While the 24nd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) came to an end last week in Katowice, 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 means of preventing the worst effects of climate change and providing mitigation solutions, with benefits both at buildings and city levels.
In the framework of its Architects Against Climate Change Campaign, the ACE has been seeking to raise the awareness of the public, construction professionals and decision-makers to the solutions that architecture can bring. This year, the ACE published a booklet featuring 20 Architectural Projects Against Climate Change which demonstrate that it is possible to design urban spaces that are capable of dealing with extreme weather conditions, while at the same time adding new qualities to the urban space; and to design low-carbon buildings while increasing occupants’ comfort and well-being.
Today, the buildings and construction sector accounts for more than 35% of global final energy use and nearly 40% of energy-related CO2 emissions. Due to demographic growth and increasing urbanisation, built areas continue to grow at an unprecedented pace. Over the next 40 years, it is estimated that 230 billion square metres of floor area will be built, adding to the planet every single week a built area equivalent in size to the city of Paris - or the equivalent area of Japan every single year.
Reaching the climate objectives set out in 2015 in Paris will require game-changing policy actions in the buildings sector.
To deploy zero carbon solutions at a sufficient rate to keep global temperature rises well below 2 C is likely to require a major cultural shift as well as powerful levers. Architecture is a transformative force that can bring practical solutions to meet the challenges posed by climate change, cost effectively and with wide ranging benefits. Architectural design is a multi-disciplinary activity that engages the public both at a practical and a cultural level. 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 mitigate the impacts of climate change, including overheating, flood risk and extreme weather conditions.
As 97% 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 revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which aims at accelerating the cost-effective renovation of existing buildings, with the vision of a decarbonised building stock by 2050, provides a step towards positive action. The ACE calls for a robust implementation of the EPBD in the months to come alongside further action to close the gap between expected and achieved performance improvements.