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Architects Declare lobbies Boris Johnson on post-Covid recovery

Architects declare at global stike
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A letter to the prime minister from Architects Declare – also signed by Architects’ Climate Action Network (ACAN) and the London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) – has called on him to support construction projects beneficial to human health and the environment

The demands to government, the first made by the movement (see attached letter), include a call to reduce VAT on refurbishment work – a demand echoing a key plank of the AJ’s RetroFirst campaign.

The group was founded by 17 previous winners of the RIBA Stirling Prize, including Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, who declared a ‘climate emergency’ in May last year.

Since then more than 950 architects have pledged to abide by 11 far-reaching pledges, ranging from sharing knowledge on climate mitigation to adopting more regenerative design principles.

Now the group has written to the prime minister as part of the wider Construction Declares with an action plan based on aiding the UK’s recovery from the pandemic by adapting exsiting buildings and creating new ones with the environment and health in mind.

Official figures show the UK economy shrunk by a record 20 per cent in April due to strict social distancing measures – and more than 40,000 deaths have been recorded across the country from Covid-19.

Architects Declare joined sister movements by structural and civil engineers and building servicing firms in urging Johnson to ‘support an economic recovery that protects public health and addresses climate targets’.

‘Transforming the built environment, which accounts for 40 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions, will be a crucial part of that process,’ says the letter.

It calls for:

  • VAT to be scrapped on refurbishment works
  • An emergency plan for decarbonising electricity
  • A requirement for all buildings to meet new standards on carbon, water, wellbeing and biodiversity
  • Higher taxation of building materials that are harmful to the environment and human health

A second set of measures were suggested beyond those directly impacting on construction. These included enforcing zero-carbon emissions by 2040; restoring nature on a grand scale; and requiring all Parliamentary decisions to be scrutinised for their impact on future generations.

According to an AJ survey into the success and potential evolution of Architects Declare, a quarter of those who had not signed up to it said the initiative had not done enough to lobby government and police its signatories.

In an interview earlier this month Julia Barfield of Marks Barfield, one of Architect Declare’s early instigators, said that trying to influence government was something the group was aiming to do more of.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • All very laudable and to be supported.
    However:-
    In the short term might higher taxation on certain materials offset any goal of removing VAT on refurbishment?
    Is this not something that the RIBA should be doing anyway? Or has the RIBA become an irrelevance?

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  • Anyone lobbying our current Prime Minister is presumably aware that whatever they're suggesting will be put through the 'what's in it for me' filter before any other consideration.
    It's not as if they're dealing with a genuine statesman.

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  • did any of the members get asked about this? is this an industry group or just an afterschool club for a few old friends?

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