Where are the architects who will put the environment first?

Should we stop building airports? Return to mud and thatch? The climate crisis is an opportunity for creative thinking, but the values of architecture need a radical overhaul

Nearly 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, to use a figure architects love to bandy, are caused by the built environment. Or a bit more, depending on the definitions used. It’s an arresting figure. It suggests that the design of buildings and the planning of cities can do much to counter climate crisis.

Architects like to think of themselves as public-spirited, well-intentioned people. The profession tends to attract people who want to change the world for the better. And what could matter more than the prevention of environmental and societal collapse? It makes squabbles about architectural style or form seem trivial by comparison. So what would architecture look like – more importantly, what would it be – if all involved really and truly put climate at the centre of their concerns? Would there be no more concrete, given the material has been fingered as particularly destructive? Or an end to towers clad in panels that have to be replaced every 30 years? Or much less building altogether?

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