Architects worldwide must realise that climate change is the fundamental design challenge of our time. With the planet approaching a tipping point, all other concerns, many of them profoundly important, are nonetheless subsidiary.
North West practice HPA (formerly known as Harrison Pitt Architects), based in Lancaster, have put this at the forefront of their practice model, by becoming one of the first in their area, and at the vanguard nationally, to sign up to the 2030 Climate Challenge scheme instigated by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
In developed countries, buildings are hugely complicit in climate change, even more so than those higher publicised culprits: vehicles. As part of the wider design and construction industry, the architectural profession contributes significantly to climate change. The fabrication, occupation, maintenance and demolition of the world’s built environment consumes about 36% of global energy and 50% of all the raw materials annually. It also creates 45% of UK CO2 emissions.
The RIBA is urging Architects to become part of the solution rather than the problem. In June 2019 it declared an environment and climate emergency and in October it launched the 2030 Climate Challenge Target. The intention is for the profession to produce net zero carbon new and retrofitted buildings by 2030, significantly quicker than mandated by current Building Regulations. This runs alongside campaigning for central Government to accelerate changes to thermal requirements in the Building Regulations.
HPA director and RIBA National Councillor Richard Wooldridge said: “When we first heard about this initiative it sounded a daunting challenge. However, research on a number of our finished projects shows we’re already meeting carbon standards for some of the targets in the Climate Challenge. On a practical level, this new initiative will assist HPA in advising clients on the growing number of dynamic options we have to improve the performance and reduce operational costs of their buildings.”
The practice already has a much-commended reputation for sustainability, proactively seeking the latest research, certification and materials to continually improve environmental efficiency. They adopt a ‘fabric first’ approach to design as standard, designing buildings which meet at least the current ‘A’ EPC Rating where renewables are incorporated.
With an expanding portfolio of completed projects already meeting the targets within the RIBA Climate Challenge, HPA are also introducing post occupancy evaluation measures such as monitoring energy use and user comfort. The practice has a proven track record in retro-fitting, with a recent project upgrading a rural Victorian detached house from an ‘F’ to a ‘B’ rated EPC.
Richard adds: “Working to the RIBA Climate Challenge supports our commitment to be a fully carbon neutral practice by 2030. We’re very excited about a prototype Net-Zero Carbon building we’re working on at the moment, which should provide a fundamental template for our future work. Architects are well placed, with the relevant skills, knowledge and experience in taking the lead to deliver net zero carbon buildings, and certainly have the responsibility to do so.”