Architects Declare: New Zealand architects create climate declaration

27 August 2019

by Sian Taylor, Team Green Architects

Following on from declarations by UK and Australian architects, New Zealand architects have come together to declare a climate emergency within their discipline.

Formed by architects Siân Taylor from Queenstown’s Team Green Architects and Duncan Sinclair of Blackpine Architects in Wanganui, the declaration lays down a set of guidelines that signatories pledge to follow in order to help prevent irreversible damage from a changing climate. The construction industry accounts for up to 40% of energy related carbondioxide emissions, meaning architects can play a large part in helping to quell these emission rates.

“I sat in a conference discussing the fact that there are only 11 years left to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change, with only 30 of us in a room talking about it,” says Siân. “It seemed like such an enormous challenge, so I decided it was time to take some action.”

Duncan Sinclair had expressed similar thoughts and the pair combined resources to form the New Zealand chapter of this declaration. The founding signatories include leading and well-respected New Zealand architects, including Herbst Architects, RTA Studio and Tennent and Brown, plus all NZIA Gold Medallists. Many of the founding signatories are already positively affecting change through their architecture.

“We are all on different paths and at different stages in the desire to turn this problem around,” says Siân. “But as architects we are in a unique position to be able to influence many decisions which can either positively or negatively affect our planet. If we are conscious of our choices, and actively seek to engage those around us with conversations around choice, we can increase the positive effect we can all make.”

Among many other points, the declaration includes evaluating all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown and encouraging clients to adopt this approach; and upgrading existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build.

“We hope this will affect some major changes in policy to improve quality of housing across New Zealand. We need to influence change from above, and if this gains momentum, perhaps the government will finally consider upgrading the building code.”

Combined with the declaration of a climate emergency by councils across New Zealand, the creation of Architects Declare can make a difference to the threat of climate disaster. And it can also have a significant effect to improve the lives of all New Zealanders.

New Zealand’s Architects Declare website launched on 26th August 2019, with 23 founding signatories. To sign up, please go to www.architectsdeclare.nz.