Architects Declare: taking radical action on climate change

Australian architects join the global movement to declare climate emergency

It is official - Architects Declare Australia.
A slew of the country’s leading practitioners have signed on to Architects Declare Australia to take action on global warming.
Buildings that are carbon neutral, generate much of their own energy and incorporate the most innovative, environmentally friendly building materials?
This may sound like a pipe-dream. But a growing number of Australian architects insist that such a formula is achievable and that the construction industry must play a much greater role in safeguarding our planet.
“We know that buildings and construction play a huge part in our energy and resource consumption, environmental depletion and waste,” says Professor Helen Lochhead, Australian Institute of Architects national president.
“Together with our clients, we can develop and design buildings, cities and infrastructure that reset the paradigm. We can strengthen our work practices to create architecture and urbanism that has a more positive impact on the world.”
Professor Lochhead, Dean of the Faculty of Built Environment at UNSW Sydney, is one of 30 architects and practices to already join Architects Declare – a global movement committed to spearheading a major environmental overhaul of the construction sector.
Founding signatories of Australian Architects Declare, which is affiliated with the original UK-based movement, include Alec Tzannes, Bates Smart, DWP, Woods Bagot, The Fulcrum Agency, Glenn Murcutt, Hassell, Ken Maher, Kerstin Thompson Architects and Rick Leplastrier.
Signatories commit themselves to raising awareness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and the urgent need for action amongst clients and supply chains.
Naturally, the selection of building materials becomes part of this discussion. Australian architects have access to some carbon-neutral and energy-efficient building products, such as brick brands Daniel Robertson and Austral Bricks (Tasmania). These bricks, which are fired in sawdust-fuelled kilns, are certified carbon neutral by the Australian government. Brickworks has developed many other sustainable products such as precast concrete panels, solar roof panels and recycled brick material.

Austral Bricks use saw dust to offset their carbon emissions in Tasmania.

The launch of Architects Declare Australia follows dire predictions by the United Nations and others about the urgent need to take action to reduce global warming.

Professor Lochhead says that apart from its massive consumption of energy and resources, the construction sector also generates about 40 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. “As architects, we have a duty of care to the entire community,” she says.

Kieran Wong, the co-founder and principal of WA-based The Fulcrum Agency, says it is imperative that architects take a lead on such an important issue as global warming and also speak with a united voice.
“With something like the climate crisis, you need a global network to be able to consider such an issue,” he says. “But the response needs to operate within the profession – so that it becomes tangible to everyday working life.”

Wong says while he has been championing more sustainable building practices for several years, a new global movement such as Architects Declare gives the profession a forum for debate – and, hopefully, a chance to influence government policy.

“We have to recognise that we are facing a real crisis,” he says. “Not something that just requires gentle change. It’s important that clients see this as a movement, not just something that is happening in one practice.”

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