Architects from 124 countries make ‘zero-carbon cities’ pledge

Architects unions have passed a Declaration spelling out their commitment to tackling climate change

La Promenade Plantée in Paris makes use of an out-of-use railway line (Pic: themikebot/Flickr)

La Promenade Plantée in Paris makes use of an out-of-use railway line (Pic: themikebot/Flickr)

By Sophie Yeo

In an effort to reduce rising urban emissions, a global coalition of architects has unanimously agreed to only build cities carbon neutral cities.

The 2050 Imperative Declaration was adopted by architects unions representing over 1.3 million members in 124 countries at the International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress in Durban earlier this month.

Participants pledged to promote carbon-free cities as a new standard among architects. This means designing towns and cities that use no more electricity than they produce or import from renewable energy sources.

The Declaration suggests steering existing cities to carbon neutrality through renovation work, while respecting their cultural components.

“We recognize our responsibility to seize this unique opportunity to influence ethical, socially responsible development throughout the world,” said the Declaration.

Urban expansion

Cities, and therefore architects, play a vital role as the world aims to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.

Urban areas are responsible for over 70% of global energy consumption and CO2 emissions, while predictions are that an area equivalent to around 60% of the current building stock will be built over the next two decades.

It is the first time in the UIA’s 65-year history that all the regional Architect Councils of Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa have unanimously agreed to sign on to such a Declaration.

The Declaration, which was drafted by advocacy group Architecture 2030, was steered through committees to the Congress by David Parken, head of the Australian Institute of Architects.

“We have made great strides towards a sustainable built environment, but we still need to advance the industry to make sustainable design the de facto standard for all construction projects,” said Helene Combs Dreiling, president of the American Institute of Architects.

“Sustainable design practices implemented by the world’s architects will mitigate climate change and ultimately save lives.”

Builders seeking to construct low carbon homes already have a variety of pathways to follow, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology).

James Drinkwater, Senior Policy Advisor at the World Green Building Council, which co-signed the declaration, said: “Architects have been one of their key proponents and a central force of the sustainable building movement since its very beginnings. The World Green Building Council stands shoulder-to-shoulder with architects around the globe in making this bold new vision possible.”

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