Close .cross_0{fill:none;stroke-miterlimit:10}
Contact us

World Architecture Day 2021 – Contributing to a healthy and sustainable future

October 12, 2021 - Article
Ottawa, October 12, 2021 - Over the past 18 to 24 months, the global COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to reduce our environmental impacts. With the drastic reduction of car use and commuting due to many lockdown measures, and the increased demand for home renovations and offices, millions of people worldwide, including architects, are considering how they can contribute to a healthy and resilient future.

World Architecture Day was created in 1985 by the International Union of Architects (UIA) and is celebrated on the first Monday of October in parallel with UN World Habitat Day. World Architecture Day is an opportunity to recognize how architecture contributes to our daily lives and the architect's important role.  As a means to focus the conversation on a relevant and meaningful discussion point, the UIA introduces a theme for World Architecture Day every year. 

The theme for World Architecture Day 2021 is "Clean Environment for a Healthy World." The aim is to contribute to the global conversation on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda is a 15-year plan adopted in 2015 by the 193 United Nations Member States. This plan is a global commitment to implementing the sustainable development goals centred on five key indelible "p's"; people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. 

At Figurr Architects Collective, we have committed to ourselves, our clients, and our community to focus on positively contributing to a more sustainable future. Reducing construction waste, integrating as many sustainable design principles as possible in our design projects, and designing with mental health in mind are only a few of the design strategies that we are trying to employ with our projects.  

Reducing construction waste 

Construction waste is one of the most significant contributors to landfills. According to the Government of Canada, Construction, renovation, and demolition waste (CRD) account for 4 million tonnes or 12% of the country's solid waste. (Government of Canada, 2021) This includes materials such as scraps of wood, drywall, roofing materials, glass, and siding. In North America, the amount of construction waste is expected to rise in the near future. (Redling, 2018)  

As architects, we are responsible for finding design solutions that minimize solid waste directed to landfills. The "Adaptive Reuse" of existing building stock, the promotion of prefabricated construction, and the promotion of stringent recycling protocols during construction are some of the strategies we promote at Figurr. Our team develops strategies early in the design process on every project to significantly reduce construction waste down the line. We collaborate with contractors, engineers, and trades that will help us achieve our waste reduction objective.  

Reducing CO2 Emissions  

Cities and buildings are one of the most significant overall contributors to global CO2 emissions. In Canada, homes and buildings contribute approximately 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions. As architects, we must use our skills and training to reduce the contributions made to the built environment.  

Many programs are available to the design and construction industry that assist and provide guidance on best practices for sustainable design, such as LEED and Passive House. Figurr is certified in and has experience designing to many of these program standards.  Whether a project strives for certification or not, we work with our clients to integrate sustainable design principles into their projects, reducing emissions and long-term building operation costs.  

However, one of the best contributors to this fight is access to quality public space in the design of new building projects.  Quality public space provides people with natural shade and cooling. This reduces individual unit energy consumption by providing people with access to temperature-regulated community spaces and reducing the demand for air conditioning. Green space in urban areas also mitigates temperature increases and adverse effects on the natural ecology associated with heat island effect. 

Designing with Mental Health in Mind 

In addition to reductions in construction waste and greenhouse gas emissions, architects have the resources and ability to support mental health. The ongoing global health crisis has made it clear that supporting individuals' mental health is critical to establishing a resilient collective future. (Shields, 2020)   

Architects can help by focusing on safe and thoughtful design solutions that reduce the impacts of social isolation. Design can support mental health by connecting people to nature through access to natural light, access to views and public green space, integrating safe non-touch surfaces in public areas, creating open public spaces that facilitate any required social distancing measures when needed, and providing flexible home spaces that can accommodate the needs of work from home when necessary. At Figurr, we are focused on design solutions that support a balanced and sustainable life.  

As architects, the ongoing global pandemic has forced us to rethink and reimagine the world around us. The team at Figurr Architects Collective is focused on the contributions we can make and the long-term impacts of our work.  

References:  

Statistics Canada. (2021). Symptoms of mental health disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210318/dq210318a-eng.htm.  

Shields, Roslyn. (2020). Mental Health in Canada: Covid-19 and Beyond. CAMH Policy Advice. Retrieved from:  https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/pdfs---public-policy-submissions/covid-and-mh-policy-paper-pdf.pdf.  

Government of Canada. (2020). Canada's actions to reduce emissions. Government of Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-plan/reduce-emissions.html.  

Government of Canada. (2020). Reducing urban heat islands to protect health in Canada. Government of Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/publications/healthy-living/reducing-urban-heat-islands-protect-health-canada.html.  

Passive House Canada. (2021). Passive House (Passivhaus) is considered to be the most rigorous voluntary energy-based standard in the design and construction industry today. About Passive House. Retrieved from: https://www.passivehousecanada.com/about-passive-house/.  

Even-Har, Meirav. (2014). Options for waste reduction and diversion. Construction Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.constructioncanada.net/options-for-waste-reduction-and-diversion/.  

Government of Canada. (2021). Reducing municipal solid waste. Government of Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-reducing-waste/municipal-solid/reducing.html.  

Redling, Adam. (2018). Construction debris volume to surge in coming years. Construction & Demolition Recycling. Retrieved from: https://www.cdrecycler.com/article/global-volume-construction-demolition-waste/.