Climate change is a serious global issue. The use of fossil fuels as our main source of energy generation is largely contributing to the problem. Human activity is releasing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the earth’s atmosphere and adding substantially to the greenhouse effect.

Buildings and construction play a major part, accounting for nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions whilst also having a significant impact on our natural habitats.

As architects, we have the ability and responsibility to provide solutions that minimize the climate impact of the structures we design.

Larry Strain

Together with our clients, Architects will need to commission and design buildings, cities and infrastructures as indivisible components of a larger, constantly regenerating and self-sustaining system.

The research and technology exist for Architects to begin that transformation now, but what has been lacking is collective will. Recognising this, and as one of the founding signatories of Architects Declare , Isabel Barros Architects are committing to strengthen our working practices to create architecture and urbanism that has a more positive impact on the world around us.

This collective effort seeks to:

  • Raise awareness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and the urgent need for action amongst our clients and supply chains.
  • Advocate for faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices and a higher Governmental funding priority to support this.
  • Establish climate and biodiversity mitigation principles as the key measure of our industry’s success: demonstrated through awards, prizes and listings.
  • Share knowledge and research to that end on an open source basis.
  • Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach.
  • Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice.
  • Include life cycle costing, whole life carbon modelling and post occupancy evaluation as part of our basic scope of work, to reduce both embodied and operational resource use.
  • Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios, with the aim of designing architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net zero carbon in use.
  • Collaborate with engineers, contractors and clients to further reduce construction waste.
  • Accelerate the shift to low embodied carbon materials in all our work.
  • Minimise wasteful use of resources in architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail

The make-up of greenhouse gas emissions differs in Ireland from most other European countries because of the role Ireland plays in supplying meat and dairy products across Europe and the world. Agriculture (largely through methane associated with our herds) makes up 32% of emissions from sectors in Ireland compared to just 11% in the rest of Europe. However, in all other major sectors (Electricity, Buildings, Transport, and Waste Management) we also have a higher carbon footprint per head of population.

Ireland faces a number of challenges in reducing emissions from our buildings. Our homes use 7% more energy than the EU average and emit 58% more carbon dioxide equivalent. Our buildings are 70% reliant on fossil fuels, including oil fired boilers; over 80% of our homes and other buildings assessed for their BER have a rating of C or worse; and the current annual retrofit activity for existing stock is far too limited (approximately 23,000, mainly shallow, retrofits).

Climate Action Plan 2019 , Government of Ireland

We are aware that for everyone working in the construction industry a paradigm shift in our behaviour is required in order to achieve a substantial reduction of the worldwide CO2 emissions. We will do our best to support this shift while encouraging our clients to also adopt this approach.

Isabel Barros Architects in Wexford are committed to face these challenges by fundamentally rethinking the way we design, construct and operate buildings.

As of January 2020 a total of 69 Irish architects/architectural practices have signed the declaration. We hope that many more will join us in making this commitment. Please visit https://ie.architectsdeclare.com/ to join.

Better architecture for a better world!

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