Architects Declare launched on 30 May 2019 outlining an 11-point manifesto. Since its inauguration, 930 architectural practices in the UK have signed this declaration of Climate and Biodiversity Emergency.
An Associate and Senior Architect at JTP, Liz specialises in residential design. As our in-house sustainability expert, she continually challenges us to push the boundaries of what is possible. Here, she discusses what becoming an Architects Declare signatory has meant for JTP and how the practice has changed as a result.
What is the problem?
In the UK, 49% of annual carbon emissions are attributable to buildings in both construction and operation1. This statistic highlights the unique position Architects hold, being at the forefront of the climate emergency, and our responsibility to tackle it. Over the next 40 years, the world is expected to add new construction, the equivalent size of Paris, to the planet every single week2. With the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report declaring that humanity had just 12 years before the situation became irreversible, we must act now!
What are we doing?
Over the last year, we have implemented new initiatives and enhanced our existing objectives in response to the declaration. This has included:
- Embedding the 11 principles into our company ethos through integrating the declaration into our annual business plan.
- Updating our existing sustainability project assessment tool to incorporate all aspects of the declaration. This enables all project architects to question the sustainability objectives of their project at key stages throughout design and construction.
- Committing to nature friendly design and achieving biodiversity net gain on all our projects.
- Educating our staff through targeted CPD sessions to increase in-house knowledge and raise awareness of the issues and opportunities.
- Increasing involvement in post-occupancy evaluation through visits to and studies of our completed projects. We have also carried out extensive post-occupancy evaluation on our own office through occupant surveys, internal air quality assessments and energy data collection. Our intention is to continue to progress this work, sharing our knowledge and findings with our peers and the wider industry.
- Engaging and collaborating with clients to integrate sustainability objectives into designs early, so they become key principles understood by all the team.
- Engaging with other architects and other industry professionals through project collaborations, workshops and other events to share knowledge and discuss ideas as a unified team.
- Encourage the design of zero carbon homes with the ambition to develop these as standard across all projects.
- Developing our work in modular construction to minimise wasteful use of resources and enhance the thermal performance of our buildings.
- Practising what we preach through how we inhabit our new office and encourage our staff to engage with it. Our new studio, Pennington Street Warehouse, is a refurbished warehouse, purposefully chosen for its reuse and adaptation, as opposed to building completely anew, significantly reducing our carbon impact. We have been able to use our studio as a ‘living case study’ to showcase to our clients and consultants how we can implement our objectives in practice. Through post-occupancy evaluation we have been able to show the building operates as intended with the energy consumption for the first year of occupation below our design target.
At design stage, we targeted energy consumption of 188.80 KWh/m2/year. This was below the targets at the time of CIBSE TM46 which targets 215 KWh/m2/year and CIBSE Guide F which targets 225 KWh/m2/year for an equivalent building. The actual energy consumption of the building was below all three of these targets with 183.81 KWh/m2/year. We are using our research to consider ways to ensure we continually reduce our energy consumption as we continue to grow with the building.
Our new studio, Pennington Street Warehouse, is a refurbished warehouse, purposefully chosen for its reuse and adaptation, as opposed to building completely anew, significantly reducing our carbon impact.
The silver lining of the current pandemic is the climate benefit we are seeing worldwide. We have all seen the engaging images of swans and dolphins returning to the canals in Venice, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Global emissions are expected to fall by around 8% due to coronavirus in 20203, a greater decrease than any year on record. However, this needs to continue year on year to at least 2030 to keep warming below 1.5°C4.
Our challenge now is to ensure we harness the momentum created by our current situation. We have seen what can be achieved in a short time when, with public support, large scale interventions are implemented. As Architects, we need to collaborate, encourage and gain public and client support to implement big changes to the way we live, work, design and build.
1 LETI Climate Emergency Design Guide, How new buildings can meet UK climate change targets
2 UN Global Status Report 2017
3 Global Energy Review 2020, IEA
4 Emissions Gap Report 2019, United Nations Environment Programme