Commentaries

Mainstreaming Carbon Zero in Architectural Education: Within a Decade?

Carbon literacy and carbon neutral design in higher education are part of a larger package of needed measures.

Raymond J Cole responds to the B&C special issue EDUCATION AND TRAINING: MAINSTREAMING ZERO CARBON. The ambitious timeframe for changing the core competences of architectural graduates may not fully impact on the profession by 2030, but nonetheless needs urgent change now. The transition to a zero carbon or net positive built environment will require changes in the educational curriculum and pedaogogy, new standards for course accreditation and clarity on what levels of knowledge and competences students must have. Other measures include: changes to licensure, support and training given to early career architects and a broader approach to design that also includes adaptation and the consideration of inhabitants' agency.

Academia’s Critical Role in Climate Change

Providing students with the education and deep understanding of the issues and capabilities is now even more crucial

Edward Mazria and Lindsay Rasmussen of Architecture 2030 respond to the B&C special issue EDUCATION & TRAINING: MAINSTREAMING ZERO CARBON. Professional design schools can provide the leadership needed to address what is this century’s greatest challenge – the preservation of a habitable planet. Providing students with new knowledge and capabilities is now even more critical if we are to act responsibly to stay within a 1.5˚C budget. 5 broad challenges for higher education are presented.

A Wicked Higher Education Problem: Climate Emergency Requires Brave Leadership

This transformation of a university built environment department shows strategic leadership can achieve a zero carbon curriculum.

The B&C special issue EDUCATION & TRAINING: MAINSTREAMING ZERO CARBON raised three challenges: How can education and training be rapidly changed to ensure the creation of zero-carbon built environments?  How can this transition be implemented successfully?  What positive examples and models can be drawn upon or adapted? Elena Marco responds to these challenges and explains how the Department of Architecture and the Built Environment at UWE Bristol implemented rapid and deep change.

Climate Change and Architectural Education

Firm and rapid action by the RIBA and other accreditation bodies is needed for curriculum change.

The B&C special issue EDUCATION & TRAINING: MAINSTREAMING ZERO CARBON could not be more timely, as the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is rethinking how best to reframe its education and also at a time of crisis management and rapid change in universities in the light of the pandemic. Flora Samuel and Lorraine Farrelly (both at the University of Reading) argue that a radical reframing of built environment competencies, allowing new hybrid routes to competency, has to be part of this process.

Accelerating Change in Architectural Education

Firm and rapid action by accreditation bodies and regulators is needed to make architectural education fit for purpose.

Sofie Pelsmakers (Tampere University) and Fionn Stevenson (University of Sheffield) respond to the B&C special issue EDUCATION & TRAINING: MAINSTREAMING ZERO CARBON. They argue that a mandatory set of educational standards from accreditation bodies is the key to creating the abilities, competences and values that a carbon neutral society needs.

Energy Data, Public Participation and the Green Transition

A societal conversation about the control and use of energy data is urgently needed to clarify rights and privileges surrounding the privacy, access and security of personal data.

Kirsten Gram-Hanssen and Maja de Neergaard (Aalborg University in Copenhagen) examine why so little public discussion exists on energy data and sustainable development. Detailed energy consumption data is a goldmine in terms of developing the climate-neutral society of the future. However, energy data reveal much about our private lives and the way we live in our homes.

Retrofitting Buildings to Support the Recovery

Why is building retrofit important for a sustainable economic recovery? What are key elements for success?

Faye Wade (University of Edinburgh) highlights the importance of building retrofit for a sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does retrofitting promise a major step toward a low carbon society, it also contributes to increased GDP and jobs in the construction sector.

Is High Density Necessary for Future Urban Life?

Smaller cities and towns can offer attractive forms of urbanism and quality of life. Alternative criteria to density are needed.

Mari Vaattovaara (University of Helsinki) critiques the current emphasis on city density and size as desirable quality indicators.  If emphasis is placed on the quality of physical environment or quality of life, then smaller cities and towns are both viable and desirable alternatives. 

Reflections on Buildings, Cities and COVID-19

How will social distancing and new practices change real estate, facilities management and the use of buildings?

COVID-19 will change real estate practices and how we use buildings - during the cautious present re-opening of gathering places whilst the virus remains a threat; and possibly for the longer term.  Alexi Marmot (University College London) considers some implications for the built environment, particularly the operation of our workplaces, schools, healthcare environments, retail centres and cities. Will the role of facilities manager be re-defined and given more prominence?

Housing: Lessons for a Post-COVID-19 World

How can housing be healthy, adaptable, resilient and optimised for the multiple functions?

Dwellings provide not just a living space, but act as a pandemic shelter, a workplace, an impromptu school, a gym, a playground and more.  Katja Maununaho, Sini Saarimaa, Jyrki Tarpio and Sofie Pelsmakers (Tampere University) critique current apartment design and contemplate how apartments can be designed to be adaptable and respond better to many existing and new needs. 

Hackitt and the Golden Thread: Challenges to Implementation

Will the Hackitt Review recommendations be easily implemented?

Graham Spinardi (University of Edinburgh) explores the implications of the Hackitt Review into fire safety regulation following the Grenfell Tower disaster. In particular, he considers the challenges to implementing a digital 'golden thread' of building information throughout a building's life cycle.

Will Working from Home Become the New Normal?

During Covid-19 pandemic office buildings are no longer the places where people spend half their waking time.

Chiara Tagliaro explains how the workplace is changing due to the shift to working from home. Key questions and challenges are posed for researchers, practitioners and facility managers: to create a strong evidence base and define appropriate new practices for a range of circumstances and individuals.

After COVID-19: Opportunity for Changing Building Regulations?

Is the current situation an opportunity to undertake fundamental changes in the building regulatory process in order to ensure safe and healthy buildings?

David Eisenberg (Development Center for Appropriate Technology) and Rick Diamond (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) consider the opportunities and challenges of building regulatory reform in the post-pandemic period.

Pandemics: Why Buildings are Hazards

Wastewater systems in tall buildings are a transmission pathway for pathogens. Despite robust evidence (and clear solutions), standards, codes and regulations have failed to respond and present a public health risk.

Michael Gormley (Heriot Watt University) explains a neglected area of public health and building design: the plumbing systems for wastewater.  What can building designers and regulators can do to reduce the hazard of disease transmission in tall buildings?

Design Professionals Challenging Disasters

Disasters are not natural occurrences. The design of cities and buildings can exacerbate or eliminate most disasters.

Ilan Kelman (University College London & University of Agder) explains why disasters are caused by humans – disasters come from a society’s decisions and actions, not nature. Many disasters can be eliminated through design, regulation and social practices. Built environment professionals have a significant role in tackling disasters involving risk identification, assessment, and management. Vulnerability takes a long time to create or eliminate due to the slow evolution of most cities.

From SARS to COVID-19 and Beyond: Public Health Lessons for Buildings

The built environment has a fundamental role in maintaining public health. What lessons has Hong Kong applied to reduce the spread of contagion?

An important function of the built environment is providing a safe place for its inhabitants.  Edward Ng (Chinese University of Hong Kong) recalls the spread of SARS in Hong Kong and reflects on the public health lessons for the built environment. A process of preparation and management is vital for reducing present and future health risks. This is becoming evident in Hong Kong’s recent codes and regulations for urban design and buildings . Other cities can learn from this process.

Scientific Conferences and the Pandemic

The present format of scientific conferences is outdated and needs to rapidly change. How we can reconfigure conferences to better suit the needs of researchers?

The COVID-19 outbreak has cancelled or postponed conferences, shifting others to virtual meetings.  This presents an opportunity to reflect on the questions about the purpose of scientific conferences and ways to improve them: how can they function more effectively, how are they organised, who are the major beneficiaries, should their number be reduced, and how to limit their environmental impacts (especially from air travel)?  Buildings & Cities' Richard Lorch argues for the urgent need to change scientific conferences.


Beyond Theory: Climate Justice in Practice

What role does the built environment have in addressing climate injustices?

This community-led initiative provides a practical approach to addressing climate injustices, specifically those experienced by Black and brown communities and low-income residents in Portland, Oregon. Rev. E.D. Mondainé and Mandy Lee present a pioneering approach that embraces both climate (mitigation and adaptation) and inequality issues to improve community resilience and wellbeing. A climate justice approach is better than attempting to solve one issue at a time.


Beyond the Declaration: Delivery of GHG Reductions

Architect Peter Clegg of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios considers the ‘Architects Declare’ movement and what it means for designers to put these ideas into practice.

Architect Peter Clegg (Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios) describes the ‘Architects Declare’ movement, which was established in response to the climate emergency. He explores how the principles of 'Architects Declare' can be put into action, particularly through considering both operational energy and embodied carbon during the design of buildings.

Research Contributes to Achieving Global Environmental Goals

Robert Crawford (The University of Melbourne) explains the importance of research to create a radical, informed shift in the way we design and construct our buildings and cities.

Robert Crawford (The University of Melbourne) explains the importance of research for making a radical, informed shift in the way we design and construct our buildings and cities. A database on the embodied environmental aspects of construction materials shows how researchers, the construction industry and government can develop a much more environmentally responsive approach to our built environment.

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.