This week, Simon Gabe, Senior Architect, talks about how we need better transparency if people are to be able to make informed decisions that benefit the planet.

“Within Architecture, qualifying as a part three architect taught me how and where to find out the information I don’t know, and this is what is missing on a public level regarding climate change.”

I recently read a really good book, What We Need to do Now by Chris Goodall, which talks about the things society as a whole need to do and change to reduce global temperatures at a global level. It made me think about the significance that relatively small actions of individuals could have, and what reasons there might be for people not adopting habits that could be key to the reversal of the climate emergency.

It largely comes down to education. I believe that people are genuinely, in many instances, desperate to do the right thing – but they don’t know what to do and are bombarded with conflicting information regarding the ‘right’ thing.

The difference for us, as architects, is that we have access to the technology, information, and history regarding building design – and therefore the ability to research, develop and implement initiatives that we can prove to have positive impacts on the climate. But for the average person, who wants to conduct their lives in a way that is kind to the planet, how can informed decisions be made? Purchasing organic food in a supermarket, for example, may appear to be the best option, however an out-of-season, British-grown, organic tomato may well have a greater carbon footprint than an imported Spanish one – which is grown naturally, and brought over in bulk boat (the plastic sometimes required for the poly tunnels aside for now). Equally, organic cotton often needs more space to be grown and has a much lower yield due to the absence of pesticides, and therefore its benefits to the environment can be questioned.

Consequently, people aren’t always aware of the decisions they’re making. We need the government to help spread the word better so that people can understand the implications of their choices. Action needs to be taken for the government to implement policies that help people to make the right decisions for the environment; we need policies to facilitate change and we need to utilise our vote to ensure the right people are in place to create those policies.

I am not suggesting that I have all the answers – and I don’t believe that any single person does. Within Architecture, qualifying as a part three architect taught me how and where to find out the information I don’t know, and this is what is missing on a public level regarding climate change. Sustainability targets change so frequently within architecture, in line with defining bodies’ increased knowledge, that we have to try and keep up as much as we can. It’s a constant learning process, and changes can be tricky given the traditional industry we work in.

However, the nature of our profession is about adopting and pursuing positive change and I am spirited by being surrounded by people that want to make change for the better. There are many avenues that are constantly being researched and evaluated, and this isn’t likely to end anytime soon. Wind turbine technology, for example, has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade, and has become more affordable and effective, illustrating how we can develop technology with the right focus and investment.

It all transcends, from tomatoes to clothes to buildings. Knowledge is key, and we need to help people to do the right thing.

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