Commentaries

Responsibilities to the 'Climate Generation'

By Raymond J. Cole (University of British Columbia, CA)

For the foreseeable future, the current young generation and those following will be navigating through a difficult, turbulent period and have to prepare for a changing world — what Yunkaporta (2020) characterizes as the creation of 'cultures and societies of transition' toward a qualitatively different future era. Intergenerational obligations and rights have a long history in moral and ethical philosophy and legal discussions and, indeed, Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child declares their right to a safe and healthy future. The climate emergency is a child rights issue and governments participating in COP-26 have an obligation to acknowledge this fundamental right in their decision-making about climate change policies and commit to placing a price on any pollution that threatens children’s futures (Vandergrift, 2020).

Transition to a Cross-sectoral Approach for Decarbonising the Built Environment

By Thomas Lützkendorf (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, DE)

The sole reliance on a sectoral approach to GHG emission reductions is problematic and incomplete because it fails to engage with the complex array of built environment actors. A different conceptual and practical approach is proposed which involves ‘areas of need’ and ‘areas of activity’. A scalable GHG budget for the built environment will be more effective in reducing built environment GHG emissions and allow actors to take more control over their emissions.

At COP-26, Climate Change Should Not Go Solo

By Ilan Kelman (University College London, UK)

Climate change is not separate from other built environment challenges. To be positively impactful and effective, COP-26 needs to take on board the connections between climate change and other topics. This will ensure effective climate change action for our infrastructure.

Avoid Unintended Consequences: Provide Justice and Agency

By Magdalena Barborska-Narozny (Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, PL)

The geopolitics of GHG emission reductions is likely to give competitive advantage to wealthier countries. International climate efforts at COP-26 and elsewhere need to address funding commitments to less advantaged countries. Climate agreements also need to ensure that all counties have suffcient agency to achieve carbon neutrality and are not made vulnerable or disadvantaged.

The Elephant in the Climate Change Room

By Mark Levine (Senior Advisor, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, US)

As the economies and cities in developing countries grow, they will represent the total global increase in GHG emissions through the end of this century. These countries currently have the least capability to limit GHG emissions. In addition to ensuring radical GHG emission reductions in developed countries, COP26 must also now provide a range of significant assistance to developing countries to create local capabilities to reduce emissions. A broad outline is presented of what this entails.

Sustainable and Climate Resilient Cities? Stop Experimenting, Start Scaling

By Jeroen van der Heijden (Victoria University of Wellington, NZ and Australian National University, AU)

COP-26 represents an important turning point for cities, the research community and NGOs. We must shift away from creating more experiments and now move toward implementation and the challenges of scaling.  City governments and their stakeholders may be better off to begin asking questions like: Has the problem we want to solve been solved elsewhere? Can we replicate or adjust a proven-to-work intervention from elsewhere?

Managing the Long Term and Complexity: Policies for Mitigation

By Bruno Peuportier (MINES ParisTech, PSL Research University, FR)

The longevity of buildings and lengthy roadmaps for a transition stretching to 2050 are misaligned with the urgency to act on the climate situation and the short mandates of elected officials. In this context, dealing with time is complex. Good practice needs to focus on acting and reporting during a shorter period (the electoral cycle) rather than postponing the progress to the next period. Three specific actions are recommended: (1) the need for clear actions, measurement and reporting; (2) policies and regulations must account for complexity and not result in merely shifting impacts; and (3) life cycle thinking.

A New Radical Bauhaus?

A New Radical Bauhaus?

What would a radical agenda be for the New European Bauhaus?

Matti Kuittinen (Aalto University) considers the multiple challenges facing society: the climate emergency, loss of biodiversity and overconsumption of material resources. He argues the New European Bauhaus has the potential to adopt a radical agenda, similar to its original namesake, as part of a transformational process. A personal vision is presented of what that radical agenda needs to be in order to tackle these critical issues and create positive cultural change.

The value of interdisciplinarity: a critical reflection on urban sustainability research

Why is interdisciplinary research is important?

Catalina Turcu (UCL), Lauren Andres (UCL), Melanie Crane (University of Sydney) and Ding Ding (University of Sydney) explain the importance of interdisciplinarity for tackling complex and “wicked’ problems associated with urban sustainability. A critical reflection is presented to unpack some of its challenges.

Heat Pump Market Transformation: Strategies & Lessons

What is an effective set of policies and strategies to deliver heat pumps to homes?

The UK Government has pledged to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, up from 50,000 today. As we await the release of the UK Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy, Aaron Gillich (BSRIA LSBU Net Zero Building Centre) reflects on what constitutes effective strategy in terms of delivery, and how industry can help drive the low carbon transition. 

A History of Failed Dreams: Modern Methods of Construction and Katerra

Why has the industrialised production of buildings failed?

Construction historian Andrew Rabeneck provides a historical overview for modern methods of construction (MMC) and explains why it has not succeeded. The recent demise of US company Katerra is considered in a wider context of factory-based offsite construction methods.  Is there sufficient aggregation of demand, assurance of funding appropriate regulatory environment or labour acceptance to provide a sound basis for this dream?  Understanding why construction is the way it is now helps to reveal the basic mechanics of meeting the needs of a very diverse market.

The Global Cooling Prize

The Global Cooling Prize

An innovation challenge that shattered the performance ceiling for residential cooling

How can we implement the learnings from this global innovation challenge to shape the future of cooling?

Ankit Kalanki, Caroline Winslow, Iain Campbell (Rocky Mountain Institute) explain the outcomes and implications of this initiative.

In many parts of the world, access to affordable cooling is increasingly viewed as a necessity. Cooling supports positive health outcomes, higher productivity, and accelerated economic development. However, over 3 billion people in the world today are at some risk to their health and safety due to lack of access to coolth. Increasing population and rapid urbanization, coupled with a warming planet, are expected to drive the number of residential/room air conditioners (RACs) in service from 1.2 billion units today to 4.5 billion units by 2050 (Campbell et al., 2018). However, providing increased access to cooling using traditional approaches comes at an unaffordable environmental cost.

A Dual Mandate for Climate Justice and Climate Protection

How can professionals begin to engage with climate justice?

Design professionals know that buildings, cities, and infrastructure are central to the challenge of climate change. Most embrace the need to dramatically improve performance to support the shared goals for climate protection. Joel Ann Todd, Christopher R. Pyke and Susan Kaplan (who are working on USGBC's All In: Building Equity Together) reflect on the B&C special issue CLIMATE JUSTICE: THE ROLE OF THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT.  Acting on social equity issues is a vital professional responsibility – especially to protect those made vulnerable or disadvantaged by climate change.

Zero Carbon Buildings: A Brazilian Perspective

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Simone Barbosa Villa (Federal University of Uberlândia) and Eduardo Grala da Cunha (Federal University of Pelotas) respond to the B&C special issue EDUCATION & TRAINING: MAINSTREAMING ZERO CARBON. Low and zero carbon building in Brazil is currently at the demonstration stage.  The focus of the academic community is therefore on raising awareness and standards, rather than implementing changes in education and the curriculum.

Critical Reflections on The Construction Playbook

The UK government is redefining its role as a construction sector client - with widespread and signficant consequences.

How governments procure their building and civil engineering projects has significant impacts on both industry practices and competences as well as wider outcomes for civil society. Stuart D. Green (University of Reading) considers the UK government’s new approach. It is contended there is little which has not been said before, and much which remains unsaid.

The Sustainability Implications of Single Occupancy Households

Fresh thinking is needed on how we share spaces and services in dwellings and cities

Single occupancy households consume more resources per capita, and demographics suggest single occupancy is now widespread in many countries. Environmental policies need to adjust to include per capita consumption to account for occupancy and efficient use of resources. Diana Ivanova, Tullia Jack, Milena Büchs and Kirsten Gram-Hanssen explain how the sharing of resources at domestic, neighbourhood and urban scales can have positive environmental and social impacts.

Leadership is Critical in Mainstreaming Sustainability in Professional Education

An inspiring transformation of architectural education in the Global South shows a successful integration of sustainability.

Mark Olweny (University of Lincoln) comments on the B&C special issue EDUCATION & TRAINING: MAINSTREAMING ZERO CARBON. Leadership in Global South demonstrates the positive transformation of architectural education.  The Uganda Martyrs University implemented a new curriculum to integrate sustainability into the architectural curricula. Change occurred due to staff dedication, commitment and stamina - although overcoming resistance at several levels was not easy.
Carbon Metrics Can Help the Real Estate Sector

How can the real estate and construction industries use carbon metrics to apportion responsibility and radically reduce their GHG emissions?

Users, investors and policy makers need reliable information in order to take effective action against climate change. It is clear that KPIs must be derived starting from the reduction of GHGs, and that the built environment (i.e. real estate and construction) should accept one of the largest shares of this burden. Sven Bienert (University of Regensburg) reflects on the B&C special issue CARBON METRICS FOR BUILDINGS AND CITIES: ASSESSING AND CONTROLLING GHG EMISSIONS ACROSS SCALES and argues the industry needs to urgently agree on what are appropriate and just measures for the industry, particularly how GHG budgets should be distributed.

Urban Demographic Trends: Impacts on Cities, Planning and Real Estate

How can large cities respond to the loss of population, a higher vacancy rate and a reduced economy and tax base?

Although the world is increasingly urbanising, it is medium and small cities that may benefit the most. If large cities will shrink in population, then how can spaces that are underutilized be redeployed and repurposed? Chiara Tagliaro (Politecnico di Milano) argues for a creative and integrated approach for how cities can rethink their socio-economic and planning models to accommodate revised notions  of urbanization.

Can We Educate Architects to Design the Future?

As a matter of urgency, professional institutes and course accreditation organisations must ensure archtiectural education is fit for purpose in the 21st century. Mainstreaming zero carbon must be part of the curriculum.

Kira Gould (Kira Gould Connect) comments on the B&C special issue EDUCATION & TRAINING:MAINSTREAMING ZERO CARBON. How can American architectural education respond to the challenges of climate change? Gatekeeper organisations have a major role: their leadership is needed to raise the standards for course accreditation to ensure that both students and teachers have competences to address social, environmental and climatic issues (NAAB).  Higher standards for licensure and entry to the profession (NCARB and AIA) will also drive changes in education.

Latest Peer-Reviewed Journal Content

Journal Content

Alternatives to air-conditioning: policies, design, technologies, behaviours [editorial]
B Ford, D Mumovic & R Rawal

Benchmarking energy performance: indicators and models for Dutch housing associations
H S van der Bent, H J Visscher, A Meijer & N Mouter

Emissions from a net-zero building in India: life cycle assessment
M Jain & R Rawal

Lack of adaptability in Brazilian social housing: impacts on residents
S B Villa, P B Vasconcellos, K C R de Bortoli & L B de Araujo

Participation in domestic energy retrofit programmes: key spatio- temporal drivers
E Mohareb, A Gillich & D Bristow

Embodied carbon of concrete in buildings, Part 2: are the messages accurate?
A Moncaster, T Malmqvist, T Forman, F Pomponi & J Anderson

An alternative approach to delivering safe, sustainable surgical theatre environments
C A Short, A W Woods, L Drumright, R Zia & N Mingotti

Adapting owner-occupied dwellings in the UK: lessons for the future
T Hipwood

Integrating low energy cooling & ventilation strategies in Indian residences
M J Cook, Y Shukla, R Rawal, C Angelopoulos, L Caruggi-De-Faria, D Loveday, E Spentzou, & J Patel

Balconies as adaptable spaces in apartment housing
T Peters & S Masoudinejad

Inclusive Living: ageing, adaptations and future-proofing homes
V McCall

Residential geothermal air-conditioning: inhabitants’ comfort, behaviour and energy use
L Thomas, A Woods, R Powles, P Kalali, & S Wilkinson

Energy retrofit and passive cooling: overheating and air quality in primary schools
D Grassie, Y Schwartz, P Symonds, I Korolija, A Mavrogianni & D Mumovic

Outdoor PM2.5 air filtration: optimising indoor air quality and energy
E Belias & D Licina

Architects’ ‘enforced togetherness’: new design affordances of the home
E Marco, M Tahsiri, D Sinnett & S Oliveira

Overheating assessment in Passivhaus dwellings: the influence of prediction tools
V L Goncalves, V Costanzo, K Fabbri & T Rakha

The use of apartment balconies: context, design & social norms
M Smektała & M Baborska-Narożny

Sharing a home under lockdown in London
F Blanc & K Scanlon

Projected climate data for building design: barriers to use
P Rastogi, A Laxo, L Cecil &D Overbey

Residents’ views on adaptable housing: a virtual reality-based study
J Tarpio & S Huuhka

Technological transitions in climate control: lessons from the House of Lords
Henrik Schoenefeldt

Internal thermal mass for passive cooling and ventilation: adaptive comfort limits, ideal quantities, embodied carbon
T de Toldi, S Craig & L Sushama

Understanding air-conditioned lives: qualitative insights from Doha
Russell Hitchings

Living with air-conditioning: experiences in Dubai, Chongqing & London
N Murtagh, S Badi, Y Shi, S Wei, W Yu

Air-conditioning in New Zealand: power and policy
H Byrd, S Matthewman & E Rasheed

Summertime overheating in UK homes: is there a safe haven?
P Drury, S Watson & K J Lomas

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Latest Commentaries

Lessons from the Swiss Impulse Programme

The former Swiss 'Impulse programme' was a successful response to the 1970s energy crisis. It provides important lessons for today’s climate emergency about what governments, industry and academia can do to create a successful transition within the construction industry. Niklaus Kohler and Kurt Meier (both former members of the Construction and Energy Impulse programmes) reflect on key lessons for today about its implementation and how to sustain change over the short and long term.

New European Bauhaus Festival: Living within Planetary Boundaries

The first annual festival of the New European Bauhaus – a cultural initiative of Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) – took place in Brussels 9 – 12 June 2022. This ambitious programme and its recent festival recognises the built environment's centrality to creating climate neutrality, quality of life and social equity. Matti Kuittinen (Aalto University, coordinator of the Nordic Bauhaus programme) reflects on the festival, summarises its takeaways and applauds the mainstreaming of the New European Bauhaus.