We must stop treating sustainable architecture as a nice-to-have, but a must-have. This was the take away message from a panel of expert architects at Future Build 2022 this week.
The session, titled ‘Complete architecture comes in a sustainable package’, took place at Futurebuild’s Digital Impact stage on Tuesday.
The panel took a broad look at the current state of our cities and the steps we can take to design more sustainable spaces and buildings.
Jonathan Tarbatt, director of Urban Design, Corstorphine & Wright Architecture, stressed the importance of taking a holistic approach, going beyond incremental changes, and putting sustainable design at the centre of urban planning and development.
Ben Mailen, founder at MailenDesign, supports this sentiment: “10 years ago sustainable architecture was very much a niche, and while there has been a shift to more offsite construction and intelligent ways of building, there’s a long way to go.”
The panel agreed that we need more green, shared, and family-friendly spaces in our cities. However they also agreed that allocating space for these purposes remains a challenge.
To overcome this hurdle, Tomas O’Leary from MosArt Architecture, underscored the importance of developing brownfield sites. Developing these sites – building new, vibrant and sustainable buildings on them – is a great way of getting the most out of limited urban land, he said.
However, when faced with high land prices, developers are often incentivised to build as densely as possible – neglecting green spaces.
Tarbatt said that part of the problem lies in the procurement process.
“The system of procurement is fundamentally broken,” he said. “We rely too heavily on private sector delivery, on housebuilders who want to build, sell, and move on. We really need more public sector investment that can deliver long term, whole-life value.”
All three panelists agreed that to overcome these hurdles, we need more public sector investment, climate education, and to position sustainable architecture in the mainstream.
Commenting on the these needs, particularly in context of climate change, O’Leary said: “40% of emissions come from buildings and the world is waiting for us to come up with better designs. The technology is already here. What we need is to go back to basics, and of course – education will be key.”
Mailen concluded: “While climate poses a massive challenge, we must embrace it as an opportunity to build better, safer and more sustainable communities.”
Image: Tomas O’Leary (left), Ben Mailen and Jonathan Tarbatt on the Digital Impact stage at Futurebuild 2022.