17.2 Cultural Transformation: Architects Climate Action Network

Author: Xinyu Luan

ABSTRACT: ACAN which stands for Architects Climate Action Network, is a network of individuals who belong to architecture or other related fields. ACAN calls designers to come together and take action against climate crises. It has three main aims: decarbonize now, ecological restoration and cultural transformation.

Image source: Architects Climate Action Network

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Currently, our world develops its economy and industry based on coal, oil, gas, and other fossil fuels. During the process of combusting fuels, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are released to the atmospheric layer. This causes huge changes in our environment such as the greenhouse effect, global warming, superstorms, wildfires, floods, drought, mass extinction and disease. According to research, in the UK, 42% of national emissions are generated from building environment and constructions. To save our earth, architects and other pioneers from different related fields set up Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) in 2019, mainly based in London. ACAN is a network of individuals, who belong to not only architecture but also other related professions such as interior design, industrial design, creative design, and fashion design. The purpose of ACAN is to take action and make a difference in climate crises and ecological breakdown.

There are three main aims of ACAN: decarbonize now, ecological restoration, and cultural transformation.

  1. Decarbonization is “the process of removing or reducing the carbon dioxide output of a country’s economy” (Drax). This is usually done by decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted across the active industries within that economy. With ACAN, designers seek the opportunity to completely transform the commercial as well as the cultural environment. Designers also operate and renew our design process and principle to achieve a rapid decarbonization environment.
  2. Ecological restoration is “the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.” “Ecosystems are dynamic communities of plants, animals and microorganisms interacting with their physical environment as a functional unit” (Roberts). ACAN responds to regenerative and ecological principles efficiently, as the network adopt green designing theory to build an upcycling environment and prioritize communities and ecosystems. The main purpose of this proposal is to recover and restore the natural environment.
  3. Cultural transformation is a new approach to respond to the awakening awareness of calling upon designs to bring more cultural diversity. We believe that the earth belongs to everyone, every ethnic group. Therefore, saving the environment requires more innovative and unique design aspects from people who come from different cultural backgrounds. We call for a transformation on a west-dominant trend and a remodeling of professional culture. Designers must reform the design process and the principles of the industrial and educational system. We try our best to create a welcome, warm, open network to share resources and knowledge to aid in this transition.

The reason Architects Climate Action Network is so eager to effect change is that our society is in an emergency state of the environment and ecology. The tremendous amount of research and scientific work revealing our consumer-driven economy and industry will lead to catastrophe. In this case, making ambitious and radical changes are necessary. According to ACAN’s website, “the construction industry and the existing built environment are major contributing factors to the crises and as such both require complete and rapid transformation; the manner in which we produce, operate and renew our built environment continues to curtail biodiversity, pollute ecosystems and encourage unsustainable lifestyles” (Architects Climate Action Network “ACTION”). This crisis calls for reformed professionalism. All design companies, education systems, research organizations and individuals need to come together to solve this.

We have goals, we have principles, but how? Here comes the solution. ACAN promises that we will make a difference through political campaigning, lobbying, direct action and public engagement, research and knowledge sharing.

For the educational individuals, the easiest and efficient way to get involved in ACAN is to book their events and watch their lectures. As a part of ACAN’s events, the circular series: RIBA stage 6: Handover, and RIBA stage 7: Use, are expert-led online lunchtime discussions on how to apply circular economy principles to UK construction projects. Stage 6 was held on April 8, 2021, at 13:00 lunchtime and Stage 7: Use, was held on 22nd April 22, 2021. Individuals can view topics at www.architectscan.org/events, or on their YouTube channel.

According to past events circular series: RIBA Stage 5, this is an overview of what the ACAN audience could expect: Lecture on Stage 5, “material selection and material passports; testing, warranties and liabilities; material lead times and viability; required design skills, risk management, procurement routes and how to conduct productive detailed discussions with fabricators, manufacturers, suppliers, and potential subcontractors/contractors to ensure circularity” (Architects Climate Action Network, “EVENTS”). Usually, there are four parts to the lecture. A short introduction, speakers, Q&A session, and an end.

  1. In the introduction, there are several thematic groups open for audience participation. They are circular economy, education, embodied carbon, existing buildings, carbon literacy, planning policy, professional standards, where the wild things aren’t (this is my favourite!) and natural materials. Attendees are welcomed to join in Whatsapp group if they like. There are types of actions for people who would like to support ACAN, such as movement building, campaigning, political lobby, direct action, public engagement, research and knowledge sharing.
  2. The host will invite guests to give a talk. There are so many great people to meet and great ideas to share. For example, Stage 5 invited famous architects Peter Swallow and Peter Kelly to give their amazing speeches about innovative building materials.
  3. The audience can ask questions and the speakers and experts will provide answers.
  4. The host wraps up the event by thanking the audience and speakers, share information on upcoming events, and how to support ACAN. Stage 5 ends.

In my opinion, Architects Climate Action Network lunch talks are super relaxing, easy, welcoming and could give young designers a great deal of innovative knowledge.

RESOURCES:

Architects Climate Action Network. “Architects Climate Action Network.” ACAN, 2019, www.architectscan.org/home.

Architects Climate Action Network. “EVENTS.” ACAN, Architects Climate Action Network, 2019, www.architectscan.org/events.

Pelsmakers, Sofie. “ARCHITECTS CAN.” Sofie’s Blog, 2021, www.sofiepelsmakers.com/architects-can.html.

Roberts, Alice. “What Is Decarbonisation?” Drax, 21 Aug. 2020, www.drax.com/sustainability/what-is-decarbonisation.

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