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Architects Declare, Global Climate Strike & Climate Justice

In today’s Fridays for Future global climate strike, architects are among those demonstrating their commitment to action on the Climate and Biodiversity Emergency. A focus of this year's action is Fridays for Future's call for 'intersectional climate justice' - meaning that "the climate crisis does not exist in a vacuum. Other socio-economic crises such as racism, sexism, ableism, class inequality, and more amplify the climate crisis and vice versa."

The climate emergency is not a single issue. Different people, communities and regions experience its impacts differently. Architects Declare - a network of architectural practices committed to addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency through an 11-point declaration - is seeking signatories’ views on a proposed twelfth point to highlight this:

Declaration on climate justice

"We will seek to - Support those who are working for climate justice and strive to ensure equity and an improved quality of life for all.”

Architects Declare launched in May 2019 with a commitment to promote and build momentum around our original 11 declaration points, and since then over 1,100 architectural practices across the UK have declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. Over time, however, it has become clear that the issue of climate justice is not sufficiently prominent and many have raised this imbalance. The increasing attention to the injustices of impacts globally - including within the UK - suggests that our declaration should redress this.

Today, while some Architects Declare signatories are supporting their employees in gathering for public events around the UK, others are making time 'in-house' to discuss and research the actions that their practices are best placed to take on our urgent priorities. We welcome whatever support practices are able to show, including to the call for climate justice as part of our response to the emergency.

Our consultation with signatories ends on 8th October and the result will be reflected in the new Architects Declare Practice Guide that we have developed to support all signatories in their actions. This will be released at the RIBA and Architects Declare Built Environment Summit on 28th & 29th October.

24 September 2021

: Announcements

Report - Built for the Environment: Addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency with a fair and sustainable built environment.

RIBA, in partnership with Architects Declare, has today published Built for the Environment: Addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency with a fair and sustainable built environment. The report demonstrates how:

  • The built environment has a significant environmental footprint
  • Ambitious change in the built environment sector is possible
  • The built environment has the capability to transition to a sustainable future
  • The built environment sector is committed to change
  • There are enormous social, economic, health, and wellbeing benefits to shifting to a sustainable built environment.

Built for the Environment - published in the lead-up to the RIBA and Architects Declare Built Environment Summit (18th & 29th October ) and the COP26 global climate conference in Glasgow (1st -12th November) - sets out ten principles for a transition to a fair and sustainable built environment. Specific recommendations address international agreements and commitments, national strategies and roadmaps, financial frameworks, building codes, planning systems, public infrastructure and procurement, voluntary standards, contracts, appointments, and procurement documents, design processes and collaborative approaches, and education and qualifications.

"With nearly 40% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions attributable to buildings and construction, it is imperative that the outcomes from COP26 include robust, ambitious, and extensive action on the built environment. Whatever actions are taken now, average global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the midcentury. Given the scale of existing built environment and the time it takes to transform systems effectively, we need robust interim targets to hit breakthroughs in the coming years and decades'. While it is fair to say that changes to norms, customs, and culture do take time, understanding of human-induced climate change has been developing for several decades. We now stand on the brink of a global breakthrough in climate action."

"This report shows that it is possible for the built environment to operate within planetary limits, and as such all those involved in the sector – including policymakers – can and must take decisive and ambitious action now."

Also published with the report is an Endorser Pack - available at the same link as the report itself, above. RIBA and Architects Declare now seek organisations from across the sector to endorse the report, which trails the Built Environment Summit – a two-day virtual conference on 28 and 29 October that will provide an opportunity for the sector to unite ahead of COP26.

21 September 2021

: Launches

Architects Declare evidence to Environmental Audit Committee inquiry on the Sustainability of the Built Environment.

Architects Declare submitted written evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, and this has now been published on the Committee's website. The inquiry was established to "examine the sustainability of the built environment. It will look at the best routes to net zero for our future building needs from low carbon materials through to policies to minimise the whole life carbon impact of new buildings."

15 September 2021

: Consultations

Architects Declare & ACAN support Insulate Britain campaign

The UK’s housing stock is not fit for the climate emergency we are in, to meet the government’s own legal obligation of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 we must undertake a massive and holistic retrofit of UK homes. This has been advised in numerous reports to the Government and the UK will not meet our climate obligations without updating our buildings. It is with this understanding of the scale and severity of the problem that Architects Declare and the Architects Climate Action Network support the aims of the Insulate Britain Campaign.[0]

According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), emissions from buildings in the UK have fallen by less than 1% per year since 2009.[1] Recent extreme weather events in Britain and all over the world indicate that the long-predicted Climate Emergency is now upon us. Without rapid and far-reaching action to reduce CO2 emissions, there will be even more irreversible damage to the natural world and our ability to live within it. According to the UN Secretary-General, the IPCC’s Working Group 1 Report of August 2021 is ‘a code red for humanity’: "If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses."[2]

Heating our homes currently accounts for 15% of UK CO2 emissions[3], the vast majority of these homes will still be standing in 2050. To ensure our homes are capable of providing comfortable, affordable and low-carbon dwellings, whole house retrofit including insulation, ventilation and more efficient heating systems must be undertaken. This means that we need to retrofit a million homes a year for the next 29 years – this is possible, but we need to act now.

Upgrading the thermal performance of the UK’s draughty and inefficient homes is an essential part of a wider strategy to decarbonise the UK. This vital work will create tens of thousands of skilled jobs, release hundreds of thousands of people from fuel poverty and protect them from excessive heat as temperatures increase.

We need a national, government-funded programme, led by the built environment industry supporting workers and starting with the most vulnerable in our society. It must have clear objectives, appropriate methodologies and consumer guarantees. This has been necessary for decades and is only getting more urgent. The government’s own Climate Change Committee has stated that this should be “supported by the Treasury as a national infrastructure priority”.

Construction industry professionals have the knowledge, experience, skills and motivation to help make this happen today, but we need our government to support this essential work. They must ensure it is properly funded, effectively administered and that households are supported through the costs and disruption. Decades of inadequate response and botched programmes have led us to the point where we have a daunting task ahead of us but it is not too late to fix our homes and ensure they are the healthy, climate-resilient buildings we need. Insulate Britain are demanding that this low carbon retrofitting programme is rolled out immediately and completed by 2030. We realise that it would take a huge and coordinated commitment of finances and resources from our government to do this; much like (although a lot less expensive than) their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Insulate Britain campaign is highlighting one aspect of the housing crisis in this country, the warnings have been given and the science is clear, we must act now, any more delay is simply irresponsible. The industry is ready, people are in need and the government must show the leadership necessary in this emergency.

Signed by

The Architects Declare Steering Group

The Architects Climate Action Network Steering Group

[0] - Insulate Britain

[1] - BEIS (2021) 2020 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions Provisional Figures quoted in The Climate Change Committee's 2021 Progress Report to Parliament

[2] - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report

"Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity," said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. "If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success."

[3] - DECC. Emissions from Heat: Statistical Summary. 1–12 (2012).

13 September 2021

: Statements

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

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