Hold on to your hats, if you thought 2023 was busy for Climate Action, that’s going to fail in comparison to what’s planned for 2024!
Now that 2023 has come to an end, it’s an opportune moment to review the massive work undertaken by many volunteers to initiate ‘action’ in climate action!
There have been political wins, due in part to the successful lobbying of Chapters and National working groups, which have seen significant visibility of architects as vital to the decarbonisation of the built environment. The roles of architects as the gatekeepers, project managers, and risk mitigators that can concurrently innovate through a myriad of challenges facing the environment have also been highlighted by government.
Baring this in mind, some of the work our forward thinkers, members and staff supporting the 2023 Climate Action program have been able to deliver can be summarised in the following:
- National, State and territory budget recommendations including key measures in the energy transition technologies demonstrate buildings provide stability of the grid, with best practices in building fabric being a driver of low embodied and operational carbon. Including, siding with our stance that stakeholders claiming the supply chain wasn’t ready for the transition was unfounded.
- With the energy transition seeing an increase in worker accommodation, the importance of quality housing was highlighted as a forward-thinking energy transition, particularly with Hydrogen in SA and the elimination of gas in VIC.
- Multiple submissions and lobbying around the housing and homelessness sector which highlight the imperative for governments to proactively support ‘good housing, not any housing’, in social and affordable sectors – this includes energy efficiency and fundamental building fabric provisions so that the dwellings can function during a grid shutdown. For example, Queensland highlighting responses to the Modern Homes Standards, SA’s letter to Hon Nick Champion MP and Tasmania responding to Sustainability Tasmania
- Submission to the National Energy Performance Strategy and called for increased state and territory economic goals for net zero, with Queensland, SA Green Paper, ACT Integrated Energy Plan and QLD Climate Transition Bill all highlighting urgent ambitious action is needed.
- Increased quality assurance measures were highlighted in WA’s submissions to the building reforms and DRIS in response to the Decision Regulation Impact Statement (DRIS) and recommendations from the Shergold Weir Report in Western Australia.
- Submission to the NABERS Embodied Emissions Consultation Paper and ongoing support within ASBEC membership for faster transition to a nationally consistent methodology of measurement
- Submissions to highlight the impact of greenwashing on the built environment, consumer confidence, and importance of heeding learnings from international examples such as the Denmark Consumer Protection rules on ‘green marketing’
- Successful advocacy for quality assurance in Architecture, across skills, training, minimum documentation requirements and sustainability. NSW successfully being engaged to deliver the Declared Drawing Matrix and provided the Architecture for Quality and Sustainability in NSW. While SA responded to irrationality and emotional exemptions requested in SA by providing Science Based Targets for residential housing as a means for the government to be proactive and positive in their endeavors
- Highlighting planning and development changes that are fuelling development in areas of heightened climate risk of flood, fire, indoor health and condensation and protection of green spaces for lowering urban heat islands. While Northern Territory responded to guidelines; ‘A Guide to Designing Homes – for the Top End Climate’
- Queensland, South Australia both providing supporting information to building ministers in relation to the higher standards in the National Construction Code, full adoption and ensuring development prioritises people over profits, as well as nationally calling for increased rental, affordable and social home standards
- We’ve seen much heightened media coverage of advocacy by chapters through ABC radio and InDaily news across political decisions leaving homeowners at risk, The Institute was also represented in many Housing and Resilience roundtables and government consultations for building, planning and regulation reform where there is an increasing shift of those controlling the political debates, to those supporting a just and safe transition
- Circular economy advocacy around waste and resource recovery, with education spanning across economic sectors with Home Sweet Habitat, and Sustainability Snacks playing host to varying ages
- In Victoria the Housing Towers Working Party, established under Policy & Advocacy Action Group of the Sustainable Architecture Committee (SAC) in response to the blanket decision by government to demolish all Housing Towers, has supported the Chapter Office in submissions to Government in support of retention of the Housing Towers for environmental and social benefit
- The VIC SAC supported a November seminar on the topic where international examples of retention and adaptation have been shown to provide environmental and social benefits and cost efficiency and a direct review of an example of cost benefits of redevelopment of existing towers was presented. The discussion extended to identify that study is being done at Melbourne University Master of Architecture and that professional practices have also been engaged in developing concepts to support tower retention.
- The Institute has also supported ASBEC and AILA submissions to the Senate – Residential Electrification Inquiry, Future Gas Strategy, ACT Integrated Energy Plan.
Though the above probably might cover about one-quarter of all the work that has been done, it highlights the massive amount of communication that is being disseminated and creating change.
In 2024, the Institute is planning to kick off the year with the official launch of the Embodied Carbon Curriculum, developed by Caroline Pidcock, Amanda Sturgeon and Dominique Hes in partnership with the Department of Climate Change, Environment, Energy and Water. Creating the baseline from which further education and capacity training is to be delivered.
As the National Climate Action Sustainability Committee commences their 2024 program, they’re future focused strategy starts to form a national framework for ‘good design’ that bridges across the needs of the client, climate, regenerative principles, and measurement with ongoing collaborative advocacy and education with industry alliances. Our network is expanding across Australia and is being mobilised towards the Institute’s carbon targets.
The National Climate Action Residential Sustainability Advisory Group and Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) technical working group members, have also delivered much feedback to NatHERS Administrator, ABCB, Residential Energy Efficiency Disclosure Initiative and also prepared a number of advocacy letters on topics relating to quality assurance, urban tree canopy, occupancy and thermostat settings, thermal bridging, insulation, airtightness, future climate files, material data, embodied carbon, future grid scenarios and existing homes rating pathways. In addition, a condensation survey was undertaken with members of which results will be highlighted in 2024 in a short session that will be directed to practitioner learning.
There’s already a full calendar bringing together all the work that has been undertaken previously and expanding its reach. In 2023, we had a regular Intersection Climate Action meeting with the chairs of the chapter sustainability groups, strategically planning the direction of advocacy, education, and policy responses and finding common successful methods.
In 2024, we’re expanding these and the communications collaboratively, building capacity for change with five industry cooperations launching to focus on getting to 2050 scenarios on:
- Resilient homes
- Live life
- Biodiverse places
These will further fuel a Central Resource for advocacy, education and policy response for chapters and sustainability groups on climate action. We already have over ten affiliations working with us to deliver and transparently map out directions in the built environment and have invited further oversight with ASBEC and GBCA to provide a higher level of advocacy for professionals, seeking the regulation change we’re wanting.
The breadth of all groups and volunteer dedication and willingness to support the progression and value of the profession is without doubt.
As the Institute’s National Climate Action Policy Officer since April 2023, I am excited to continue to support and facilitate the incredible change that these volunteers are driving and thank them for their incredible contributions.
I also welcome further comments and questions for discussion via our Community forum.
Ruth Nordström (she/her)
Climate Action Policy Officer
Australian Institute of Architects