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Architecture, the Climate of the Future

Type

Editorial

By:

Nicholas Galabov, Board Member of the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE), in charge of the ACE Initiative on Climate Change

Publishing date:

10/01/2015

We all have professional aspirations, personal dreams, and plans for the future. But look closely at trusted sources analysing the climate on our planet, and you will realise that we will have to adjust them, and adapt to a new environment. We live in a “new” climate, shaped by the unsustainable economic and social models of development of the last decades. We have to reconstruct our models of development to protect our future!

We all have professional aspirations, personal dreams, and plans for the future. But look closely at trusted sources analysing the climate on our planet, and you will realise that we will have to adjust them, and adapt to a new environment. We live in a “new” climate, shaped by the unsustainable economic and social models of development of the last decades. We have to reconstruct our models of development to protect our future!

From 30 November to 11 December 2015, France will host the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as “COP 21”. This event faces a huge challenge: to reach a universal, binding agreement to effectively fight climate change, and promote low-carbon, resilient societies. According to the 5th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in 2010 the world’s buildings accounted for 32% of global final energy use and 19% of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Use of energy in buildings globally could even double by 2050. The construction sector is one of the most strategic, because it is able to provide, in the medium-term, cost-effective opportunities to reduce GHG emissions globally. Adapting our built environment to the inevitable effects of climate change (heat waves, drought, heavy rains, flooding, etc.) is of utmost importance. Without new urban development proposals, and the design of resource-efficient buildings, the targets set by the international community would remain out of reach.

ARCHITECTS, MAJOR PLAYERS TO ADDRESS CHALLENGES POSED BY CLIMATE CHANGE

From a single house to an entire city, architects have the ability to propose solutions focused on the well-being of citizens, adapted to the global context and local needs. Sustainable development objectives have been at the centre of the profession’s reflections for decades. Given their unique skills for planning and designing resource-efficient and resilient built environments, architects have a key role to play in addressing the challenges of our time.

For decades, the representative organisations of the architectural profession at international and national levels have called upon institutions and governments to be vigilant and to act. Of their most recent declarations, it is worth mentioning the 2050 Imperative Declaration initiated by the International Union of Architects (UIA); the Manifesto on Strategies and Policies for Urban Regeneration of the Italian Chamber of Architects (CNAPPC), or more recently, the Tallinn Declaration adopted by the Architects Council of Europe (ACE), the UIA and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on the responsibility of the architectural profession in tackling the local and global challenges of our time.

ARCHITECTS’ PROPOSALS FOR A RESILIENT AND SUSTAINABLE CITY

The design of a responsible, low-carbon project requires a comprehensive and integrated approach, taking into consideration economic, social, environmental, political and cultural aspects. It is necessary:

1. To place human beings at the centre of urban development projects: A sustainable city is primarily cohesive and inclusive, with strong community ties. Collaborative planning that involves all stakeholders in the city should be encouraged.

2. To encourage urban density and intensity: The future city shall be compact, combining balanced density and intensity ratios.

3. To make accessibility a major priority: At all scales, accessibility is a key asset in providing quality of life.

4. To favour a good social and functional mix, through a balanced planning of housing, offices, shops and community facilities,

5. To favour nature-based solutions, green and blue infrastructure, as a response to heat-waves, drought and flooding, pollution peaks, etc.

6. To encourage urban regeneration: The development of eco-friendly neighbourhoods should not be the exception, but the norm.

7. To establish sustainable governance mechanisms and favour quality-based selection criteria in public procurement.

ARCHITECTS’ PROPOSALS FOR ADAPTATION AND MITIGATION AT THE BUILDING SCALE

The New climatic conditions require new norms:

1. To highlight the value of design studies: The environmental and economic performance of a building throughout its decades-long lifespan, is closely related to proposed architectural solutions during the preliminary design stage.

2. To encourage the use of local resources, adapted to the local context and procured through local supply chains, in order to reduce the project carbon footprint.

3. To consider life-cycle assessment in building, and scenarios for deconstruction: Sustainable construction implies attention to recycling, and re-using materials and construction products. Responsible design implies considering construction waste and scenarios for deconstruction.

4. To favour simple solutions: Priority should be given to passive solar design techniques, locally tested means of insulation, heating and natural ventilation.

5. To renovate the existing building stock: Renovation of existing buildings should be at the centre of public policies and financial instruments.

6. To embrace the use of new digital tools for architectural designs and approval: Building information modelling provides for more efficient building – faster, more accurate, and with better cost control. Electronic approval methods reduce bureaucracy, simplify the process and encourage investments.

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