This is turning into a really big bandwagon.
Recently we wrote British architects declare climate and biodiversity emergency and I added, "Architects all over the world should be doing this too." I didn't think big enough; there are lots of different professions that are involved in building, and none are more important than the structural engineers who make it stand up, the civil engineers who build our infrastructure, and the building services engineers who give us air and electricity. They are now all declaring as well; the UK structural engineers' pledge is similar to the architects with a few tweaks.
For everyone working in the construction industry, meeting the needs of our society without breaching the earth’s ecological boundaries will demand a paradigm shift in our behaviour. Together with our clients, we will need to commission and design buildings, cities and infrastructures as indivisible components of a larger, constantly regenerating and self-sustaining system in balance with the natural world.
- Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice.
- Include life cycle costing, whole life carbon modelling and post occupancy evaluation as part of the basic scope of work, to reduce both embodied and operational resource use.
- Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing structural engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon.
- Collaborate with clients, architects, engineers and contractors to further reduce construction waste.
Accelerate the shift to low embodied carbon materials in all our work.
- Minimise wasteful use of resources in our structural engineering design, both in quantum and in detail.
It's the structural engineers who specify much concrete and the steel that together produce 12 percent of the CO2 emissions every year; they could change so much.
But it is the civil engineers who pour the most concrete in roads and bridges. They are hopping on. When the next highway widening job is offered, will they "Evaluate all new projects against the need to contribute positively to society and enhanced well-being, while simultaneously averting climate breakdown"? Will they also...
Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice with the aim of providing civil engineering design that produces complete infrastructure systems that enable society to make the necessary changes to match the goals of the UK becoming a net zero economy by 2050.
Then there are the building services engineers. They are responsible for air quality, heating and cooling, and make decisions that affect the operating emissions that go on for the life of the building. They are committing to...
Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing building services engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon.
The Declare movement may have started in the UK, but it is spreading fast. They quantify it in Australia: "Engineering activities are connected with over 65% of Australia’s Direct Greenhouse Gas Emissions." Their tweak:
We acknowledge that First Nations peoples have long espoused the cultural, social, economic and environmental benefits embedded in the holistic relationship of Caring for Country. We respect and embrace this perspective.
Being a cured architect once licensed to practice in the Province of Ontario, I was pleased to see that Canadian architects have joined.
Building to support the intergenerational health of our communities and living systems will require rapid paradigm shifts in thought and action for everyone working in the design, construction, and procurement of our built environments. Together with our clients, collaborators, and communities, we need to develop our buildings, cities, and infrastructures as indivisible components of larger nested living systems – interconnected, resilient, and regenerative, now and for future generations.
Canadian tweaks commit to:
- Design for holistic health, resilience, and regeneration; respecting the rights and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- Adopt regenerative design principles and practices to build the necessary capability to design and develop projects and environments that go beyond the standard of net zero in use;
- Advocate for the rapid systemic changes required to address the climate and ecological health crises, as well as the policies, funding priorities, and implementation frameworks that support them.
They do it in French, too:
Nos crises interdépendantes de dérèglement climatique, de dégradation écologique et d’inégalités sociales sont les problèmes les plus graves de notre époque. La conception, la construction et l’exploitation de notre cadre bâti sont responsables de près de 40 % des émissions de dioxyde de carbone (CO2) liées à l’énergie et elles ont des répercussions généralisées sur nos sociétés et la santé des systèmes vivants qui assurent notre viabilité.
It has an impressive list of signatories, including many architects who have graced the pages of TreeHugger.
Any association can join this movement by going to Construction Declares; architects and engineers in Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and Sweden are also signed up. I am surprised to see no American architects or engineers in this yet; I do hope that changes soon.