On Monday 7 November the 22nd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) opened in Marrakech. The Architects Council of Europe (ACE) recalls that the buildings and construction sector can contribute significantly to achieving climate goals and that Architecture is a powerful source of solutions in the medium term, at low-cost, both at buildings and city levels.
A year ago, in Paris, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal, which set a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global temperature at less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and strengthening societies' ability to deal with the impacts of climate change. While the Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016, governments participating in COP 22 in Marrakech will have to take critical decisions to ensure its proper implementation.
ACE welcomes the Paris Agreement and the leadership showed by the European Union, which committed to a domestic reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. With buildings being responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in Europe, reaching the EU objective will only be possible if ambitious policy actions are taken in the buildings sector. Moreover, adapting our built environment to the side effects of climate change is essential to increase the resilience of our societies.
ACE strongly believes that a responsible architecture is a powerful force, both in the medium term and at low-cost, that can bring solutions to challenges posed by climate change. Architects, across their different fields of intervention (building design, renovation, urban planning, etc.) and throughout the life cycle of buildings can contribute to reducing energy and resource consumption in buildings, as well as helping to adapt the built environment to climate change effects.
“In Europe, the majority of the building stock is already in place, explains ACE President Luciano Lazzari. Only 4% of all new buildings in the world are expected to be built in Western Europe – compared to 10% in Middle East, 15% in the US and 38% in China. As 75% of the European building stock is deemed energy inefficient, the reduction of GHG emissions in Europe can only come from a radical transformation of existing buildings. The main challenge in Europe is to renovate existing buildings, regenerate our cities, and make better use all the buildings that are currently misused, under used or not used", he says.
Retrofits concentrating solely on technical and fabric improvements have been shown to fall short of the expected reductions in emissions. To realise a step-change in buildings performance, a new approach is required, one that promotes a real deep renovation that includes a functional, spatial and material reconfiguration of buildings. This can only be achieved if financial and regulatory incentives are targeting all three pillars of building performance: the consumption of natural resources, indoor environmental quality and occupant satisfaction.
In the framework of its Architects Against Climate Change Campaign, ACE has been seeking to raise the awareness of the public, construction professionals and decision-makers to the solutions that architecture can bring.
Last year, to coincide with COP 21, the ACE endorsed a Manifesto for Responsible Architecture together with the International Union of Architects (UIA), the National Council of the Order of French Architects (CNOA) and the International Council of French Architects (CIAF), which made recommendations to address climate change at city and building levels. Through this Manifesto, signed by more than a thousand people, the four organisations called for the implementation of decisive policies to stop the uncontrolled growth of cities, eradicate the injustice related to the allocation of resources, slow down the climate exodus and put an end to the depletion of natural resources across the planet.
In early 2016, ACE joined the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (Global ABC), a worldwide alliance of stakeholders in the building sector supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). ACE is convinced that innovative and successful solutions can only emerge if all stakeholders share knowledge and act together.
In September 2016, ACE took part in the Madrid Leaders’ Summit, which gathered 170 experts from central and local governments, construction companies, financial institutions, research institutes and non-profit associations, in order to build a common vision for the renovation of the existing building stock and the foundations of a strategy for coordinated action, to achieve this vision.
Mr Pedro Belo Ravara, ACE Executive Board Member and Coordinator of ACE’s Responsible Architecture work area, will participate in the COP 22 in Marrakech on behalf of ACE, along with other representatives from ACE Member Organisations, in order to make the voice of architects heard and continue to advocate that Architecture is part of the solutions to the challenges posed by climate change.