New London Architecture

NextGen sounding board: getting to net zero is biggest challenge

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Helping to get London to net zero has emerged as the most important issue for the next 15 years, a straw poll of NLA’s Next Generation New London Sounding Board found last week.

The group were asked to select which were the key elements of the checklist for the city compiled in conjunction with the NLA’s Changing Face of London exhibition and back up their decisions, some suggesting that a growth in knowledge-based industries resonated most, others pointing to the affordability of housing.

But zero carbon got the most support, Maliha Haque, Architect and Associate, LOM Architecture suggesting that it was the main challenge once the pandemic was behind us. ‘It actually underpins everything’, she said, with architects well placed to aid the creation of flexible buildings towards a healthier city. Alex Kirker, Design Engineer, Waterman Structures, too, said that London, the UK and whole of the world needed to attend to the issue with the building industry being such a big contributor. It was an irony, said Kirker, that London was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th century, leading to our reliance on fossil fuels leading to the climate crisis we’re now in. ‘But we can also be a leader going forward in striving to achieve net zero carbon’, he said, pointing to the need to think holistically, reduce embodied carbon and cut emissions in transport.  Antonio D'Aquilio, Senior Building Analyst, Elementa, too felt that carbon was the most important item on the checklist and could be tackled using a bottom-up approach starting from demanding low energy buildings and tracking energy use, as well as offering incentives for energy retrofits of residential buildings.

7 Air Street © Philip Vile
Other contributors such as Will Sandy, Associate, McGregor Coxall pointed to the need to break down siloes and the ‘ego-driven nature of the industry’ while engaging communities more, while Nancy Elgarf, Associate Director, G&T suggested industry needed to be more adaptable, Jaffer Muljiani, Sustainability Consultant, BDP urging for strong local and city leadership driving public good ‘as the best of us’. Jay Allan, Account Director, LCA meanwhile said the items on the ‘visionary’ document’s checklist were interconnected but that the 15 minute city was an important, if difficult to realise, concept and Josephine Neill Part Two Architectural Assistant, Ibi Group suggested that building a healthy city should remain a top concern, with London perhaps emerging as leaders in public health rather than public healthcare.

The group – whose work and views will feed into the New London Sounding Board in its next phase - were also asked to talk about their individual aspirations. These included working with local communities more, creating opportunities for others, continuing personal education courses including on sustainable issues, teaching, working to make places which are equitable, inclusive and equal, allowing diverse voices to be heard, working with reverse mentoring and other methods – and ensuring that ‘fun’ is not forgotten. ‘If we’re not smiling every day’, said Will Sandy, ‘then what’s the point? Let’s keep smiling and being positive’.

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