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Architects Declare climate manifesto for government

Words:
Zoe Watson

UK Architects Declare has launched Building Blocks, a three pronged manifesto aiming to ‘turn climate catastrophe into climate opportunity’

Zoe Watson is a lead author of the Bilding Blocks manifesto, with Julia Barfield (Marks Barfield) and Anna Woodeson (Buro Happold). Read more at buildingblocks-manifesto.co.uk
Zoe Watson is a lead author of the Bilding Blocks manifesto, with Julia Barfield (Marks Barfield) and Anna Woodeson (Buro Happold). Read more at buildingblocks-manifesto.co.uk

With an election in sight, UK Architects Declare has produced Building Blocks, a manifesto launched in Parliament in March. With the tagline ‘turning climate catastrophe into climate opportunity’, it is a policy framework we urge all parties to adopt. 

A year ago we met senior MPs to find out how our sector could support politicians pursuing better outcomes, and that has developed into this broader initiative. While visits to party conferences showed a focus on housing and energy use, we believe a more strategic, whole-neighbourhood view of the built environment offers huge potential to improve health and wellbeing too. We have engaged with industry bodies like LETI, the Good Homes Alliance and UKGBC to identify the main priorities, and with our 1337 signatory practices to inform a draft published late last year.

Policy proposals are grouped in three building blocks. First, prioritising resource efficiency, for example through a nationwide retrofit strategy and legal limits on upfront carbon emissions. Second, kick-starting the circular economy via measures such as mandatory materials passports and tax reform. And third, restoring natural and social infrastructure, for instance by strengthening biodiversity net gain legislation and introducing a National Wellbeing Measure. 

Parties focus on housing and energy use, but we believe a more strategic, whole-neighbourhood view of the built environment offers huge potential to improve health and wellbeing too

We have also identified early adoption policies that any incoming government should take up within its first 100 days, emphasising potential gains that range from £1.3bn savings for the NHS – from retrofitting cold homes – to 725,000 new green jobs. 

Our manifesto goes beyond the target metrics and technical specifications that our industry typically contributes to policy discussions; a siloed approach won’t produce meaningful change. It is much more ambitious than the government’s recent consultation on Future Homes and Buildings Standards, for example, but contains practical proposals that could be implemented over the next five years. The aim is to add a sense of urgency to the debate, and to ensure the UK benefits from a just transition. We’re called Architects Declare, so rather than dial down the ambition, we want to dial it up.

Zoe Watson is head of sustainability at Allies and Morrison and sits on the Building Blocks steering group at UK Architects Declare

Read more about the RIBA's 2024 election manifesto

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