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Viewpoint: International Climate Change—Is it a Turning Point for World Architecture?

Will the AEC industry respond with the zest and positivity required to capitalize on a landmark agreement for climate change? What does the AIA (American Institute of Architects) say about the landmark agreement in the Paris Climate Conference?

The international climate agreement is a legally binding global climate deal that sets out an action plan to put the world on track. It has sent a clear indication to investors, policymakers, and businesses to become a part of the global transition to clean energy and pledge commitment towards climate change to limit global warming well below 2°C.

Agreement in Paris

The international community has invested years of effort to introduce a universal, multilateral agreement on climate change, foundation to which was laid at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The idea of an annual Conference of Parties (COP) actualized to review the implementation of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), proposed at this summit. UNFCCC grew over the years and now has near universal membership of 195 parties. The 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) held in France, also known as the 2015 Paris climate conference, attracted nearly 50,000 participants including several official delegates from various government and inter-government organizations, NGO’s, UN agencies, and civil society.

100 Billion Fund

COP21, seems to have moved in the right direction, as proposal of $100 billion fund creation by the developed world to provide assistance to developing countries for incentivizing the development of renewable energy was passed. However, this is a less legally binding part of the agreement and hence stands the risk of becoming a mere verbiage. The $100 billion funding is far from adequate, and it also remains to be seen, as to how this amount will be produced.

Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi said that: “the summit marked a victory, not for individuals or parties, but for Climate justice.” He also stressed upon the point that “climate change is the result of western industrialization and colonialism; developed nations need to acknowledge this and undertake the responsibility of absolute reduction in GHG emissions.”

AEC Industry Needs to Align

This agreement will affect architecture practices positively, given that the industry reciprocates with equal zest and positivity. Our buildings are accountable for more than 30% GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, and there is a pressing need for the building and construction sector to shift to clean energy. In a statement released by the AIA (American Institute of Architects) after the conference, President Russell Davidson said:

“The COP-21 agreement presents a major opportunity for architects around the globe to provide leadership in designing buildings and communities that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its call for capacity building for adaptation and mitigation of climate change represents exactly what the architecture profession excels at providing.”

We as an industry need to align with this international climate agreement and make a promise of converting buildings—the biggest energy guzzlers and CO2 emitters—into green structures. Designing NZEB’s and carbon neutral buildings that optimize the utilization of renewable recourses, is a significant contribution that will help shape a greener future.

MORE: Energy Modeling: What you need to know about Green Building Design and LEED

After 23 years of failed attempts at reaching an international consensus on climate change we now finally have some hope. But, at this juncture, the shift to sustainable development has to be quick. Serious concerns have been raised, that question the success of this international climate agreement. Successful transformation depends on how religiously a climate conscious design approach is implemented. Where building design is concerned, technology like BIM and green building design will be the key players in bringing in the shift in both mindset and change in action.

On the flip side however, if the industry continues to carry on with business as usual, and does not make that transition towards sustainable design, the emissions could double by 2050. Buildings are long term ventures that define our future, and hence in order to shape our tomorrow we need to take action today.

At Hi-Tech Outsourcing Services, we advocate creation of more healthy, valuable, occupant-friendly, and sustainable buildings including communities and cities. We feel that this climate agreement has brought us a ray of hope and our industry can contribute a lion’s share in bringing in climate justice. We pledge to priorities green, carbon neutral and resilient architecture.

About the Author

Bhushan Avsatthi is an Associate Director at Hi-Tech Outsourcing Services. Bhushan imbibes the prophecy of efficient and prudent use of energy in his day to day life and advices his team to do so as well. He is also involved in green initiatives like nonprofit tree plantation project and promotes using cycles for commuting small distances. Bhushan, handles a team of architects, Structural and MEP engineers, LEED consultants and Energy modeling experts.