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Research reveals RIBA’s extensive carbon footprint

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‘Definite room for improvement’ was the verdict of an intriguing report revealing the RIBA’s carbon footprint and its use of resources at its central London headquarters

The environmental audit, unveiled yesterday by independent charity Global Action Plan (GAP), revealed the amount of waste heading to landfill from the institute’s two offices at 66 and 77-81 Portland Place was ‘well and truly’ above the Home Office good practice targets.

At 77-81, RIBA employees were throwing away 327kg of ‘collected’ rubbish per year – 63 per cent above the 200kg ideal. In all, the institute sent 16.7 tonnes of waste to landfill each year from the two sites.

Water use was also well above target levels, with each person at 66 Portland Place using 77.5m3 a year compared with the good-practice benchmark of 7.7m3. But GAP’s Sarah Van Erp, who was delivering the results to the RIBA council, said the figures were not ‘too harsh’ bearing in mind the footfall of 100,000 visitors to the institute’s café during the year.

Elsewhere in the report, it emerged that the RIBA’s annual carbon footprint from direct emissions was at least 572.93kg. Business travel made up 139.9kg of the carbon dioxide used, with 93 per cent of that coming from air travel.

It also emerged that the RIBA left nearly a third of its computers monitors on overnight, and at least 80 per cent of its printers.

However, RIBA president Sunand Prasad admitted he was pleasantly surprised by the findings. He said: ‘This building [66 Portland Place], which is regarded as an energy guzzler, isn’t that bad.

‘My immediate thought is that we are not doing as badly as I feared.

‘This survey shows that [Portland Place] compares moderately well with naturally ventilated buildings.

A further energy-only audit is to be carried by the Carbon Trust in the near future.

Prasad, chairing his first RIBA council meeting since becoming president last month, again hit out at the ARB.

He said the board was ‘not helping to create the best conditions for practising architecture’ and was creating a ‘confusion’ about the role of the RIBA and the schools of architecture.

Prasad also demanded a ‘clear and straightforward relationship’ with ARB and the schools. Yet he went onto say the institute was ‘possibly reaching an end game’, with the ARB and was currently waiting to hear back from them about the way forward.

The RIBA president also warned that the institute could soon be short of new members, and councillors, because of a lack of interest from the younger generation.

He said: ‘This generation, like you before me, were up for public service. But, in my view, the passing generation is not quite up for volunteering their time to spend in the institute. The young generation is not very keen to give away its time for free.’

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