Something Remarkable Happened at COP21 (update)

We now know the outcome from COP21 and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

cop21 article 2 draft


The Paris Agreement will be highly significant for the built environment, signalling one of its most exciting and challenging eras, one of innovation and reward;

  • The climate change and sustainability language is changing, from 2degC to 1.5degC based on science, rather than economic targets.
  • The Paris COP21 discussions, negotiations and events were played out in a social, open, collaborative and transparent environment. During the summit we turned to social media feeds and the #COP21 hashtags rather than traditional newsprint or news media.  This sets a future for transparency and collaboration for the climate change  agenda, at global, national, the built environment sector, company and project level.
  • Construction and the built environment has now be recognised as a climate change problem and a key part of the solution. We now have to flip our 40% negative impact into a 40% positive impact.
  • With existing construction sustainability strategies, building certification standard and reduction targets based on 2 Deg, there is now the urgent need to rethink and to address  a 1.5Deg future with faster, tougher reduction targets and more focused approaches.
  • To achieve 1.5degC caps, we cannot continue with a sustainable construction as usual approach of being incrementally less bad, but would need to make the flip to restorative and regenerative approaches, such as the Living Building Challenge.
  • The Paris Agreement is recognised as signalling the end of the fossil fuel era, and the signal for a low carbon future. This presents a huge opportunity and challenge for construction, utlilising all the tools and approaches we have at our disposal – for example
    • BIM to design and model low carbon buildings and construction methods,
    • circular economy to reduce impact from construction resources
    • lean construction to reduce all forms of waste along with
    • education and advocacy to inform and inspire both the next generation and those in the industry.

As I write this I am reviewing an 2015 updated copy of Olgyay’s Design with Climate, A BioClimatic Approach to Architectural Regionalism. Originally published in 1963 – over 50 years ago – was a groundbreaking book for students of sustainable architecture. One of the core concepts, (the Interlocking Fields of Climatology, Biology, Architecture and Technology) would unfortunately still appear new and radical to many today, but is profoundly relevant to the new climate change agenda.  We cannot wait any longer to learn or relearn basics of sustainability.

Related previous blog post

Presentation to Brightest Greenest Buildings event on 10/12/15:


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