With an on-going climate strike that is taking place around the world, and millions of people taking up protesting to point out the necessity of real and drastic change to prevent catastrophe on our planet, there has been real cause for concern amongst those in the architectural industry. Many notable architects have indeed joined the massed in protest, but away from the streets there has also been much discussion about what architects can do to help tackle climate change in the here and now, and how future plans can change the perception of design and construction and help change the focus on what needs to be done in terms of infrastructure and urban planning in the future.
Here, we look at five ways in which architects can make a change and tackle climate change head on:
- A Greater Understanding of the Environmental Impact of a Project – To have a greater understanding of our planet and the impact we have on it; we should begin to look at time in a biological perspective. This can manifest in the way that we think about the construction process, the materials used, and the life cycle of the building or structure. Only by doing this can we start to look at the long-term implications of the project.
- Increase Understanding of Biodegradable Materials – Like many other industries the construction industry is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, and it is with this background that it is vital that architects and builders continue to look at new materials, biodegradable materials, such as mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus). There are several alternative materials to traditional construction materials, including biodegradable options such as desert sand and bamboo.
- Use Locally Sourced Materials – As well as attempting to make the client see the value in biodegradable materials there is also value in sourcing local materials wherever possible. Transportation of construction materials can have a massive impact on the carbon footprint of a project, and by sourcing local materials you can reduce the distances for transportation and lower the greenhouse gas emissions linked to the project.
- Transition to Structural Timber – We can see this is happening with designs across the world, but it is about time there was a big shift away from concrete frames in construction towards structural timber. Concrete is one of the biggest problems in terms of creating greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being water intensive. Timber is a viable and sustainable alternative with a lower energy level. This approach will only work however, if there is effective management of forests across the world.
- Pre-Fabrication and Off-Site Construction – By moving as much construction off-site as possible through modular construction or pre-assembly of sections of building, you can eliminate a huge quantity of scrap materials and overuse. It also helps to reduce the time needed to complete a construction project.
By taking on board some new ideas and thinking deeply about the environment and the long-term impact of architecture and construction projects we can begin to tackle climate change in a real and effective way.