New Zealand’s top 10 architects declare climate and biodiversity emergency

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Pete Bossley, one of the 10 living recipients of the NZIA Gold Medal, is among the founding signatories of Architects Declare NZ.

Coinciding with the recent “Climate Strike” in New Zealand, a group of New Zealand Registered Architects have officially declared a Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss emergency.

All 10 living recipients of the NZIA Gold Medal, including Andrew Patterson, Pete Bossley and Pip Cheshire, are among the founding signatories of Architects Declare NZ, a commitment that aims to create architecture and urbanism that has a more positive impact on the world around us.

Formed by architects SiČn Taylor from Queenstown’s Team Green Architects, and Duncan Sinclair of Black Pine Architects in Whanganui, the declaration follows on from similar declarations by UK and Australian architects, and lays down a set of guidelines that signatories pledge to follow in order to help prevent irreversible damage from a changing climate.

The construction industry accounts for up to 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, meaning architects can play a large part in helping to quell these emission rates.

“I sat in a conference discussing the fact that there are only 11 years left to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change, with only 30 of us in a room talking about it,” SiČn says. “It seemed like such an enormous challenge, so I decided it was time to take some action.”

Mr Sinclair had expressed similar thoughts, and the pair combined resources to form the New Zealand chapter of this declaration.

“The reason that minimising climate change and biodiversity loss is so important is not to save the planet — it’s to keep it habitable, for us and our future generations!”

Among many other points, the declaration includes evaluating all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown and encouraging clients to adopt this approach, and upgrading existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon-efficient alternative to demolition and new build.

“We hope this will affect some major changes in policy to improve quality of housing across New Zealand. We need to influence change from above, and if this gains momentum, perhaps the Government will finally consider upgrading the building code.”

Combined with the declaration of a climate emergency by councils across New Zealand, the creation of Architects Declare can make a difference to the threat of climate disaster.

And it can also have a significant effect to improve the lives of all New Zealanders.

With only word of mouth publicity, the list of supporters already includes some of New Zealand’s most talented architects and largest practices.