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Its high time our architects get involved in fight against climate change

There is no populism involved in it and it may not fetch any additional votes for political parties nor does it matter as elections are five years away. So, climate change issue is unlikely to be at the top of the agenda of any political party in India and its foolhardy to expect it to find a place in first 100 days agenda of the newly formed government. But that doesn’t mean that the issue doesn’t have any relevance and even if it does its restricted only to handful of environmentalists.

Environment and climate change are the burning issues and they need as much attention as any other social and economic issues. Look at some of the messages/news appearing in social media – 8 out of 15 hottest spots are found in India. This is not an achievement an Indian is proud of. Another statistics shows that per capita trees in India are one of the lowest in the world – hardly 28! Aren’t they alarming enough to get occupied ourselves to do something about them? World and more specifically India needs to be alarmed by last year’s special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which has warned that the world is now badly off track in meeting the current preferred target of a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures, instead moving towards 3°C.

It’s in this light one need to view the recent UK Parliament’s decision to declare climate emergency in the country. They have demonstrated the courage to state what is necessary and then worry about how to achieve it. In the past opposite was our approach. We always have been offering proposals for incremental improvements or set targets so far into the future that it effectively excuses us from any meaningful action in the present. India too should declare a climate emergency to save itself from extreme climates and the aftereffects of the same.

Architecture fraternity in India and elsewhere has a greater role to play in achieving the goal. They need to take leaf out of 17 architecture firms of UK who have confirmed their commitment to heading off climate change and building a more equitable future for their profession.

It’s a well-known fact that the construction and maintenance of buildings account for 40 per cent of the world’s energy-derived carbon dioxide production and as such the architecture and construction industries have a special responsibility to change their practices.

Architects have responsibility of meeting the needs of the society without breaching the earth’s ecological boundaries and that requires a paradigm shift in the architect’s behaviour. Architects, together with their clients, need to commission and design buildings, cities, and infrastructures as indivisible components of a larger, constantly regenerating and self-sustaining system.

Architects can help in controlling carbon footprint by collaborating with engineers, clients, and contractors throughout the project’s lifecycle to reduce waste. Retrofitting older, existing structures instead of razing them for new construction whenever possible; enacting whole-lifecycle carbon and occupancy analysis; minimizing waste; sharing knowledge with colleagues whenever possible on best practices; incentivizing climate change and biodiversity loss mitigation through awards are some of the possible ways which can help us in mitigating effects of climate change.

If ever there was a time for architects to step forward and change things for the better, permanently, it is now. Profession’s support and involvement is of utmost importance if our fight against climate change needs to bear any fruits. There is not scope to wait for an opportune time to take a plunge and promise to act at some undefined point in the future will be of no use and the action is needed right now.




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