Construction and the Climate Emergency

16th October 2019

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Construction and the Climate Emergency – Every Step Counts

The world is waking up to the climate emergency.  Increasingly erratic weather patterns, wildfires in the Amazon, and the Artic, as well as rising sea temperatures and melting of the polar icecaps mean that we can no longer ignore the need for change.

With organisations such as Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, and WWF putting increasing pressure on governments and businesses to commit to such change, there is a need for action – but it is not always obvious how to make it happen.

Earlier this year, a conversation between an architect and an engineer led to the launch of Architects Declare, and Engineers Declare.  These joint initiatives aim to highlight the impact that the building and construction industries have on the environment, encouraging architects and engineers to commit to a “paradigm shift” in the industry’s behaviour, allowing it to meet “the needs of our society without breaching the earth’s ecological boundaries”.

To date, almost 1000 UK businesses have signed up to these declarations and are working together to share ideas as to how to tackle the issues raised.  The founders are keen to see more uptake from the wider construction industry.

It could be argued that the impact of these declarations, although well intentioned, is limited.  Indeed, one of the founders, building engineer Mike Cook a Partner at BurroHappold Engineering, acknowledges in this Building Magazine article that they could be accused of “jumping on the climate emergency bandwagon”.  However, he also makes the point that change has to start somewhere, and that starting with our own businesses and behaviours could be the first step in effecting much wider change.

This is a point that is increasingly made in discussions about changing behaviours across all aspects of society in relation to the climate emergency.  It is easy to become paralysed with the need for eco-perfection, and end up doing nothing at all. But if we follow in the footsteps of those behind these new declarations, we need to realise that taking the first step in the right direction could put our industry on the path to a more sustainable future.

Related reads

Our previous article on Tackling Sustainability in Construction looks at a number of ways the construction industry can reduce its use of resources and become more sustainable such as; prefabrication, renewable energy, BIM, and the circular economy.