Current popular building practices lack a nuanced approach to sustainability due to years of it being culturally ok to put future generations into ecological debt. Thankfully, things are starting to change and architects want to build a sustainable future, and fast. Prior to mass industrialization buildings were constructed using locally sourced materials, making them more sustainable with a relatively small carbon footprint. As globalization increased the techniques of using local materials were forgotten and now architects are calling for everybody in their field to share best practices around locally sourced material and techniques.
Architects are at the forefront of our drive to lessen the impact humans have on the environment. While the agenda has stayed relatively constant since I was at school, the sustainability goalposts have moved – and narrowed. A building designed as zero-carbon just half a decade ago would now be considered ‘operationally’ zero-carbon at best, whereas ‘whole-life carbon’ calculations now consider the building’s demolition and waste disposal. Our thinking, designs and architectural goals must evolve, but things are evolving at such a speed; how on earth are architects to keep up?
‘Renewable and sustainable technologies change very quickly, as does our understanding of sustainable outcomes, so it is important to try to keep on top of it,’ says Tate Harmer partner Jerry Tate. ‘We need to communicate to each other in our industry, sharing best practice and our experiences to help get to the right answers.’