The architects out to decarbonise the built environment through radical transformation

Police and protesters in Trafalgar Square. Picture: Joe Giddings

Police and protesters in Trafalgar Square. Picture: Joe Giddings - Credit: Archant

Architects will meet next week to draw up plans on how to drastically cut the built environment’s carbon footprint.

The box being dismantled. Picture: Joe Giddings

The box being dismantled. Picture: Joe Giddings - Credit: Archant

Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN), formed on the back of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests in April, is holding its first assembly in central London on Tuesday.

Their aim is to bring about a rapid transformation of the built environment, which contributes 42 per cent of the UK's carbon footprint.

They have three overarching goals. The first is to decarbonise, the second is ecological regeneration and the last is cultural transformation within the building industry.

As almost half of the built environment's emissions come from energy in buildings and infrastructure outside of their functions, opinion is divided on whether it is responsible. The low carbon targets from the UK's Green Construction Board do not include these emissions, such as cooking or plugs in buildings or roads and railways in infrastructure.

Members of the group at the XR protests. Picture: Joe Giddings

Members of the group at the XR protests. Picture: Joe Giddings - Credit: Archant

ACAN member Sarah Broadstock, said: "The building industry is causing a lot of emissions and is responsible for a pretty significant proportion of emissions. It's not doing enough.

"The professional bodies have been around a long time and are run by boards of people and decision making happens slowly. There's not the radical nature we need."

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The 12 or so core members have been meeting on a weekly basis in London. Through word of mouth and social media many more have got on board, and Tuesday will be the first time a lot of people will have their say.

"We are a campaigning group and we are looking at legislation changes," Sarah added. "The assembly is about what can we do quickly."

In terms of specifics, the group is demanding changes to VAT to encourage refurbishment of buildings over newbuild.

They want to see the statutory Building Regulations include analysis of "whole life carbon" - that is, the emissions from both building and using a structure - followed by requirements for all new construction to be net zero carbon. Another aim is the introduction of a green levy on carbon positive building to fund a national bank for rewilding, and a national green retrofit bank.

The group took part in the XR protests last week, helping create box structures that were assembled into a tower in Trafalgar Square, until heavy machinery was brought in to rip it down.

The group say they can "no longer remain secluded within personal and professional silos", and Sarah said their firms have been "really supportive".

"They are recognising this is what their employees want," she said. "Some members have been spending more time with ACAN stuff and practices are recognising there could be roles for them in doing more environmental stuff."