Designing for the future

How can Canada’s architecture, construction, and procurement sectors rally to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC identified by the International Panel on Climate Change?

Here are six actionable items that stem from the Canadian Architects Declare commitment:

1.    Design for holistic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and advocate for investments in a rapid transition to resilient climate-positive alternatives.

This will involve:

•    Prioritizing retrofits and adaptive re-use as lower carbon alternatives to demolition and new construction.
•    Using passive design strategies and accelerating shifts toward climate-positive materials and systems.
•    Promoting equitable access to climate-positive transport, complete communities, and aging-in-place.

2.    Design to eliminate waste and to support rapid transition to circular economies.

This will involve:

•    Specifying materials and systems that are low in upfront embodied carbon, free of harmful substances, and produced in ways that are fair to the environment and humans.
•    Designing for whole-life-cycle value, by approaching projects as value-adding investments in regenerative economies, and catalysts for improving the health of their communities.
•    Advocating for the necessary transformations of markets and mindsets where gaps exist.

3.    Design for holistic health, resilience, and regeneration; respecting the rights and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This will involve:

•    Honouring, learning from, and empowering the wisdom and rights of Indigenous peoples, to collaboratively re-establish harmonious relationships with living systems and with each other.
•    Building outside of critical habitats and vulnerable areas such as floodplains. Where this is not possible, integrating mitigative and adaptive strategies, including passive survivability.
•    Designing to enhance the holistic health of living systems for water, food, and nutrients.
•    Designing to foster biodiverse ecologies and nurture regenerative communities and economies.

4.    Adopt regenerative design principles and practices to build the necessary capability to design and develop projects and environments that go beyond the standard of net-zero in use.

This will involve:

•    Approaching all projects in terms of their potential to improve the vitality, viability, and evolutionary capability of peoples and places.
•    Establishing the principles of this declaration as key measures of accountability and success in our industry, as demonstrated through our codes of conduct, awards, prizes, and listings.
•    Including whole-life-cycle assessment and costing, and performance modelling (including energy, carbon, water, and health) and post-occupancy evaluation as part of our basic scope of services and undertaking a rigorous commitment to continuous improvement.
•    Sharing knowledge and creating open-source research to support capacity building.

5.    Advocate for the rapid systemic changes required to address the climate and ecological health crisis; and the policies, funding priorities, and implementation frameworks that support them.

This will involve:

•    Re-examining and re-shaping codes, policies, procurement practices, benchmarking protocols, support for research and innovation, and collaborative structures to implement them at scale.

6.    Demand that our political parties make a resolute commitment to keep global warming below 1.5ºC by prioritizing implementation of the changes above. Vote for those that meaningfully commit to delivering on this promise.

The decisions we make today, and in the next few years, will forever shape our future.

Together, we have the opportunity and capacity to build a future that is thriving and equitable for all. It will require courageous leadership, collaborative action, and collective commitment.

We need your help!

Sign the Canada Architects Declare pledge here.

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