‘Climate Change’, a word that strikes immediate anxiety and feelings of uneasiness in most of us who follow the news, and rightly so. It is a defining issue of our time. From rising sea levels to shifting patterns in weather, climate change is gradually affecting our daily lives. If left unchecked, it can cause unprecedented damage.
The architecture, construction, and building industries are major contributors to climate change. From using inordinate amounts of material and energy during construction to creating structures that increase energy consumption drastically, architecture has been pivotal in contributing to the upcoming disaster, which is climate change.
Without drastic action today, in the realm of construction and architecture, we are hurtling towards a future where mitigation or adaptation to these impacts will only be more difficult.
Climate Change is and should change the field of architecture. Almost 40% of emissions are generated by the architecture and construction industry, both directly and indirectly. This is extremely worrisome since the architectural community seems to be shrugging off responsibility, without taking enough steps to mitigate the negative effects. Nevertheless, there have been a few changes in the last few years, and architects seem to be taking up responsibility and deriving new methods of construction.
This change in climate needs to be adopted at a more human-centric level, where people can understand their actions at a more fundamental level. Over the last few years, architects have been assuming greater roles in acknowledging the impact of Climate Change and taking up onus in designing and creating more efficient and climate-responsive structures.
There has been a shift in the construction industry towards using more sustainable materials. Concrete uses tremendous amounts of energy during production and is a non-reusable and recyclable material. Such materials also increase the resultant waste produced. Architects have been slowly moving towards using more sustainable materials like bricks and clay, by using locally available materials. Even steel is being used as a popular alternative since it can be reused and recycled.
Moreover, architecture has seen an unprecedented increase in the realm of adaptive reuse as a technique. Reusing existing structures is being seen as a more sustainable practice, with many architects valuing this shift. Even reusing building materials after a building becomes dysfunctional, makes a huge difference by practicing ethical material use.
More sustainable practices and methods of construction, such as prefabricated elements and moving the construction off-site, reduces waste and energy consumption by a large margin. Another way climate change has been impacting architecture is through creating awareness amongst the practice as well as beyond. Architects and designers advocate the use of greener and more sustainable materials and methods of construction, which create awareness even amongst the clients and the general population.
Climate Change has pushed architects to take up the issue seriously – a group of leading architects in the UK has joined forces to form the ‘Architects Declare’ group, including firms like Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid, and David Chipperfield. The group has taken up two key issues to tackle – climate change and biodiversity loss.
Buildings and their operational loads also have seen a change in the last few years. Architects and designers have been incorporating methods and materials to use the least amount of energy for operation and creating ways to incorporate natural cooling systems and ventilation.
Climate change should become a non-negotiable part of the design – one that is essential and fundamental. Lately, governments and agencies have been drafting newer laws and policies to mitigate the impact of climate change. These newer policies create avenues for essential and prerequisite mergers between design and response to climate change. These policies have to be adopted and enforced at the very base level of design and construction – since every built project or structure actively contributes to the larger picture of climate change.
Greater efficiency and methods of creating resilient structures have been influencing architects to incorporate more sustainable alternatives. Though, climate change has also led designers and the construction industry to battle with increasing costs of materials and resources. Building demand has increased drastically, and along with with-it the prices of resources. To combat this, newer research needs to be done in creating even more sustainable as well as economically friendly materials and methods of construction.
Rethinking the aspects of policy making, design, construction, building, operation, and even the demolition and reuse of buildings, to mitigate the effects of climate change, is a job that needs to be taken up actively by every architect. Creating resilience and increasing efficiency, all the while researching better methods and materials, is an important responsibility that creators of the built environment, like architects, need to do. Architecture needs to change and adapt to the climate, so that we may create a better future.