• Daniela Jiménez

RIBA launches Climate Challenge 2030


The Royal Institute of British Architects published the Sustainable Outcomes Guide to help members of the Institute and the rest of the architecture industry to take action in avoiding the climate change catastrophe that’s been predicted. As it is known, climate change is one of the most concerning problems we are facing, it requires immediate attention and action from all industries alike. The construction industry, as some would like to think, is not exempt from taking action, in fact it’s probably one of the industries that should implement immediate changes in order to have a positive outcome. Within the construction industry, the architectural community is becoming aware of the impact their profession has on the world.

The impact architecture has on the environment is reflectes, if temporarily, in the manufacturing of materials, resource exploitation and material transportation, among others; all of these factors, essential to the practice, affect the environment locally and globally. But also, architects have the advantage that they can dictate what materials are used on their creations. While many times they choose to have materials imported, they can certainly decide to use materials that create less carbon emissions in their transportation.

This same year, in the month of July, RIBA declared a climate emergency and recognizes it as one of architectures greatest challenges. In 2018, the think tank Chatham House announced that every year more than 4 billion tonnes of cement are produced, hence being responsible for around 8% of the global CO2 emissions.


Since cement is the main ingredient for concrete, it’s not an overreach to believe this numbers. Wherever we look we are surrounded by concrete jungles and the overcrowded skylines don’t seem to stop growing. While scientists and investigators dedicate their time, effort and resources to find sustainable alternatives for cement, RIBA took the initiative to create a climate change challenge in which they hope to make standard practice for net-zero constructions.

Gary Clark, chair of RIBA Sustainable Future Group, told Dezeen: “The differing complexities of sustainability have been distilled into a set of 8 sustainable outcomes, aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals with concise metrics that can be measured and verified in use.” The 8 goals established are:

  • Net zero operational carbon

  • Net zero embodied carbon

  • Sustainable water cycle

  • Sustainable connectivity and transport

  • Sustainable land use and biodiversity

  • Good health and wellbeing

  • Sustainable communities and social value

  • Sustainable life cycle cost

Once the organization announced the climate emergency state, they realized that while they were trying to promote awareness, this might not be enough. To have a real and tangible impact in the world they had to create a long-term plan that encouraged architects to be part of it. The established date to reach their goal, making sustainable net zero construction the standard, is 2030 since it was considered that a decade should be more than enough for architects in the UK to adopt the trend, specially after this years’ Stirling Prize winner.


In the middle of one of the worst housing crisis the UK has ever seen and the climate emergency state, architects Mikhail riches and Cathy Hawly surprised everyone with their Goldsmith Street project. A social housing project that was constructed by adhering to the rigorous Passivhaus standards. RIBA president, Alan Jones, described the project as a beacon of hope. The project comprises 45 houses and 60 flats, all of them low-energy.

This incredible construction demonstrated that, not only is their goal of standardizing sustainable architecture possible by 2030 but that it can be done right now since technology, knowledge and creativity is present in 2019. Nonetheless, of the 3,800 practices and 750 Architects Declare, only 60 have joined the challenge – at the moment this article was written– also, there are other architects, like Michael Pawlyn from the climate-change movement Architects Declare, believe that the profession should not only focus on carbon emissions but that it should also try to create regenerative buildings that give back more than they take.

El Reino Unido está liderando el combate contra las emisiones de carbono y la crisis de vivienda social, sería ideal que la industria de la construcción, de forma global, tome acción para evitar la crisis climática que viene en camino.


While the UK is leading the charge against carbon emissions and housing crisis, it would be ideal if all of the construction industry were to take action in order to avoid the climate disaster that’s on its way; nonetheless we remain hopeful that in time, everyone will take drastic action in their field.



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© 2019 by Daniela Jiménez.