Architect’s grand designs on climate change

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A Queenstown architect has co-founded a New Zealand architects’ climate change and biodiversity loss emergency campaign.

Taking a (green) leaf from the ‘UK Architects Declare’ campaign, which began in May and has already swept to four other countries, Sian Taylor, from Queenstown’s Team Green Architects, and Whanganui’s Duncan Sinclair last week launched ‘Architects Declare NZ’.

They’ve enlisted all 10 living recipients of the NZ Institute of Architects’ gold medal, and, so far, 81 of NZ’s 650 or so architectural practices.

Taylor says: “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.

“It seemed like such an enormous challenge, so I decided it was time to take some action.”

Taylor believes architects can play a huge role because the construction industry accounts for up to 40 per cent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

They can promote both low-energy designs and sustainable materials, she says.

Their designs, she adds, can also create a ripple effect on, for example, the neighbouring streetscape.

And they can influence biodiversity loss by ensuring buildings don’t impact on the natural environment.

Architects signing up to the declaration also commit to reducing construction waste and encouraging clients to upgrade buildings rather than demolish them and start anew.

Taylor, however, admits that’s a difficult commitment to honour, especially in Queenstown, “because we’ve built such poor buildings ‘cos our building code is so low”.

Lobbying the government to change the building code is a major aim of the new movement, she says.