The last month saw many UK architects addressing the global climate crisis through pledging a move towards greener design. At the end of May, Foster + Partners committed to ensuring that all their building designs are carbon neutral by 2030, as they signed the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment – becoming the first architectural firm to do so. Not long afterwards, 17 UK architect practices – all RIBA Stirling winners – published a statement pledging to make protecting the environment a central priority in building design. Titled Architects Declare, the open letter called for other UK architects to sign up to the commitment in order to ‘strengthen… working practices to create architecture and urbanism that has a more positive impact on the world around us’.
Architects Declare identifies the combination of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss as ‘the most serious issue of our time’. The urgency of these ‘twin crises’ is backed up by reports from the United Nations. In October 2018, the UN warned that we only have 12 years to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5° Celsius, beyond which a rise of just half a degree will greatly increase the risk of climate disasters such as droughts and floods. And just last month, the UN revealed that more species are threatened by human behaviour than ever before, with up to one million species at risk of extinction.
The Architects Declare statement points out that the building and construction industry contributes almost 40% of energy-related CO2 emissions. It also highlights the destructive impact of buildings on natural habitats – loss of habitat being the leading cause of biodiversity loss. Architects Declare claims that ‘a paradigm shift in our behaviour’ is required to tackle these negative environmental effects and to allow the construction industry to meet human needs ‘without breaching the earth’s ecological boundaries’.
The founding signatories of Architects Declare commit to 11 key points of action. These include raising awareness of clients and suppliers, sharing knowledge and research, as well as pushing for faster practice change and greater government funding. Climate and biodiversity must become the key criteria by which we measure success and new projects should be evaluated according to their positive environmental impact. Existing buildings should also be upgraded ‘as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition’.
Utilising resources in a way that reduces waste is also a priority. It suggests ‘life cycle costing, whole life carbon modelling and post-occupancy evaluation’ in order to reduce the amount of resources used, both in materials and operation. Cross-disciplinary collaboration – ‘with engineers, contractors and clients’ is also stipulated as a need to further reduce waste.
At the date of writing, Architects Declare has a total of 465 signatures. So what happens next? In an article for The Architects’ Journal, Hattie Hartman applauded the founding signatories for ‘providing leadership for the profession,’ and stressed the importance of putting the words of the statement into action. She claims that to succeed ‘sustainability must be championed from the earliest project inception’, requiring ‘expertise, advocacy, collaboration, persistence and resources’. As an initial step, she suggests that the organisers of Architects Declare should release best practices for sustainable design, consisting of measurable targets.
An ability to track progress is crucial, which requires transparency and knowledge sharing. Hartman proposes post-occupancy monitoring of projects and a scheme of inter-practice mentoring as possibilities for ensuring the committed actions are carried out successfully.
Architects Declare acknowledges that the technology and resources needed to transform the industry already exist, but that ‘what has been lacking is collective will’. The open letter, which the founding signatories hope all UK architectural practices will join them in signing, is an attempt to rectify this. As such, collaboration is at the heart of the pledge. Through unifying UK architectural firms with a set of shared commitments, Architects Declare looks to inspire accountability, collaboration and shared success.
The open letter also stresses the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration: working together towards a shared goal is not just required between architects, but across multiple industries. For 30 years, Billi has worked with architects and specifiers, partnering with them to achieve their visions. And when our client’s vision is sustainability, this coalesces perfectly with our company goals.
Sustainability has been a priority for Billi from the very beginning. Our unique technology has been created with the aspiration to produce the most energy-efficient commercial drinking water systems possible. Below are the key features that make our filtered, chilled and boiling taps the most sustainable and environmentally friendly on the market:
● Heat-exchange technology: Our chilled taps feature an innovative water-cooling system. While air-cooling releases heat as waste into the atmosphere, our system recycles the heat energy produced in the chilling process, capturing it and using it to preheat water destined for boiling. Preheating means boiling requires less energy and takes a lot less time. This unique feature makes our chilled and boiling water taps the most energy-efficient out there, which means a significantly smaller CO2 footprint.
● Insulation: Our polyethylene insulation is extremely effective at maintaining water temperature. This means our units require less energy to keep water hot.
● Stand-by mode: Our units can be set to power-down during periods of inactivity, meaning they only consume energy when in use.
It is technological features such as these that give our water systems their low carbon footprint. Billi instant water taps are the most eco-friendly alternative to energy-and-water-guzzling kettles that also do not contribute to the deepening environmental catastrophe caused by destructive plastic bottles.
We have already participated in projects that have achieved incredible success in the field of green architecture. Our taps are installed in the groundbreaking London Bloomberg building, which is the highest BREEAM-rated major office building in the world, achieving a rating of ‘outstanding’. Featuring rainwater supplied vacuum toilets, 500,000 LED lights and Billi taps throughout, the Bloomberg building is a shining example of the ability to design and construct buildings that exist in harmony with the environment. You can read about other projects we have partnered with here.
The Architects Declare pledge envisions creating buildings that can exist and integrate within the wider ecosystem without destroying it – ‘as indivisible components of a larger, constantly regenerating self-sustaining system’. When it comes to drinking water, Billi filtered boiling and chilled water taps are able to deliver on this vision. So if you’re a designer or specifier wanting to deliver on a commitment to protect the environment, get in touch to find out how we can help.
World Green Building Council