As offices, shops, bars and restaurants begin to open up again, we begin our journey of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been numerous articles and reports indicating record drops in CO2 emissions over the past few months, but the big question on everyone’s minds right now is, what will happen next?
This is not the first time a global crisis has had an impact on CO2 emissions. The economic recession of 2008 caused a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions that year, however, the immediate rebound almost cancelled out all the positive reductions that had been made. Furthermore, countries like China, pushed hard to compensate for the economic crash with an aggressive industrial growth strategy that dramatically ramped up their emissions over the following decade. This sets a dangerous precedent for what could happen in the coming months and years.
With the risk of history repeating itself, many large companies have been petitioning governments to implement green recovery policies that can help promote a sustainable future and try to take advantage of the reduced environmental impact we have been experiencing. These include driving investment in low carbon innovation, infrastructure and industries or putting ‘green’ strings on government grants and bailouts.
With the building and construction industry contributing to approximately 40% of global CO2 emissions, we as architects, engineers & designers, have already been pushing for a greener agenda on our projects, albeit with slow progress. So what have we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that we can use to make the most of this environmental spirit and accelerate our sustainable growth?
With the population spending lots of time at home during lockdown (either working, furloughed or because they are out of work), people are becoming much more aware of their energy consumption and need for healthier environments in which to live and work. It is causing a lot more people to stop and think about their behaviour and even start making positive changes to improve their lifestyles. Additionally, the global nature and scale of the pandemic has demonstrated how small actions can have knock-on effects that impact the world so dramatically. These new perspectives have already encouraged a more generous behaviour towards others and to our planet as people begin to see themselves as part of a bigger whole.
With these topics so present in everyone’s minds, we are not only open to the idea of a sustainable future and healthier living but finally beginning to understand the global impacts of the choices we make. Now is the perfect time to be strongly promoting sustainable, low impact construction with our clients, local authorities, developers and contractors. This is a unique opportunity to overcome some of the hurdles holding us back as the world come to realise that healthy, sustainable, environmentally conscious design is, in fact, a need and not just a luxury.