International Union of Architects pledges to eliminate carbon emissions in the built environment

Aerial view of New York City. (Flickr / Katy Silberger)

Aerial view of New York City. (Flickr / Katy Silberger)

The International Union of Architects (UIA) has made a major commitment to do its part in the fight against climate change. At its recent World Congress in Durban, South Africa, the Union—which represents 1.3 million architects from 124 countries—universally pledged to eliminate carbon emissions from the built environment by 2050. The “2050 Imperative” was created by the non-profit Architecture 2030 and approved by the UIA on August 8th.

Solar panels in Chicago. (Flickr / Archigeek)

Solar panels in Chicago. (Flickr / Archigeek)

If this pledge is met, it could have a serious effect on reducing the planet’s overall carbon emissions—70 percent of which come from cities. And since about 60 percent of the world’s building stock is expected to be built or rebuilt within the next 20 years, the UIA said it is presented with an “unprecedented opportunity” to bring carbon emissions to zero.

“We recognize our responsibility to seize this unique opportunity to influence ethical, socially responsible development throughout the world: to plan and design sustainable, resilient, carbon-neutral and healthy built environments that protect and enhance natural resources and wildlife habitats, provide clean air and water, generate on-site renewable energy, and advance more livable buildings and communities,” said the declaration.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the UIA agreed to the following actions:

  • Plan and design cities, towns, urban developments, new buildings, to be carbon neutral, meaning they use no more energy over the course of a year than they produce, or import, from renewable energy sources.
  • Renovate and rehabilitate existing cities, towns, urban redevelopments and buildings to be carbon neutral whilst respecting cultural and heritage values.
  • In those cases where reaching carbon neutral is not feasible or practical, plan and design cities, towns, urban developments, new buildings, and renovations to be highly efficient with the capability to produce, or import, all their energy from renewable energy sources in the future.
  • We commit to the principle of engaging in research and setting targets towards meeting the 2050 goal.
  • Advocate and promote socially responsible architecture for the community.
  • Develop and deliver equitable access to the information and tools needed to:
    • Plan and design sustainable, resilient, inclusive and low-carbon/zero carbon built environments.
    • Design no-cost/low-cost, on-site renewable energy and natural resources  systems (e.g., passive heating and cooling, water catchment and storage, solar hot water, daylighting, and natural ventilation systems)

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