17.1 Cultural Transformation: Architect Declare

Author: Yun Chiao Huang

ABSTRACT: Architect Declare is a free architectural practices network committed to addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency. It aims to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by letting architects practice on the environmental protection rules.

Image: Architects Declare


Architects declare is an architectural practices network committed to addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency. Architect Declare was launched on May 30, 2019, by architects Steve Tompkins, Michael Pawlyn, and 17 other recipients of the Stirling Prize. It quickly attracted people’s attention across the United Kingdom. It has recently spread to more than 20 countries around the world and has over 5000 signatories. It aims to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by letting architects sign the commitments. It is a collective voice that helps liaising with other industry-based organizations and networks and constructively engaging with government, clients, and the press.

This declaration is important because architects need to take collective action to deal with this climate change and biodiversity emergency, which are the most severe crises facing this century. Buildings and constructions play a vital role because they account for nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as impact natural habitats in the environment. Architects, as the building designer, have the ability and choice to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. By making the commitment to environmental sustainability, architects have the responsibility to produce less pollution, use less fossil fuel energy, and improve the well-being of people who live in and use their structures. Also, as most people want to influence real changes in the environment this declaration provides assurance to their clients that they are actively participating in the reduction of global emissions.

There are several benefits by signing the declaration. Architects Declare is free to join. Architects Declare offers support to its signatories through events in the UK and shared best practices and coordinated responses to issues. Moreover, through Construction Declares, Architects Declare is developing international links with a growing number of signatories worldwide and holding virtual meetings to explore opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges and collaborations. Architects Declare is an industry-recognized initiative. Many signatories are using the declaration’s simplicity and clarity as a catalyst to drive effective change within their organizations. Many are also using it as a tool to demonstrate their commitment to combating climate change in discussions with clients and collaborators.

Architect Declares first step is to practice sustainable development with a circular economy and reverse climate change. Entities and individuals engaged in the construction industry must meet social needs without violating the earth’s ecological boundaries. When designing buildings, cities, and infrastructure, they must work with the owners to build a more ambitious and indivisible system that is continuously regenerated with the environment and is self-sustaining. Contemporary research and technology are sufficient to support us in making changes, if we can build a collective will; for this, we promise to use more sophisticated professional practice capabilities to create more positively influential buildings and cities for the earth.

By signing the declaration, founding signatories are seeking to practice on 11 rules.

  1. Raise awareness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and the urgent need for action amongst our clients and supply chains.
  2. Advocate for faster change in our industry towards regenerative design practices and a higher Governmental funding priority to support this.
  3. Establish climate and biodiversity mitigation principles as the key measure of our industry’s success: demonstrated through awards, prizes and listings.
  4. Share knowledge and research to that end on an open-source basis.
  5. Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to positively mitigate climate breakdown and encourage our clients to adopt this approach.
  6. Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon-efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice.
  7. Include life cycle costing, whole-life carbon modelling, and post-occupancy evaluation as part of our primary work scope to reduce both embodied and operational resource use.
  8. Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios to design architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net-zero carbon in use.
  9. Collaborate with engineers, contractors, and clients to further reduce construction waste.
  10. Accelerate the shift to low embodied carbon materials in all our work.
  11. Minimize wasteful use of resources in architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail.

Architect Declare is voluntary and encouraging. Every signatory’s organization and architect are self-governed to commit the goals and commitments. Based on various reasons, no architect is practicing on every part of the commitment. Therefore, there is a policy of “no public blame and shame” to secure signatories and increase involvement.

The diagram demonstrates that Architect Declare doesn’t have obvious positive effects until now. The major reason is because there are not enough architects involved in this practice. The number of signatories is too low to make the difference and reduce Carbon Dioxide emission. The idea of Architects Declare may be too idealistic. To have good effects, it requires architects to self-manage themselves well, which is not an easy challenge.

Graph: Architects Journal

To effect positive change, Architects Declare signatories need to be progressive. Although they need to discuss, debate, cooperate and collaborate, they must also act by designing the most sustainable buildings going forward.


“UK Architects Declare Climate And Biodiversity Emergency”. UK Architects Declare Climate And Biodiversity Emergency, 2021, https://www.architectsdeclare.com/. Accessed 6 Apr 2021.

Waite, Richard et al. “What Has Architects Declare Achieved?”. The Architects’ Journal, 2020,https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/what-has-architects-declare-achieved. Accessed 6 Apr 2021.

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