Climate leaders in our industry are demonstrating that we can achieve a significant and positive impact to achieve the climate goals for our built environments.

Architects have recognised the benefits of low-emission materials, energy efficiency and renewable generation to achieve carbon positive homes and buildings.

On a larger scale, Sydney’s Barangaroo South has achieved 6-Star Green Star and carbon-neutral ratings for its innovative precinct design and low-carbon and high-performance buildings, while Sydney Olympic Park has also set the goal to be net zero by 2030.

While our industry’s leaders are setting the path for us to follow, change across the sector is happening too slowly.

As we continue through this decisive decade, the science is clear that we all need to act – as individuals, industries and nations. In order to meet the science-based goal agreed to under the Paris Agreement and limit global temperature rises to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-Industrial levels, emissions should have peaked by the end of this decade at the latest.

It is with a sense of urgency that our profession is assessing sustainable options. We recognise that 38 per cent of carbon emissions globally stem from the building operations and construction. In Australia, buildings consume about 20 per cent of energy.

This is a sector that has a long-lasting impact. Half of the buildings that will exist in 2060 have not yet been built and most of those will be in countries that do not have mandatory building-energy

Effective systems and regulations are required in all countries – but especially in developed nations such as Australia – to ensure we do not build a legacy of emissions.

We must honour the targets we have set – to reduce emissions 26 per cent to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, and to achieve net zero by 2050 – and ideally bring them forward. An effective roadmap with funding will improve productivity and attract investment as companies progress their carbon journey.

The Australian Institute of Architects has called for all political parties to increase their investment in carbon-reduction initiatives to accelerate our journey to a low-carbon economy.

We want to see further investment in government support for ARENA, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and other research institutions.

In addition to investment in innovations to reduce carbon impacts and resilience, we also want to see our frameworks strengthened. We can bring forward the timelines for the Trajectory for
Low Energy Buildings, and stricter sustainability requirements in the National Construction Code.

Urgent collective action is necessary to bring together all the parts – from supply chain sustainability, transport, energy and efficiency, as well as end of life – that we need to decarbonise.

And as well as being necessary for our planet and global community, it will be better for people as well. Under the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings protocols, potential improvements to
energy requirements would save renters and occupiers in the tropics or cold climates ofCanberra, Townsville or Darwin about $650 a year, or around $170 each year in more temperate
climates, such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Operational net zero is already achievable thanks to increases in energy efficiency and the uptake of renewable generation. Now the challenge is bringing forward the hard questions and hard answers in decarbonisation of our built environments.

Architects want this change to happen. In our recent member survey, climate action was ranked the most pressing issue. Almost three out of four respondents (72 per cent) said it was absolutely critical to address.

As the custodians of Australia’s built environment – and its legacy – we want to celebrate our leaders and accelerate our progress on climate action. This is the time for action.


Tony Giannone, Immediate Past President, Australian Institute of Architects