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RIBA awards shake-up: buildings will have to meet green criteria

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The RIBA is set to demand buildings meet tough carbon emissions targets before they can be considered for an award, according to the head of its green policy group

The institute has already ramped up the amount of sustainability information it asked from those submitting for the 2020 awards and has vowed to consider the climate emergency when scrutinising entries.

But under new proposals buildings would have to meet the ‘minimum trajectory’ targets set by RIBA for producing net-zero carbon buildings by 2030, according to Gary Clark, HOK director and head of RIBA’s Sustainable Futures group.

‘[The 2030 targets] will become an actual scoring metric for awards going forward,’ he said.

‘We’re giving people a bit of time this year, but some time – probably in a couple of years – if a project doesn’t achieve this minimum trajectory, we believe it should not get an award.’

Clark made the comment last Wednesday (26 February) at a breakfast event held at RIBA’s headquarters in central London for signatories to the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge.

The ‘minimum trajectory’ currently requires buildings to reach the ‘2020 Targets’. For non-domestic buildings this means having 27 per cent less embodied carbon and 24 per cent less operational energy use than current benchmarks.

For domestic buildings, the 2020 targets mean producing 40 per cent less embodied carbon, have 28 per cent less operational energy use and 12 per cent less potable water use than current standard practice.

However, the ‘minimum trajectory’ will require practices to meet stricter 2025 and 2030 targets in the future. 

While the Sustainable Futures group has written a motion calling on the change, it is yet to be formally agreed and the date at which this would first apply has not been decided.

Jo Bacon, chair of the RIBA Awards Group, said: ‘The RIBA is committed to driving change to meet the huge environmental challenge that the planet faces.

‘For 2020 we have significantly increased the sustainability information required from submissions and specialist advisers will assess entries in the context of the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge targets.’

Clark’s comments came as speakers at the breakfast event called for an overhaul in the way architects appraise buildings.

Ashley Bateson, head of sustainability at multi-disciplinary engineer Hoare Lea, said: ‘The climate change is everything, and everything you thought was beautiful needs to be changed.’

Another speaker, Webb Yates Engineers director Maria Smith, cited modernism as one of the obstacles to designing net-zero carbon buildings as standard by 2030.

She said: ‘We have all been educated with a specific kind of aesthetic we have internalised. [These] design aesthetics are bound up in carbon-intensive concrete and steel and things like that. We have to actively combat that.’

However, HOK’s Clark told the AJ an aesthetically ugly building should not be able to win the RIBA Stirling Prize on sustainability grounds: ‘For me its got to be beautiful and its got to perform; it has got to do both,’ he said.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The Uk currently produces 1.4% of global co2. China 30%. China is not going to reduce that significantly in the foreseeable future. Therefore instead of solely concentrating on emissions, the awards should also include resilience, if this is to be anything other than a flagelation of capitalism by the left. The jury is also out on the extent of the influence of man. I'm neither a believer nor denier in the co2 effect, as there's good scientific evidence for both out there and with embeded agendas on both sides its hard to get to the truth, so lets not close the discussion down by saying "the science is decided". It isn't.

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