From the Tas Chapter President


Tassie really does love a good protest!

And so it did, as 22,000 Tasmanians turned up on Parliament lawns last Friday afternoon for the Global Climate Strike, to stand as one with other cities through the globe, and send the message loud and clear that: THIS IS A CLIMATE EMERGENCY AND ACTION NEEDS TO BE TAKEN NOW! 

Buildings are responsible for 19% of greenhouse gas emissions and our cities for up to 70%. Designing buildings which produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions is vital.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released earlier this year, states:

‘”limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” including land use, energy, industry, buildings, and transport.’

In this report a number of barriers were identified that inhibit the construction industry’s response to adapting to climate change including the regulatory framework. For example, the National Construction Code and its associated standards do not explicitly address climate change. Updating these is would be an opportunity to set new standards to ensure mitigation measures against climate change are mandatory and measurable. Also identified was a lack of client demand for buildings with sustainability as a key driver. This is driven by the perception that sustainability comes with a cost* – this is one aspect where architects have a huge opportunity to take the moral lead and advocate responsibly.

The recent Architecture of Emergency climate summit in London called upon architects to fight climate change by ditching concreteFour billion tonnes of cement produced each year accounts for 8% per cent of the total global carbon dioxide emissions. Sheesh! Michael Ramage, an architectural engineer and University of Cambridge academic said, ‘If we invented concrete today, nobody would think it was a good idea.

Unless greenhouse gases reduce, we will all face significant impacts, including longer droughts, hotter days, increased rainfall intensity, and a more extreme weather events eg: floods, cyclones, and bushfires (of which I’m sure we are all too familiar with). To limit warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100, we need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, FAST: 50% by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.

Achieving this will require a rapid transformation of our urban systems including transport, planning, and building design and construction. We need to encourage growth closer to the urban centres to reduce transport related omissions. We need to consider and future proof against building obsolescence so owners and occupiers can adaptively reuse existing structures for future needs and flexibility.

Ignoring climate change may end with buildings becoming expensive to maintain and service or at worse, prematurely redundant (possibly with unintended water features!). Everyone in the industry has a role to play and the opportunity to make change. Ask yourself what you can do!


Shamus Mulcahy

President, Tasmanian Chapter
Australian Institute of Architects



* Google the following search string: ‘Climate change cost of’ and the most prominent pre-emptive search suggestion is ‘beer’. The Guardian newspaper, amongst many other online sources, reports in one article that damage to the world global barley crops will impact beer supply and have significant economic impact on key brewing nations, including Belgium, The Czech Republic and Ireland. If you still want to have a couple of pints while watching the football, the article reports that climate change action is the ‘only way out’.