IMPORTANT Read the RIBA's latest COVID-19 advice and information | Website terms of use and cookie statement

Built Environment Summit: Open call for climate action research

RIBA and Architects Declare have launched an open call for evidence and research around six key themes on climate action. Submissions will be selected for a report, culminating in its discussion at the Built Environment Summit, which will be held virtually and in London the week before COP26.

16 June 2021

The Built Environment Summit is a report and conference hosted by the RIBA in partnership with Architects Declare.

The aim of the summit is to embolden governments to support and work with the international built environment industry to decarbonise construction.

We cannot meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit above pre-industrial levels without making substantial changes to the way we design, build, operate, and adapt our built environment. The Built Environment Summit will bring that message from the international construction industry to governments at COP26.

Image of flags from different countries around the world

Right now, buildings and construction are responsible for approximately 40% of the world’s carbon emissions. When accounting for the carbon embodied in all associated infrastructure, that figure is substantially higher.

Our industry is taking significant action to work within the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit above pre-industrial levels. By showing what is possible, we will embolden governments to do the same.

We’re calling on the world’s governments to provide the necessary support and legislation to accelerate the systemic change in our industry to stay within the 1.5°C carbon budget.

There must be no more delays, or excuses.

We launch with an open call for evidence and research around six key themes. Submissions will be selected for the final report, culminating in its discussion at the Built Environment Summit to be held virtually and in London the week before COP26.

Then at COP26 in Glasgow, we will serve our report to the governments of the world to call for the change our collective future demands.

Image of architectural drawings

Call for evidence

The RIBA and Architects Declare are inviting submissions to support a report to governments to be presented at COP26.

The report will be developed over the coming months with partners across the international built environment industry. It will be backed up by evidence, research, and exemplar projects from across the globe that will be discussed at a conference on 28 to 29 October 2021 hosted by the RIBA and Architects Declare.

The report and conference will be structured around the six themes set out below. This international open call invites contributors to:

  • submit research, exemplar projects (built or unbuilt), and supporting evidence in any form under these six themes
  • express interest in presenting your research/project(s) at the conference (either in person or online)
  • express interest in supporting or endorsing this initiative, especially if you are a built environment focused membership organisation or institution

How your evidence will be used

Your research, projects or other work may be used to:

  • inform the report
  • provide an evidence base for the key messages in the report to governments
  • be linked to the report to be held on the RIBA website
  • be presented by you at the conference

Image of five women architects working collaboratively

Six themes

Both the report and the conference in the summit will be organised around six themes. This call for evidence is looking for supporting evidence for each of these themes.

Theme 1: The significance of the built environment

The built environment is central to our quality of life and needs greater emphasis in government policy. Under this theme we are looking for evidence such as:

  • demonstrable environmental, social and economic benefits of healthy, safe, and secure housing, workplaces, educational, civic and infrastructure
  • demonstrable environmental, social and economic benefits of energy efficient and low carbon buildings
  • social value of an environmentally and economically sustainable construction industry
  • demonstrable cultural, educational, and governance benefits associated with a sustainable built environment
  • demonstrable models of best practice in environmental design for a post-COVID 19 world

Theme 2: The environmental footprint of the built environment

We cannot address the climate emergency without making significant changes to the way we build, operate and adapt the built environment. Under this theme we are looking for evidence such as:

  • analysis and commentary on the built environment’s current environmental impact by nation, region, sector, or other factors
  • how international, national, sector based and other carbon budgets are being set and met (or otherwise) by the built environment
  • the impact of the Nationally Determined Contributions on the built environment and vice versa
  • the impact of renewable energy budgets on the built environment
  • the environmental impacts of the built environment beyond carbon and energy, including material footprint, water, habitats, biodiversity, soil health, and more

Theme 3: How to affect change in the built environment

The construction industry is a complex system that spans many sectors, governments’ departments, regulations, and areas of concern and influence. Understanding how to affect change within landscapes that vary across the globe but also interact through trade, culture, and more is difficult, but is critical to bringing about change. Under this theme we are looking for evidence such as:

  • system mapping of the built environment/construction industry by city, region, nation, sector, or other, recognising that this varies across the globe, sectors, and more
  • policy and regulation landscapes (system maps) impacting and affected by the built environment
  • research into the key leverage points for affecting change in the built environment

Theme 4: The built environment industry’s capabilities

The industry has the knowledge and technology to make the changes needed, though some elements need scaling back and others need scaling up. Under this theme we are looking for evidence such as:

  • ways in which we are able to meet clients needs or solve problems without building, for example through strategic consultancy, use of advanced simulation or machine learning or through deep engagement with communities
  • ways in which we are able to create buildings, spaces and infrastructure with recovered, reclaimed, refurbished, remanufactured, and recycled materials so avoiding raw material extraction and waste
  • ways in which we are able to build from low carbon, low energy and other low impact materials through design, engineering and material innovation
  • ways in which we are able to create new and retrofit existing buildings to be zero-carbon(-enabled) and low energy
  • ways in which we are able to integrate generate renewable energy into the built environment
  • ways in which we are able to restore ecosystems and employ nature-based solutions
  • ways in which we are able to improve the resilience of human and non-human habitats against climate change and other adverse events

Theme 5: The industry is committed to change

The industry has committed to and is working towards the change we need. Under this theme we are looking for evidence such as:

  • initiatives, declarations, educational reforms and more from around the world demonstrating how the industry is committed to climate action (to include both commitment to certain activities and divestments from or decisions to abstain from certain activities)
  • design processes and guidance to ensure the most sustainable solutions are explored, tested, developed, implemented and more
  • workflows, tools and ways of collaborating and thinking to facilitate the change needed (for example contract documents)
  • examples of how we measure success towards our goals: for example, certification schemes, awards, key performance indicators or post-occupancy evaluation
  • initiatives to challenge siloed design practices, linear design practices that place ideas before resources, high carbon aesthetics, and more
  • examples of research and development work taking place to bring about the transition to a sustainable built environment, especially partnerships between industry and academia
  • examples of where the industry is developing formal environmental, social and governance standards to rate the wider impact of projects on the environment through measurement of environmental gain/harm facilitated by new buildings and infrastructure

Theme 6: The industry needs governments’ support to change

Governments can provide the national, international, sector-focused, cross-sectoral regulations, infrastructure, and foresight to support the built environment in making the changes required to meet the 1.5°C target. Under this theme we are looking for evidence such as:

  • research and evidence of the benefits of environmental regulations in a variety of global contexts
  • learnings from environmental regulations affecting the built environment already implemented
  • literature review of policy recommendations for environmental regulations in the built environment and how these can be applied in a variety of global contexts
  • evidence-based proposals for policies and changes to the current regulatory landscape to bring about a transition to a sustainable/regenerative built environment
  • evidence-based proposals for infrastructure, funding, and other support to bring about a transition to a sustainable/regenerative built environment
  • examples of where the move to more sustainable practices is driving cost and efficiency savings and environmental gains and where new policy frameworks could incentivise private investment

Image of three women panelists speaking at a conference

Join the Expert Advisory Panel

Alongside this call for evidence, we invited expressions of interest to sit on an Expert Advisory Panel to support the selection of contributors and curation of the conference.

We sought a range of people, skills, backgrounds and experience, representative of the global construction industry and society at large. This is a paid opportunity with a fee of £250 a day and we anticipate between three to five days’ work will be required.

Depending on their expertise the Expert Advisory Panel will be invited to:

  1. Support the selection of contributors and curation of the report
  2. Support the selection of contributors and curation of the conference
  3. Input into the writing of the report

Please note this call is now closed.

About us

This Built Environment Summit is co-hosted by the RIBA and Architects Declare. The summit is organised by a steering group with representatives of these two organisations including:

  • Simon Allford, RIBA President Elect, and Director of AHMM Architects
  • Maria Smith, RIBA Nationally Elected Councillor and Director of Sustainability and Physics, Buro Happold
  • Andrew Waugh, Architects Declare Steering Group Member and Director of Waugh Thistleton Architects

Submissions

Download the open call and submission themes along with the supplementary information.

Submit your application to contribute to the report and/or conference by completing this form by 9am BST on Monday 5 July 2021.

Register your interest in attending the conference.

Latest updates

keyboard_arrow_up To top