why.

For decades, the global economy has grown exponentially and so too have greenhouse gas emissions, material extraction, energy consumption and a whole host of environmental damage indicators. Meanwhile, social, economic, and health inequalities have widened and improvements in life satisfaction and genuine progress indicators have plateaued.

The too-commonly held belief that the pursuit of economic growth brings prosperity for all has proven mistaken. The ideas that our economy is dematerialising, or that we will eventually become rich enough to reverse the harm we have caused, are not only wrong, but extremely dangerous – now more than ever.

It is now 56 years since Ronald Reagan kickstarted the era of neo-liberalism with his notorious speech A Time for Choosing. His argument was deeply rooted in the ideas of Milton Friedman and others who argued for unfettered market forces.

Since then we have extinguished two thirds of non-human animal life on the planet and have breached a range of planetary boundaries in the pursuit of ever-increasing economic growth. What conventional economists regard as a ‘healthy’ level of 3 per cent annual growth will result in a doubling in the size of the economy every 23.5 years and bring along with it a doubling in the environmental damage required to power that growth over the same period.

The obsession with growth goes even further back to an economist called Simon Kuznets, who formulated the idea of Gross National Product (GNP) in the 1930s at the request of the US Department of Commerce. He observed at the time that it would be a big mistake to make this the primary measure of the economy but his warning went unheeded and maximisation of GNP increasingly became an obsession for governments around the world.

Robert Kennedy’s famous speech in 1968 listed a range of things that GNP excludes – the health of our children, the beauty of our arts, the integrity of our officials, the intelligence of our debate – and concludes that GNP ‘measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile’. The economist Kenneth Boulding observed in 1973 that ‘anyone who thinks you can have infinite growth on a finite planet is either a madman or an economist’.

What is striking about these examples is how old they are and how little has changed. This is partly a testament to the success of neo-liberal ideas championed by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and the vast system of thought they created – a Pyrrhic victory that has brought us to the brink of catastrophe, according to the world’s top scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The idea that growth can clean up the environment was advanced by free-market ideologues in the 1980s and comprehensively debunked by Mariano Torras and James Boyce in the 1990s. They showed persuasively that what improves air quality, water quality and other environmental issues is people power – not economic growth, but collective action, such as public sanitation or a national health service.

A widespread feature of developed economies was the way they shifted from manufacturing to service industries and, by doing that, shifted the environmental pollution from the goods they consumed to poorer parts of the world. When countries like the UK purport to be reducing their emissions while increasing their GDP, it is because the emissions being counted are only those produced within our borders, not the emissions associated with our ever-increasing consumption of materials and products produced overseas.

We need a more sophisticated discussion about growth and, encouragingly, we have seen much more coherent alternative models – particularly since the financial crash of 2008, which even persuaded economically traditional media such as The Financial Times and The Economist to accept that there may be flaws in neo-liberal dogma.

Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics has shown with great persuasiveness, the urgent need, and clear potential, for a new model that is based on planetary limits and climate justice. Similarly, academics such as Jason Hickel in his book Less is More have set out a compelling critique of indiscriminate growth. In other fields, such as medicine, the Planetary Health Initiative has shown that our current economic system threatens to reverse 50 years of health gains and that our long-term health is dependent on the health of our planetary systems.

What these other disciplines have argued is that we need a much more sophisticated discussion about growth that distinguishes between qualitative and quantitative growth. There are some things we need to grow – such as ecosystems, human health, community cohesion, political unity, the vitality of the commons – and some things we need to urgently shrink, such as hyper-consumption, luxury lifestyles and unconstrained aviation.

Given the richness of debate going on in these other fields, it is troubling to hear leading figures in architecture like Patrik Schumacher talking about the need for continuous growth and progress. As Edward Abbey observed, ‘growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell’ and ‘progress’ in these blinkered terms means progress towards collapse and the most grotesque crime against future generations and developing nations ever committed.

In setting up Architects Declare (AD) – necessarily organised almost exclusively with pro bono input, we had hoped that practices would be self-policing. For AD to do otherwise would be so complicated and resource-intensive that we would need substantial funding and a whole team of full-time staff. This approach has been partly successful and we salute those hundreds of practices in the UK and globally who are energetically seeking to be true to the declaration and make the necessary positive changes.

To date we have avoided calling out individual practices (as explained in our statement in July), recognising that we all struggle sometimes to do what is necessary. However, when statements are made that contradict the fundamentals of the declaration, we have no option but to speak up. Sadly, there remain signatory practices who appear determined to continue with business as usual. This is seriously undermining the effectiveness and credibility of AD, so we call on those practices to either join the wave of positive change or have the integrity to withdraw.

24 November 2020

: Statements

Planning for the Future Consultation

Architects Declare have responded to the Planning for the Future Consultation.

View our response here

Financial Support Needed

Architects Declare needs financial support and we suggest that every signatory practice makes a contribution. How much we raise will guide what we can afford to take on. The more we raise, the more we can do. Please support AD at this crucial time of change.

Our hope is to raise at least £50,000 a year to cover operating costs including staff, maintaining our website and social media, promoting our work to the press, keeping communications with signatories regular, coordinating regional meetings and strengthening links with fellow declarations under the international, multi-disciplinary Construction Declares umbrella. There are also other expenses to take care of such as adding functionality to our website and paying for digital subscriptions. Rather than relying on practices to fund this in the background, we would like to put a more equitable model in place. We are in the process of setting up Architects Declare as a charity but this takes some time, and we need to start fundraising sooner than completion allows.

Based on our estimate of future costs, we suggest that each signatory practice contributes £20 annually for each architect they employ. Contributions are limited at a maximum of £2500 so large practices do not pay more than this amount. If this is not affordable, please contribute what you can; your status within AD will not be affected by your ability to contribute.

For us to receive your complete contribution, please email us for details of how to transfer via BACS. Otherwise here is our PayPal link:
https://paypal.com/paypalme/architectsdeclareuk…

19 September 2020

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