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Eleven practical steps to tackle climate change

Architects Declare published 11 actions to improve the profession’s impact in the era of climate change. FCB Studios lays out its response

FCBStudios’ CLT frame and Passivhaus design at  Croft Gardens housing in Cambridge shows how a sustainably minded brief from King’s College aimed to reduce embodied and in use carbon.
FCBStudios’ CLT frame and Passivhaus design at Croft Gardens housing in Cambridge shows how a sustainably minded brief from King’s College aimed to reduce embodied and in use carbon. Credit: FCBStudios

1. Raise awareness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and the urgent need for action among our clients and supply chains. FCBStudios is a founder member of Architects Declare. It will support the 20 September climate strike and will be involved in collaborative zero-carbon project workshops through that day.

2. Advocate for faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices and a higher governmental funding priority to support this. The practice is engaged in design review and local authority planning development initiatives to improve biodiversity and lower carbon performance. It supports the 'Edge' initiative to encourage collaboration between the construction sector professional institutions.

3. Establish climate and biodiversity mitigation principles as the key measure of our industry’s success: demonstrated through awards, prizes and listings. FCBStudios sets carbon performance targets for all projects at planning stage to incrementally improve. It is working towards including zero-carbon plans for all projects completed from 2025 to establish achievable operational performance in use by 2030. Detailed post-occupancy evaluations inform our design work.

4. Share knowledge and research to that end on an open-source basis. In 2010 FCBStudios published 'The Environmental Handbook'(downloadable 2014) to share best practice in the application of sustainable design principles. The practice has collated benchmark performance data on a range of building types, and has been involved in the development of open-source data platforms such as ‘Carbon Buzz’. We are updating our own data platforms with a view to making this information more widely available.

5. Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach. We are developing zero-carbon scenarios on all new projects to discuss and evaluate with our clients. The practice is engaged in a series of projects which target zero-carbon in use, and low embodied carbon in construction, potentially leading to overall zero-carbon across their lifecycle. By April 2020 all projects up to RIBA stage 3 will have alternative zero-carbon plans, by 2021 all projects will have One Planet action plans and all projects submitted for planning approval shall include achievable zero-carbon operation plans. By 2025 all projects starting on site will be built to achieve zero operational carbon in use.

6. Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon-efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice. FCBStudios encourages and facilitates creative re-use of existing buildings, exemplified in our recently completed work at the Southbank Centre and Alexandra Palace

7. Include life cycle costing, whole-life carbon modelling and post-occupancy evaluation as part of our basic scope of work, to reduce both embodied and operational resource use. FCBStudios encourages whole-life carbon and cost modelling alongside the inclusion of operational (soft landings) methodologies into the design process from the start of project briefing to post-occupancy support through the first years of operation.

8. Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios, with the aim of designing architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net-zero carbon in use. Since its outset in 1978 FCBStudios has followed humanistic social and environmental design principles that aim to improve the culture and character of the lives of people using our buildings. Over the last 15 years, our application of the One Planet Living principles has become a useful tool to help discuss the wider impact of our designs. In 2017 we founded, a digital platform to help achieve a wider use of these principles. While the climate emergency now demands significant changes in our habits and lifestyle alongside better building performance, we pursue a holistic design approach to prioritise improvements in health and wellbeing, culture, and biodiversity and water, alongside zero-carbon, and waste outcomes.

9. Collaborate with engineers, contractors and clients to further reduce construction waste. FCBStudios is identifying ways to reduce construction waste, for instance through prefabricated design processes, and is committed to supporting contractors in this through considered design and the development of in house BIM tools.

10. Accelerate the shift to low embodied carbon materials in all our work. We are working with engineers to better understand the embodied carbon impact of material choice, maintenance and end of life use and are investigating the material and aesthetic changes resulting from the necessary reduction in consumption of natural resources and our better understanding of carbon impacts.

11. Minimise wasteful use of resources in architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail. Growing awareness of the implications of material choices are influencing strategic design decisions to help reduce overall resource consumption. 

This is an edited version of FCBS’ working document


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