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The global climate strike marks a mood of change among architects

Emily Booth
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Now is the time for innovative, challenging thinking to rethink what green architecture can be, says Emily Booth

‘We don’t want to continue working the way we do if it counts for 40 per cent of emissions.’ This comment from Finbar Charleson, an architectural assistant at dRMM who was marching in the global climate strike on 20 September, perhaps best sums up the mood of change among architects.

The energy and enthusiasm with which many architects embraced the strike was refreshing – and speaks to the profession’s deep concern for the environment. Some downed tools and marched (with overwhelming support from their respective practices); others took positive action by hosting events such as zero carbon project workshops.

The climate strikes are helping to change the context in which we all work. Architecture and construction as a whole are a significant part of that context (there’s just no escaping the industry’s substantial carbon footprint). But the flip side of being part of a building industry causing significant carbon emissions is that any turnaround can have a similarly massive impact.

So while the issue of global warming can feel utterly overwhelming, it also means architects can have an opportunity to spark positive and profound change.

Two weeks ago, we launched the RetroFirst campaign at the AJ Retrofit Awards 2019, and it was a privilege to celebrate so many excellent projects that offer a sustainable alternative to demolishing and building new.

There was a palpable eagerness for more sustainable architecture and for a policy and tax framework that supports this. Good retrofit projects can offer so much and can really stretch architects’ creative and innovative approaches.

Likewise, this year’s exciting RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist itself features two fine retrofit schemes: Grimshaw’s London Bridge Station and Witherford Watson Mann’s Nevill Holt Opera. More broadly, the six-strong Stirling shortlist demonstrates a welcome recognition of the growing importance of sustainable design, both environmental and social.

Now is the time for architectural trailblazers; now is the time for innovative, challenging thinking. Here at the AJ, we support you in your efforts to reduce carbon emissions, promote biodiversity and rethink what great green architecture can be. You’re designing change.

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