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EXCLUSIVE PODCAST from UN Climate Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark

Monday 14 Dec 2009

What do architects know about climate change?

EXCLUSIVE PODCAST from UN Climate Conference by WAN Editorial in Copenhagen, Denmark
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15/12/09 Terry L. Walker, BRIER
In the USA in many states those who design the residential portion of built environment are not architect at all. The bulk of our cities literally are the work of those least qualified, never examined and certainly not licensed. Housing developments frequently are done by non professionals! These "Building Designers" are merely drafters. By tolerating them as substitutes for licensed design professionals, many states in the US have seriously shortchange our cities of the best design intelligence in hand, over a span of decades and now we all pay the price.
Business interests are largely responsible for much of the climate problems that arise from built environment. As architects in the US, we seriously shortchange our profession when we fail to protest the interpretation of the licensing law by our licensing boards. We must stand up to the construction lobby in every state. We must write the architectural board and require that only licensed professional be allowed to file technical submittal s for building permits. We need to require every building be reviewed by a licensed professional prior to submittal for a permit as required by the IBC.<p>

The central error of built environment is that it is constructed largely on speculation by developers with profit motives and little or no concern for the long term impact of the buildings they will erect and sell. The code for accessibility is only the first step in regulatory modification, what we most sorely need is to simply ensure the best available design intelligence is applied to the problem in place of those least qualified.
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15/12/09 Philip Allsopp, Scottsdale, Arizona
Regarding "what do architects know about climate change?"

The public's very poor perception of what architects do and are capable of is no surprise. Having been fed on a steady diet of TV do-it-yourself home renovation shows for going on 40 years now - shows which generally revile architects as mere drawing services - its hardly a revelation that the public think architects are just aloof idiots concerned only with building monuments to their own egos. Certainly the professional bodies have done little to reverse the damaging perceptions of architects as "artistic" dilettantes only concerned with winning design prizes than professionals devoted to measurably improving quality and sustainability of human habitats.

The architectural profession generally has done a very bad job indeed in portraying the engineering and scientific talent and know-how that many - not all by any means - architects have and deploy as part of their design and construction services. Until Schools of Architecture insist on much more rigorous standards for scientific and engineering research as part of masters-level programs - and certainly Ph.D. level research, the architectural profession will continue to be relegated to scientific "hopefuls" at best.

Until the architectural profession demonstrates that it is indeed - and is capable of - paying close attention to the scientific, sociological and environmental characteristics that make up successful (and "sustainable") human habitats, the general public will continue to believe that architects have little to say or do with making better places for our species to inhabit.

The questions being posed about why architects should be attending Copenhagen is very telling indeed. The professional bodies in many countries need to wake up and impose far more stringent academic, professional, research and engineering requirements on those who carry the title "architect".

Sincerely Yours

Philip D. Allsopp, D.Arch., RIBA, FRSA
principal/Founder Transpolis Global, LLC

Vice President, Board of Trustees
The Royal Institute of British Architects, USA, Inc.
Phoenix and Southwest Chapter
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15/12/09 Charles Boxenbaum, New York
It is not for no reason that "the average person on the street" thinks architects don't know about climate change. Starting 45 years ago as a student interested on the impact of climate on architecture I have found the architectural community in turn ignorant, disdainful, uninterested, proprietary, but always disingenuous when it comes to being "responsible" about our environment. From the perspective of 40 years in practice, I would say that the trendsetters and arbiters of what architecture is/should be dismissed then oversold but never fully honestly embraced the importance, relevance, and potential of climatologically responsive design. So why should anyone think we have anything to contribute?
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UIA President Louise Cox reveals 'scary' perception about architects' role 

Talking from the hubbub of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, UIA President Louise Cox revealed the 'scary' perception that the average person on the street has presented to her about architects at the conference. "People in the street are saying to me 'well, why are you here and what do architects know about climate change?' And that's scary because obviously the community doesn't understand that what we do can either reduce all these things or make them worse," she said in an exclusive podcast with World Architecture News.

Cox is participating in events to bring architecture’s part in the world climate to the fore. In addition to the UIA’s presence the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Australian Institute of Architects, Architecture Canada and the Commonwealth Association of Architects united to deliver a 15 point ‘Call for Action’ designed to encourage governments, architects and the broader global community to act on climate change, to set common targets and to highlight the importance of architecture in change.

But while architectural institutions have developed a strong united front, the world leaders’ battle from individual purpose towards a common goal is proving a more difficult task. Talks were suspended on Monday (14 Dec) as African countries walked out of discussions accusing developed countries of trying to wreck the existing Kyoto Protocol, according to news agency Reuters, despite EU leaders promising to front 2.4 billion euro a year until 2012 to help poorer countries combat global warming. "This is a walk-out over process and form, not a walkout over substance, and that's regrettable," Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told Reuters. But fellow Australian Louise Cox advised WAN just days before that tension was mounting on the periphery with demonstrators from poorer countries calling for support from richer countries, describing the tension as ‘a good thing’. She added, “I think the more controversial it is the more it will make the developed countries accountable, well, I hope that they will act like that”.

Copenhagen’s commitment to climate change measures has seen the city top the polls of a recent Economist Intelligence survey as Europe’s greenest big city and Denmark itself, despite having no hydropower resources and the lack of a long tradition of utilising biomass has achieved a 17% renewable energy status. In April this year Denmark produced its first energy positive homes developed by two Danish window companies, Velfac and Velux for the Home for Life project. Cities consume two-thirds of the world's primary energy, and produce 70% of its CO2 emissions and these are statistics that bolster the ‘think globally, act locally’ slogan first coined by environmentalists in the 1960s. The same is relevant today. “The phenomenon of climate change is a challenge that requires a truly international effort to combat both its cause and devastating effects,” said Ruth Reed, RIBA President when announcing their involvement in the Climate Conference. “However, many of the solutions - creating greener buildings, reducing energy use and changing our individual lifestyles - will be enacted at the local level, and this is where architects can play their part.”


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