The circular economy group is working to push for a radical shift in the construction industry so that all buildings in the UK are designed and built in line with circular economy principles. It is our mission to reimagine current building practices to enable regenerative design at all scales and stages of a project, and for the construction industry to have a positive impact on human and planetary health.
As part of our activity for 2021 we've put together a 9-part event series that addresses the key challenges and opportunities for realising circular approaches at each of the RIBA stages. To close the circle, we’re going to discuss a proposed ‘Stage 8’ – to address building demolition and reuse.
ACAN has so far, formed eight 'working groups', each designated to work a carefully considered theme. These themes were selected on the basis of relevancy towards helping our three overarching aims being met. Each group's purpose is to explore their selected theme, and use it as a platform for research, to learn, to start a conversation, build a community, and most importantly, find meaningful ways to take action.
ACAN’s first over-arching aim of ‘Decarbonise Now’ means, among other things, reducing whole life carbon of buildings to zero, as soon as possible. ACAN therefore has a thematic group looking at embodied carbon, working to drive down carbon emissions from the construction sector by calling for new regulations and policies to control embodied carbon.
The group has campaigned to demand the inclusion of Embodied Carbon in the Future Homes Standard, and is currently pushing the government to allow greater use of low carbon structural timber in construction through the Save Safe Structural Timber campaign. Several other campaigns are also in the making.
Architectural education is well-respected as an academic, vocational and regulated series of courses. However, few, if any, schools are equipping students with the tools and technical knowledge they will need to address the climate emergency. The increasing commodification of education, reflected by rising fees, does not tally up with schools failing to provide an education fit for purpose.
Whilst sometimes (necessarily) provocative, our group aims to work positively with other groups towards new structures and value systems. In particular, participants in the education group overlap with student-led Architecture Education Declares, with whom we can take a coordinated approach to campaigns.
80% of buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built. Right now, almost 30 million dwellings and 2 million commercial and public buildings account for around 20% of the UK’s CO2e emissions. The magnitude of responsibility on existing buildings to reduce their contribution to emissions can not be underestimated.
Our purpose is to increase awareness of this responsibility by developing and supporting campaigns that will bring about change in policy and practice. Our existing building stock must be retrofitted in order to meet the UK’s climate change commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
We are collaborating with the experts and industry bodies to build and share knowledge for those working in construction – of all career type and level of experience. We are hoping to increase understanding of the science behind the climate and ecological emergency and our industry's accountability in that.
We intend to increase awareness, consideration and ultimately alter behaviour through better comprehension. We all have an underlying sense of the issues but in this group we intend to equip people with scientifically proven information, empower them to pass it on and act in a responsible way.
The Planning Policy group has focussed their conversation around climate action plans and declarations. It aims to write a template letter, which can be circulated around the ACAN network and beyond, for individuals to send to their local authorities that have not yet declared.
In addition we are researching exemplar action plans, and identify action plan consultations across the country that we can build template responses and encourage participation. Planning Policy will combine efforts with Existing Buildings on the immediate Conservation Area Retrofit Toolkit campaign.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS AREN'T
We are focused on the challenges facing “wild things” in a time of critical biodiversity decline and habitat loss. We are working to raise awareness of the impacts of the architectural profession and construction industry on nature, and to support the vital shift towards a new form of professionalism dedicated to ecological regeneration.
Towards these aims, we promote multidisciplinary knowledge sharing by collaborating with experts and professionals with a greater understanding and appreciation of natural systems. From these collaborations, we campaign for the betterment of wildlife and ecosystems, and seek to move away from Anthropocentric practices.
This thematic group is interested in the professional culture of architecture and particularly the tone set by codes and regulations. We are campaigning to recalibrate standards set by the professional bodies in light of the climate and biodiversity crisis, to ensure they become fit-for-purpose in a fast changing world and are consistently upheld.
We are also interested to raise public expectation of built environment professionals in relation to the climate emergency. Professional standards are a key way that the public can call us into account and through which we are made accountable to each other.
The use of natural building materials is well established as beneficial for the planet and for people. The Natural Materials group is working to support an industry-wide transition to mass use of natural building materials, bringing many benefits including lower embodied carbon and sequestration, ecological regeneration, and improved effect on health & wellbeing.
Our current focus is on creating resources for architects & specifiers; builders & contractors; and clients & homeowners; to build and share knowledge.
We are doing this through creating a natural materials Library; bringing together resources, properties and suppliers; and providing audience-specific information to support choosing natural materials.
More information about each of these groups will follow soon – including how to join them. In the meantime, you can take the following actions....
ACAN is a network of individuals within architecture and related built environment professions taking action to address the twin crises of climate and ecological breakdown.
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