Earth calling architects

Gail Taylor
Monday 04 Jan 2016

Following the COP21 summit in Paris the focus is on architects to cut carbon through intelligent design and planning

Post-Paris December 2015, WAN’s latest podcast series explores the mammoth issue of climate change and its implications for architects as we move towards a more carbon-neutral future. To start the discussion snowballing, WAN’s Editor-in-Chief, Michael Hammond, spoke to Brian Kilkelly who is CEO of World Cities Network and Development Lead – Urban Transitions of Climate-KIC - the European Union’s main climate change initiative.

Almost one month ago now, 195 nations signed up to the Paris Agreement at the COP21 summit in the French capital. The agreement now sets out a global action plan to limit global warming to well below 2oc and to achieve climate-neutrality before the end of the century. Of course it now remains to be seen if each of those countries is seriously prepared to relinquish comfortable old habits and make the truly radical changes in mind-set required to keep our planet below this critical threshold.

In the meantime, what is becoming ever more obvious is the central role architects have to play in helping to keep down the heat through intelligent design and planning, and in influencing developers and authorities to adopt more altruistic building and transport solutions and products – even if they stretch the budget. 

As part of his role with Climate-KIC (KIC stands for Knowledge Innovation Community), Brian was in attendance at COP21 over the entire 12 days of the negotiations. In his interview with Michael, he gives us a first hand account of what it was like to be there.

He reports back on some of the bones of contention between developed and developing nations, the spirit of hope behind the agreement that was finally hammered out, and the profound implications for architects and planners in taking climate commitments forward.

On a more personal level, Brian describes the sense of tension while waiting for the UN to give the go ahead for COP21 to take place in the light of the Paris terrorist attacks just a few weeks prior. He also shares his compelling reasons for attending what he says was a very emotionally charged event, stating: “We can’t be frightened into changing our way of life.”

During the interview, we uncover some of the groundbreaking work Climate-KIC has been doing - particularly in the realm of cities, which Brian describes as being ‘at the forefront of the solution to climate change’. 

He speaks to Michael about the urgent need for ‘step change’ rather than incremental improvements where ‘you improve the efficiency a little bit here, you improve the way of doing something there…’ He also calls on the profession to take a fresh look at the role of ‘the old order of associations, organisations, and membership organisations’ in order move the debate on, and fast.

Next month in London, a roundtable discussion for leading architects and urban planners will be co-organised by Climate-KIC and WAN to discuss how we can accelerate the transition of our cities to meet the challenges and opportunities of a low carbon world. Climate-KIC is seeking to seed fund and support the best ideas for systemic urban innovation in 2016. Listeners are invited to apply for a seat at the roundtable by writing to Brian Kilkelly at stating what they believe can help deliver a faster transition. 

But first, why not begin by listening to his lively and thought-provoking interview with Michael here…

Gail Taylor

Features Editor

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