Singapore architects and engineers join the declaration of environmental crisis and commit to positive action.
16 January, 2020
As bushfires continue ravaging large swathes of Australia, the need for committed, widespread and immediate action towards environmental sustainability is glaringly stark. On 9 January 2020, Singapore architects and engineers joined Construction Declares, a global petition uniting all strands of construction and the built environment. It is a public declaration of our planet’s environmental crises and a commitment to take positive action.
Indesign Media was in the room with the founding signatories – seven architectural practices (CSYA, DP Architects, Forum Architects, Guz Architects, HASSELL, SCDA and WOHA) and five structural engineering firms (ARUP, DP Engineers, RSP, Web Structures and WSP) – as they discussed the urgency of the environmental crisis before us.
“Our current aspirations are simply not enough. Back in the 1980s, rising temperatures of three or four degrees were deemed catastrophic. Now, even if we design all the buildings in Singapore to Greenmark Platinum until 2100, it will still lead to three degrees Celsius rise in temperature. What used to be a nightmare scenario is now our best bet,” says Hossein Rezai from Web Structures.
The signatories shared that vocalizing this commitment has already helped them to bring sustainability to the table in client discussions, as they explore new and better ways to integrate solutions into their projects. Internal education is also a priority, as several practices such as ARUP and WSP have established benchmarks that encourage the staff to engage their clients on future-proofing and sustainability. “Everyone feels anxious – to want to do something. That’s actually a good thing. It’s at a stage now that non-action is more painful than action,” says Richard Hassell from WOHA.
“Although we are all Singaporean firms, the wonderful thing is that our impact is beyond Singapore because many of us are working globally,” says Angelene Chan from DP Architects. Richard concurs that in terms of physical footprint, Singapore may be small, but plays a role as a thought leader and catalyst in the region, especially since Singapore is the first Asian country to sign the Declaration.
Their hope is that many more practices in Singapore will join this Declaration, consisting of eleven key tenets including sharing of knowledge on an open-source basis. Chan Soo Khian from SCDA voiced the possibility of an open-source network in future, where successful case studies are shared between firms.
Is there a conflict between knowledge sharing as a collective and the competitiveness of individual firms? “Sustainability is not a secret sauce. There are many tools available out there – it’s what you do with them that’s your secret sauce as a professional,” says Razvan Ghilic-Micu from HASSELL. “It makes no sense to say my building is sustainable and all of yours are energy hogs, haha” Richard comments, to laughter in the room.
Since many of the founding signatories are large, established practices with global reach, it begs the question – how can small firms be part of this? Would they face unique challenges? Many in the room responded to this, citing the agility of smaller practices to pivot quickly, as well as similar challenges faced by small and large practices. “This question is close to my heart. It’s all about attitude,” urges Hossein. “What to do and how to do it can be figured out, but the want to do – that is key.”
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