As the climate crisis continues to present itself as a significant threat to the future of the ecosystem and built environment, this year's IPCC report, titled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, found that while adaptation efforts are being observed across all sectors, the progress being implemented so far is greatly uneven, as there are gaps between the actions taken and what is needed. On this year's Earth Day, we explore the progress being made by governments and architects to achieve net-zero operations within the next decades.
Governments and NGO's all over the world have been pushing for green agendas, ensuring that within the next couple of decades, their countries will have achieved universal and thorough sustainable living conditions. As of 2020, 28 major cities, including New York City and Washington, DC, in the US, Medellín in Colombia, and Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa, have committed to achieving net-zero building operations by 2050. And with that, sustainability has become a focal point in the world of architecture and design, inspiring architects to rethink how they build today. From net-zero carbon villages in the UK, to introducing new models for integrated housing in California, numerous architects have already explored different strategies to follow through with 2030 and 2050 sustainability ideals.
Experimentations with new construction materials have also gained attraction. As a means of combatting the massive decrease in insects caused by climate change, English company Green&Blue has been working on Bee Bricks, perforated blocks that replace normal bricks in buildings' facade to provide an elegant nesting place for several species of solitary bees. Swedish company Wood Tube has launched a new innovative product: lightweight studs made of wood-based pulp, which are cost-effective, easy to work with, and contribute to a more sustainable construction process.
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Despite the many proven environment-and-cost effective solutions that net-zero buildings have displayed during the last few years, the industry seems to be tackling the future of the built environment in an inconsistent and slow manner. According to NBS's Sustainable Futures Report 2022, which aims to provide insight on sustainability in the construction industry in 2022, more than half of UK architects have not worked on net-zero projects in 2021, with only 4% reporting that they have worked exclusively on net-zero projects. When asked what the reasons are behind the scarcity of net-zero projects, the majority of architects explained that it is in fact a lack of client demand, while others explained that the materials being recommended were out of reach and almost impossible to engineer locally, and that it is remarkably expensive compared to traditional construction materials and techniques.
Another reason behind the sustainability goals' slow progress could be the pandemic. Although carbon emissions were significantly reduced during the pandemic as projects were halted or postponed, they were quickly returned to pre-pandemic figures, and in some cases, exceeded them to compensate for the unexpected delays. Lack of government policies and regulations have also been important contributors to the delays. 37% of NBS's survey participants credited the government as the culprit of slow progress, highlighting how enforcing higher standards and rigorous building codes can be he fastest way to achieving sustainability goals in the expected years.