Architects Declare, Architects Act – Melbourne Meeting
This is my summary, commentary and action plan from the Architects Declare, Architects Act Meeting held in Melbourne on Wed 4th Dec.
My aim is to share this discussion with others in the Architecture community who could not be in attendance, and continue the conversation with a wider audience.
Thanks to our hosts Breathe Architecture and Tempo Rubato for the venue.
There were a 150 tickets sold and full house! Great turn-out!
INTRODUCTION – Architects Declare
- Currently 690 signatories of Architects Declare Australia #architectsdeclare_au which pledged to take action in the face of a climate and biodiversity emergency.
- Only a small handful of volunteers are behind this movement and the AD website, and now have representatives all over Australia and are meeting regularly to plan action.
- As well as having these events (perhaps quarterly to check back in), the aim is to have a speaker series where knowledge can be shared, a website for sharing info, and an online forum (likely to be a facebook group).
A recent survey was sent out to all signatories, and Steffen provided some feedback on the general responses.
Why did architects sign up?
We want action, share collective knowledge, and that we have a Duty of Care to the community and the environment.
What were our constraints to acting on climate change?
Lack of knowledge, short term thinking, Perceived Costs, Fear of Change, Government regulations, Emphasis in our society on superficial values.
What were our expectations?
Better leadership, Share knowledge and resources, Support each other
Some survey respondents had particularly insightful comments he shared:
- Make climate change action profitable
- Architecture Awards need to change
- Change to business models
- Explore as many pathways as possible for action
By signing the pledge of the Architects Act declaration, it is not a legal obligation, but it is a moral obligation. Everyone needs to commit to an action. This is not business as usual.
PRESENTATION – Architects Act
Jeremy McLeod from Breathe Architecture wanted to get action started and so organised this event to bring us all together to present his opinion on 3 simple steps for immediate action.
He shared some sobering statistics.
50% of our emissions come from buildings, and we need to be a net-zero by 2025…so clearly architects have a role to play here, and we need to be industry leaders.
In 2020, we need to be Carbon-Neutral.
We need to be Industry Leaders.
What can we do?
Be carbon neutral in 2020.
100% Green Power (not Tas Hydro, not Diamond Energy. I like @powershop.)
When: by Jan 2020
Carbon Audit (So we can understand our own carbon footprint)
When: by June 2020
Carbon Neutral (Arrange to pay to offset your carbon emissions, or simply plant enough trees…and then some more! I love @Fifteen Trees.)
When: by Dec 2020
There are now discussions of how we can look at a bulk-purchase of this for smaller practices, and perhaps how it could be offered to all ArchiTeam members.(who are sole-practitioners/small practice.) If we all do this, perhaps the larger practices (& the Australian Institute of Architects members) might follow suit too…
Jeremy’s simple first step is an important one, easily achievable, and actionable immediately. It is smart to put this one action into place now, then move onto the next steps…
Carbon Positive (and ALL the other things we need to do)
As we are stronger together, the plan is if we all do this for our Architectural Practices, we are showing commitment as an industry with this first step. We can have a combined social media strategy to show leadership that we have all taken this action.
The next 2 suggestions from Jeremy are pretty straight forward too:
Go all-electric! (& ensure 100% renewable power).
No more gas. This was well documented by Beyond Zero Emissions a number of years ago now. This means induction cooktops, air-sourced heat-pumps for Hot Water and Heating. If you’re not up to speed with this yet, check out the My Effiicient Electric Home facebook group for helpful articles and discussions, or follow the great work of Renew. Jeremy is happy to share his knowledge for how to deal with this for large scale developments – so get in touch with him directly.
Boycott GHD Engineers
They are helping design the railway for the Adani mine.
Jeremy then opened up a Q&A session for comments from the audience.
The first commenter* said if we are pledging our businesses to be Carbon Neutral, then surely we should all also be pledging this for our homes too.
I agree and think it should be taken a step further that the aim is for all our projects to also be Carbon Neutral, as any new buildings are ‘locking in’ their performance and emissions for the next 50+ years and we need to be more forward thinking. You can learn about this carbon lock-in effect here: https://www.slideshare.net/ipcc-media/cities-and-climate-change-cities-and-climate-change-mitigation )
Jane Toner, Biomimcry expert, asked why is the conversation still all about energy – we also need to talk about enhancing bio-diversity with our developments, and looking at being carbon-positive (not just neutral), and addressing the more broad range of sustainability and regenerative criteria from the Living Building Challenge…
Yes! It does have to be about more than just energy use. I love the LBC and would love to know more from Jane’s perspective and has said she’ll be happy to do a seminar on this as part of the Architects Declare speaker series.
Michael McManus asked about construction waste and recycling and how to do it? Material recovery businesses like Mobius offers this service (and sometimes it’s more cost-effective for contractors to do this), and Shae from Green Sheep Collective said it’s written into their specifications and preliminaries and she’d be happy to share this information.
Builders we’ve worked with have used mobius off their initiative too – so it didn’t need to be explicit in our contract documents. However this would be good for all architects to put into place in the future.
Laura Bulmer spoke from the perspective of an architect and advocate/activist, and said we need to be courageous and speak our truth. And that we also need to find better ways to learn from the wisdom of our indigenous elders.
I’d love to hear more from Laura about this, and the best ways we can do this. At the Living Future Institute Symposium that I attended in Sydney recently, we heard stories from Uncle Ken Canning, and this question was raised. He said the most important thing we can do is to care. Care for others and care for our environment and all living creatures. That simple. But he also expressed the hardships, inequality and suffering that many indigenous Australians still face, means until that healing begins at a social and cultural level, it is difficult to have enough time and energy for wellbeing at the environmental level.
Chris discussed changing the language we use to talk about sustainable buildings, but also that people need to change their habits and deal with comfort by dressing appropriately instead of switching in energy-guzzling heating/cooling.
He’s absolutely right, but you can’t force this type of behavioural change – it takes time. It is happening in the circles we all move in, but wider scale change is more difficult.
I** responded to this point by saying I think we also have a responsibility to design buildings that use up to 90% less energy to heat/cool (i.e. Certified Passivhaus Standard) which meet the international standard of comfort criteria. This means we’re not relying on occupants to change their behaviour, and we’re delivering high-performance buildings that are energy-efficient, comfortable, with a healthy indoor air environment, and more resilient over the lifetime of the building.
I’ve put up my hand to present at the Seminar Series about Passivhaus – and have spoken with some of my Passivhaus-Architect colleagues who will join me to share this knowledge.
I also questioned the Architecture Awards System still celebrating “un-sustainable” buildings. Jeremy agreed it is an issue, and asked if there were any institute representatives present to respond? There weren’t. So the question remains unanswered.
Darren O’Dea is a building-science expert, and advised we need to adopt the 2019NCC now, as the current NCC is 8years old! It technically doesn’t go into effect until May next year, but it has important energy efficiency measures in Section J for commercial buildings that should be implemented now!
The 2022 NCC is on its way and will have stricter requirements around building performance (i.e. finally taking into account thermal bridging and air-tightness which overseas codes have been doing for decades.) Darren recently wrote this article if you want to know more. The Certified Passivhaus Standard already takes all of this into consideration, and this is where our code is headed, so why wouldn’t we all arm ourselves with this knowledge and aim to do better. It is worth remembering that the Building Code is “the worst standard you can legally build”. It is the base benchmark. We should be aiming for better.
I believe Darren will also be providing a Seminar at the Speaker Series in early 2020.
Alex Slater talked about communicating our ethos/habits and others will follow our lead…by doing the right thing this does influence those around us. Whether that is riding a bike or not eating meat, or designing sustainable buildings… When we live by our values and beliefs, others can be inspired. Jeremy suggested it is time we adopt a 2019 Moral Code, not just the 2019 Building Code.
I’m with you on this Alex – keep leading by example! Then you’re not telling anyone what they should do, they come to their own conclusions. This has a ripple effect.
An environmental advocate* expressed that it is time that the big players, corporates and government stepped up too. He’s fed up with having been fighting this fight for years. Jeremy acknowledged that without his efforts, we might not be where we are now!
Hang in there, as the winds of change are blowing. I’ve heard that 2020 is going to be ‘the year of perfect vision’ so maybe finally more people will start to ‘see’ these issues more clearly. The large number of employees in attendance at the meeting, who are from the big architectural practices, is very encouraging – they can impact change from within their organisations…they just need the tools to do so.
Another architect* said we need to change the conversation with developers to talk about value.
Yes! If we communicate the value and benefit that sustainable solutions will offer them, then it is a win-win-win!
Someone* mentioned that as part of the Sustainable Living Festival early next year, that the AIA will have a presence, including support of the National Climate Emergency Summit. Caroline Pidcock will be speaking from an Architectural perspective, and there will be speakers from all disciplines so we can better understand how we can all work together on this. Tickets to the Summit here:
The AIA Vic Chapter advised me that the Sustainability Architecture Forum members will be involved with the Sustainable Living Festival, so get in touch with Nadine Samaha email@example.com who is the Chair of the AIA Sustainable Architecture Forum and Councillor, AIA Victorian Chapter.
The valid question was raised by a non-architect* (thanks for coming along with your architect partner!) about architectural education and sharing this knowledge with students, younger graduates and emerging architects. Thom McKenzie responded saying there is an Architects Education Declares movement too, set up by students. Most architectural schools do include sustainability in their curriculum these days, and Thom said there are plans underway at Monash to provide post-grad short courses for architects in practice to upgrade their knowledge and skills in more sustainable architecture.
I look forward to hearing more about this! Perhaps some Passivhaus training could be included…
So we know WHY we’re all a part of this, and WHAT we need to do, and WHEN we need to do it.
Breathe Architecture will be sharing more info of HOW to take action.
Architecture Declares Australia – other news
- The recent Perth meeting was facilitated by Rachael Bernstone of Sounds Like Design, and you can read the outcome of their meeting: 24 things you can do to tackle climate emergency.
- Sydney event: Monday 9th December, hosted by BVN.
- Brisbane event: Monday 9th December, moderated by Queensland Government Architect, Malcolm Middleton
- Perth event: Monday 9th December, hosted by Woods Bagot, 108 St Georges Terrace.
- If you haven’t pledged yet and would like to, please sign up to Architects Declare here.
- Follow @architectdeclare_au on instagram for updates #architectsdeclare_au
EDITED Tues 10th December to include these two articles:
- Caroline Pidcock’s article in Sanctuary magazine “Why Australian architects are declaring a climate emergency”
- Tone Wheeler’s article in A&S magazine: “Tone on Tuesday: On Architects Declaring”
*If you or someone you know made the comments above and I don’t know your name, please do let me know who you/they are!
**For those who don’t know me, I introduced myself as Talina Edwards, Architect and Certified Passive House Designer from Ballarat, and representing regional architects. I’m passionate about holistic sustainability and sharing this knowledge. I love meeting others who share the desire to build a better future! I invite you to connect with me on your favourite social media platform (or all of them) to continue these conversations: instagram facebook linkedIn twitter
Feel free to share if you care to.