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Climate strike backed by RIBA president and UK Green Building Council

Greta thunberg climate strike

Ben Derbyshire has joined the UKGBC in urging architects to join planned industrial action on 20 September

The global climate strike is in solidarity with the millions of pupils who have participated in the Fridays for Future school strikes in recent months, originally sparked by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

It also follows the Extinction Rebellion protests earlier this year and the declaration of a climate emergency by the UK Parliament and others, including the RIBA.

Architecture practices already known to be taking part include Bennetts Associates, Chetwoods, Mole Architects and John Gilbert Architects.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC, said: ‘We know our built environment has a huge carbon footprint, and we know it represents an enormous opportunity to decarbonise the economy.

‘Architects will be vital in tackling the climate crisis. They have a unique role to ensure that better outcomes for both people and planet arise from their designs, and I hope that many of them will join us in making our voices heard on 20 September.’

Derbyshire said: ‘September’s climate strike provides a platform for people to join forces to demand the change needed to tackle the global climate emergency. As members, we must make our own decisions about whether to participate in this initiative and how, from hosting a lunchtime discussion to joining strikers on the streets. 

‘If members can, I encourage them to do so. The RIBA continues to guide and support the profession – as architects we all have a significant role to play in addressing climate change. We must urgently engage with our clients and in our practices to identify action to reduce carbon emissions.’

In a comment piece for the AJ, Peter Fisher and Ben Hopkins of Bennetts pointed out that the UK government has still to recognise the climate emergency and said the labour strike was part of helping to create a ‘political space to make ambitious and globally binding [carbon] reductions’.

They added: ‘Who would have imagined the power a single schoolgirl sitting outside a parliament building could have?’

Mole Architects founder Meredith Bowles said his Cambridge-based office of 10 would cease working on their normal projects and spend the day writing to those in power to urge sweeping legislative change.

‘I think it’s imperative that we act,’ he said. ‘We’ve had the Architects Declare call-to-arms and that urgently needs to be converted into action. We’re going to spend the day writing to our legislative powers, both local and national, in order to assert pressure.’

Chetwoods founder Laurie Chetwood said his firm would be demonstrating its support at both its London and Birmingham bases and urged others to join it.

He said: ‘The Climate crisis is an issue for the whole of humanity, not just school children. We believe that architects can offer holistic thinking like no other profession and we believe that now is the time to prove it.

‘Whilst the pioneering few are seeing the benefits of sustainable design, other clients still will not see past the bottom line and this is where we need incentives (carrot) and legislation (stick) from our country’s leaders to speed up the transition. We invite all to join us and participate in the global action.’

Thunberg said recently of the proposed action in September: ‘We need everyone … if it’s not you who should do it, then who else? If not now, then when?’


Readers' comments (12)

  • Perhaps the RIBA could keep a register of everything architects do everyday? And it’s a lot, and will be more? 16 year old Swedes and the worried we’ll on Waterloo Bridge are good publicity, but it’s all the rest of us who are doing stuff. And we are using all the new technologies and ideas.

    Don’t get complacent, but architects are winning with all the other professionals and workers. Perhaps the AJ could provide a running commentary?

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    I think you are all a bunch of complete idiots. You should know about history, geology, geography, and above all common sense.
    The only reason there is advanced life on earth is because we have an irregular orbit around a pulsating sun; an irregular orbit around the Milky Way, giant collision-cracks on the outer layers of the planet which are so powerful as to shift sea-creature skeletons from the bottom of the ocean up to the top of Mount Everest, and because plant and animal-based waste products created an oxygen-rich atmosphere, and just enough CO2 for green plants to thrive on.

    This chaotic rolling transformation of the Earth over 4 billion years, meant random mutations of new organisms was the only way life could survive. These random mutations (and bizarre ways of reproduction to speed up said mutations) accelerated the rise of so many species, from flora, fauna, microbes, bacteria, fungi, insects, mammals, reptiles, and eventually us.
    It unfortunately appears that architects are not part of this evolutionary chain, we are in a dumb cul-de-sac of our own -leading to our imminent extinction it looks like.

    Just about every major civilisation in history collapsed from one of two causes; corruption and climate-change. Only one of which was produced by Man.

    By all means cut energy wastage, reduce plastic, use less concrete, eat less, design more responsibly and have fewer children. Otherwise, don't blackmail the rest of us who are doing a damn sight more for the wellbeing of all G*ds creatures than you panic merchants with your new barmy religion.

    Repeat there is no climate emergency.
    These are the normal, slow, minor fluctuations which were anticipated by anyone who understands this planet, and are natural.
    Go count the sunspots over the past 15 months.

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  • In the garden of the Climate Change Asylum is a great monument (built of CLT and timber cladding) to honour "THAW" the God of Global Warming.
    Flowing from the base thereof is the Spring of Kool-Aid.
    Mr Derbyshire, among many others, seems to have swigged mightily from its deceptive waters and appears to be deeply affected.
    The only known antidote is a liberal dose of common sense; Alas! A commodity rare and more precious than rubies.

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  • Dear me...the climate deniers will persist won't they, even in the face of the most robust scientific evidence, they seem to think that it simply won't affect them and they don't have to do anything. They will be the death of us all.

    Hats off to Benny Darbishyre for finally forcing RIBENA off the fence. Drink the RIBENA and pass the electric cool-aid acid test. Join the magic bus for the ride of your life to avoid extinction.

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  • Whilst I agree that RIBA Members should be spear heading a better way to build and to live, is a "strike" really the best way?

    Many of our building materials and energy sources are finite, and clearly there is a desperate need for better environments to live and work in. This must be a Core Goal for All architects.

    We need joined up thinking, rather than a knee jerk reaction.

    I'm really not sure what a strike will achieve, and I can guess what many in our industry will think.

    I will not be striking

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  • Professionals do NOT go on strike. What are these idiots who support this telling their clients? If an architect wants to help with the environment, the best way is to engage their clients in a discussion on how to reduce a project's carbon footprint. Alienating them by delaying the work they have been commissioned to do, is deeply unprofessional.

    The RIBA is so far removed from it's ordinary members it might as well go the way of the dinosaurs.

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  • Industry Professional

    Personally, not being an Architect, I would prefer for people to spend any such day in constructive debate and action. While a strike may draw some very brief attention to the role of architects, it is going to cause disruption and just alienate some of the people who need convincing.
    In the same way that I would have preferred pupils to spend recent school "strike" day(s) contacting their local MP or others or just in constructive debate, I think professionals should instead hold seminars and workshops about positive action for future projects and to which their clients could be invited.
    Nowadays too many frustrated people seem to be shouting for attention in the media for whatever their cause is and the media feeds on this.

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  • Well said MacKenzie Architects. I an no denier, but nobody has produced the evidence other than a simplistic opinion that because the planet is currently changing at the same time as we kick out more carbon, the one must cause the other. Like if you walked down a street at the same time as a murder you must have done it. In the panic to virtue signal with the sheeple the increasing overwhelming SCIENTIFIC evidence is missed, namely that non-manmade events create most of climate change, if not all. The extent to which man is contributing is unknown. The evidence is that we should be concentrating on adapting to cope with the unavoidable rather than self flagellatingly following a cult. If you doubt me, investigate the effect of sunspot cycles, the c27000 year precession of the earths axis, and meteor/asteroid impact effects. Particularly the Younger Drias and Burckle Crater events. And on youtube, Randall Carlson and Piers Corbyn, Jeremy's far more intelligent brother.

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  • Wishing Greta a safe passage and good luck in the Americas, while deriding the moronic comments from the head in the sand climate change deniers above. We have talked about the problem of humanity’s destruction of this planet for far too long, and now is the time for radical action and change. Architects are a large part of the problem as they continue to hawk their preposterous, monsterous and damaging “creations”.

    So, get your heads out of your arses and look around you at the destruction you have wrought. Make the changes that are necessary now, and start by striking on 20 September, so we can all have at least one day’s relief from your megalomania. Greta has shown how effective this is and has achieved more in her short life than this deeply flawed and so-called profession, that should have completely reconfigured itself in the last energy crisis 50 years ago. Just do it!

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  • Daniel Lacey

    In the absence of any other evidence, chances are you did carry out the murder Atticus. Nothing is certain, just scales of probability.

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