Architects taking action – Interview with MSSA Climate Action Group

Manchester Student Society of Architecture (MSSA) tell us about their Climate Action Group @mssaclimateaction

  1. Tell us about MSA Climate Action Group 

Our group was formed in September 2020 by a group of passionate MSA students who got inspired after  attending a Climate Literacy Workshop (organised by TRADA) and believe in making positive change by  introducing this initiative. We have since made a conviction to be the voice advocating environmental literacy  within the school; pushing the university to integrate sustainable principles in the curriculum, educating ourselves about the field of sustainable design and help other peers to be conscious of the matter. We believe  that students have the power to act, and that our profession needs both top-down and bottom-up pressure to  achieve a systemic change. 

  1. What is the main challenge facing architecture and the built environment when it comes to  climate change? 

While it is self-contradictory to build more green buildings, there are many ways the construction industry  could do to offset and reduce its carbon footprint. Such examples include reducing unnecessary use of steel  and concrete, design multifunctional buildings that allows the reuse of existing structures and reduce building  waste. Policy makers must focus on implementing immediate solutions supplementary to their ambitious long term targets. At an individual level, we must too reject wilful ignorance in our everyday life, consider  alternative options to reduce our footprint and advocate people around us to join the movement. 

  1. What is the challenge that most people do not expect? 

Greenwashing has unfortunately become a trend in recent new builds. Often glorified by the public, occupiers  and the press, many buildings adorned with lush greens and renewable technologies often incur excessive  embodied carbon in its construction, such as using more steel and concrete support, thereby inducing setbacks  to its environmental claims. Instead, we must take an unbiased approach in understanding the building’s  overall energy performance, consider the carbon footprint in the building’s lifetime, and evaluate its  demonstration of socially responsible values. Sustainability shouldn’t just be a tick-box exercise for architects  to comply with, but a constant challenge that strives us to exceed the minimum standards. In fact, the collective effort will eventually create a butterfly effect for future generations if we all start with one positive  change individually. 

  1. In order to meet its targets, the city of Manchester must… 

In order to meet its sustainability targets, the city of Manchester must first believe the impact we could create  if we act collectively as a society. We must stand firm for our future, while pressurising the parliament to act  swiftly and with strong urgency in making tough but bold decisions in taking climate action. This includes, but  not limited to, introducing policies and incentives that promotes green transport such as carpooling, and  propose initiatives that open up pockets of green spaces throughout the city.

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