Pressing issues exist in our industry, many of which are very closely allied to the work we do here at Mark Pinney Associates:
Waste in the construction industry
Waste in the fashion industry
Inefficient energy use
Greenhouse gas emissions
The hard facts:
The construction industry is responsible for 59% of UK waste(1) and 47% UK green house gas emissions.(2)
The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global waste and 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.(3)
This year, the UK reached Earth Overshoot Day on 29th July(4), meaning we have used up the earth’s resources for the year and are now in overdraft. At this rate, we will need 1.75 earths4 to sustain ourselves for the future. The country by country stats are even more devastating.
Changing the way the majority of the population eats, travels and overconsumes is hard, however, it is within our reach to change the way our industry operates if we focus on Reducing, Reusing and Recycling.
Major architectural practices in the UK are uniting to declare the climate and biodiversity emergencies and working together towards change. This movement is called Architects Declare.
The founding signatories demand a change in the way architects work with clients in order to commission and design buildings and infrastructures as components of a regenerating and self-sustaining system. So far 659 UK practices have joined the movement, making a commitment to:
raise awareness of climate and biodiversity emergencies
advocate for change towards regenerative design practices
share knowledge and research about this on an open source basis
reduce embodied and operational resource use
include lifecycle costings and carbon modeling as part of basic scope of work
collaborate with engineers and contractors to reduce construction waste and minimize wasteful use of resources in quantum and detail(5)
Joining will give us access to other practices’ knowledge and research.
At MPA, we pride ourselves in being able to resolve complex design and construction issues. We will now challenge ourselves to create one of the first UK practices to focus on high end design that is both luxurious and sustainable.
It is our job to educate our clients on how good-looking sustainability is achieved. According to Ramboll’s recent report, developers and investors are still underestimating the value of sustainable buildings, purely due to a lack of knowledge of rental yields, costs and property values associated with new products(6)
How do we start this process?
First, we start using the most efficient MEP and structural strategies that do not compromise on safety - we are already aware that most systems are overdesigned.
Secondly, we eliminate unethical suppliers and contractors by developing a checklist with the following questions:
What raw materials do you use?
Where are they from?
Are they responsibly sourced?
Are your materials recycled and recyclable?
Do you have an environmental management system in place?
Are you certified under an environmental certification scheme? BREEAM/Green Mark/other relevant standard?
Are you tracking and managing your use of energy and do you have targets to reduce it?
Do you use renewable energy at your facilities?
Do you recycle your waste / water / chemicals?
How do you package your final product and how is it delivered on site?7,8
These questions will help us build a network of suppliers and achieve safe and literally clean design.
LEED and BREEAM certifications schemes already take care of a lot of the above points, however their main focus is operational energy, which is carbon required to run the building, as opposed to embodied energy – which is carbon consumed by processes associated with the production of the building – natural resources, manufacturing, transport etc.
But we have no obligations to tie ourselves to these schemes, we can implement the most important ideals into the way we design and practice.
With our high-end clients, we are in an amazing position where affordability of products is not always an issue - we will be creating the demand for fully sustainable products and projects.
We can create a sustainable high-end niche in the market for ourselves and allow our clients to achieve high-quality designs without compromising the client’s needs or our planet’s future.
Just think how privileged we are to be able to make this industry-wide change / revolution.
9.UKGBC Sustainability in the Built Environment Mail Course