ARCHITECTURE IN THE ANTHROPOCENE
1. relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
The evidence is overwhelming:
We are now living in the Anthropocene.
Human influenced climate change is upon us, fossil fuels are becoming scarce, rare metal and minerals are becoming scarce, species of plants and animals are disappearing at an alarming rate.
And our society is doing so many things that make the planet less and less fit for our own survival.
To paraphrase a Chinese proverb, the best time to change was 20 years ago; the second best time is now.
What about Architecture?
Architecture is a mirror of society and we can see the reflection of the same issues in our industry and in our buildings.
- Buildings emit too much CO2, contributing significantly to climate change. In Europe the building sector accounts for 36% of the CO2 emissions.
- Buildings consume too much fossil fuel in order to be functional and fit for human occupation. In Europe the building sector accounts for 40% of the total energy use.
- Buildings are constructed from materials that are harvested, mined, and produced in ways that contribute to environmental damage, destruction and species extinction, not to mention adverse effects on precious indigenous human cultures across the globe.
On top of these problems, buildings are often not designed for optimal indoor comfort and human health.
So what is to be done?
Architecture must change.
Buildings must do less bad in the world, and equally important, buildings must do more good.
Architecture must be conceived and constructed in ways that the planet can sustain.
And, Architecture must sustain humans and the planet we depend upon.
Architecture Must Do Less Bad
CO2 (and other Green House Gases)
- Buildings must emit radically less CO2 during construction and occupation.
- Buildings must consume radically less energy.
- Buildings must be constructed from materials harvested sustainably, mined sustainably (I have no idea how that might look!) and produced in ways that are far less harmful to the environment and humans.
- Buildings must use less, or no, materials that are toxic and harmful to humans.
Architecture Must Do More Good
CO2 (and other Green House Gases)
- Buildings should sequester CO2 by using timber and other plant based materials that have absorbed CO2 during growth.
- Buildings should use renewable energy and at the right scale and in the right context should generate renewable energy.
- Buildings should be constructed from materials and products that are fairly produced and traded, respecting, enhancing and enriching the environment, society and culture they come from.
- Buildings should be constructed from healthy natural materials that interact positively with the outdoor and indoor environment modifying humidity and promoting excellent indoor air quality, and that have a positive psychological effect on people.
Comfort and Health
- Buildings should be designed and constructed to standards that provide healthy, comfortable spaces and indoor environments for people to live, learn, work, play and rest in.
Where Do We Start?
The challenges can seem overwhelming and this manifesto only touches on a small number of the issues to be addressed. We can’t each do everything; we must focus on where our skills, experience and passion can have the most positive effect.
I believe that architects, in addition to legal and contractual obligations, have social and moral obligations as skilled professionals, and as human beings, to address the issues of the Anthropocene. Buildings and the built environment are a big part of the problem and they can be a big part of the solution. Architecture must change.
I believe PASSIVHAUS is part of the solution
Passivhaus is an evidence-based performance standard for buildings that affordably delivers radically low-energy consumption, radically low CO2 emissions and healthy optimal indoor comfort.
Let’s change Architecture. Let’s change the world.
Elrond Burrell [v1.0]