COP26 Leadership built environment: The UN climate summit, COP26, brings officials from almost 200 countries to Glasgow to haggle over the best measures to combat global warming. As the host nation, the UK is responsible for overseeing these negotiations and trying to extract meaningful pledges from the representatives of almost 200 countries in attendance.

COP26 Leadership from the built environment -The design community is committed to addressing climate change. As architects, we often associate our professional identity with the buildings we design. However, the changing nature of society and the economic climate means there is growing pressure on societies to find creative solutions to complex issues via the built environment.

The UK has led with their commitment to reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels and now more than 100 world leaders have promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, in the summit’s first major deal.

This week more than 200 businesses and groups have backed a report calling on world leaders to radically reduce the greenhouses gases produced by the built environment. These public and private sector clients, developers, architects, engineers, contractors, suppliers, and collectively calling not only for stronger environmental regulation but also for more resources and infrastructure to facilitate a sustainable built environment.

The report trails the Built Environment Summit – a two-day virtual conference held in October for the sector to unite ahead of COP26. It was presented with a demand for “bold regulations and purposeful policies” to world leaders at the COP26 summit. They say the construction and property industry stands ready but that the lack of commitment from global governments is choking progress.

The practices and organisations have united around the detailed report published by the RIBA and Architects Declare (which we are proud to have signed up to) which sets out essential actions to support the decarbonisation of existing and future buildings.

RIBA President, Simon Allford, said:

“This timely report emphasises the critical role our professions can and must play to tackle the climate emergency, and clearly states where we require change, particularly within challenging political landscapes and inadequate policies. Industry and governments need to work together to accelerate the global decarbonisation of buildings.

I encourage the entire sector to endorse and amplify the report’s recommendations – we must speak with one voice to deliver a clear and urgent message.”

Maria Smith, RIBA Councillor, Director of Sustainability at Buro Happold and report editor, said:

“This report is a call for governments across the world to include built environment actions in their net-zero plans. The built environment sector can be a transformative force in meeting the challenges of the climate and biodiversity emergency. The knowledge, tools, and skills exist, but support and infrastructure is needed to mainstream best practice and bring about the transition to a fair and sustainable built environment for all.”

The built environment and those that shape it are critically important. Our buildings are responsible for almost 40 percent of global carbon emissions. There is no doubt that we need bolder regulations and more robust policies to change this for our future, and effective leadership at every level here will determine success or failure.

The full report can be read here.

The media at COP26 has also turned its attention to the leaders outside of the conference halls, not the politicians, talking of “revolution not reverence”. And this shows the nature of leadership in its wider context. Of course, diplomacy is needed in the real world, negotiations and deals are struck, and concessions made, but there is also a place for leaders like Greta Thunberg, who lead with raw facts, emotion, and perseverance.

At a micro-level, the expectations of our developer clients has changed, so we have moved quickly to re-evaluate the way we design and how we advise them. A focus on innovation in design and digital has enabled us to respond to these market-driven challenges and offer flexibility. It’s crucial that we still continuously and review, adapt and rethink the layout of spaces in light of the wider macro-economic drivers which are fundamentally changing how we use spaces to live, work, learn and play.

Please give me a call/email if you’d like to speak about how to protect your project, click here

We work with developers and landowners to maximise the potential of their sites and increase their ROI. The developments range from 9 units to upwards of 50 units, and often include areas of other uses such as commercial, retail, and F&B. We have excellent working relationships with a range of trusted consultants and suppliers and can advise on all aspects of these developments; from feasibility stage through to completion. We have developed an efficient and accurate site viability programme to assist developers and landowners evaluate their sites and this is offered at feasibility stage.

Image credit: Philip King/

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