We are facing an uncontrollable nightmare in the form of climate change, and we are seeing it first-hand at the moment with the images of the massive bushfires that are destroying wildlife and vegetation across Australia at the start of 2020. Although this is a problem that the whole world must face up to, it is vital that the architecture world takes stock and looks at ways it can act now, helping to create a sustainable future that if nothing else, serves to fight back and not hinder the situation further in how buildings and structures are designed and the materials that are used.
There are many challenges that we face as a country in the UK, and climate change should be looked at as the most severe. With the economy still struggling, austerity bringing the financial pinch to vast swathes of the country, and a shortage of affordable housing, there needs to be a change in the way we build, and the way we design to be sustainable for the long-term success of the country in providing housing to all and fighting back against climate change.
One area in which we might struggle is when we look at the Grade I and II* listed buildings throughout the country. It can be hard to refurbish and renovate these types of historic buildings in a sustainable way whist maintaining the integrity of the original design and materials used. Conservation architecture can look at these types of buildings and come up with ways to improve the energy consumption and sustainability in that aspect, without damaging the integrity of the original design. There is a balance to be had between the original materials and the way in which new design and renovation can be innovative and modern.
This only concerns quite a small percentage of the country though when you think of the amount of housing as a whole, and therefore there should be an approach that focusses on how we can make new and old housing genuinely sustainable.
It is important to ensure that future generations are not hamstrung in the same way that we currently are in certain aspects of renovating listed buildings. This means that during the design and construction of new builds, we think of the best ways to be innovative and to futureproof buildings so that they are sustainable, using the right materials, lower the levels of energy consumption in the build and on-going use of the building, and with an eye on the global health of the environment and the impact these designs have on the world.
Conservation architecture and sustainability can be achieved with clever thought and a dedication to promoting the renovation of historic buildings, and the design of new builds, with a view to preservation, repair, and the re-use of older buildings in a way that doesn’t damage the original design and impact, but serves it to be of use for generations to come without impacting negatively on the environment.