There are a million tiny things that we can do to safeguard the future of our planet - so don't dismiss them just because you might not be around to care
I have been told many times that structural engineers will be the key to sustainable developments in the future. Yet our efforts in promoting sustainable aspirations are often in vain. Some clients have even expressed a desire for sustainable features to be taken out of the project brief, fearful that they will increase the overall costs. But what is an additional 2% increase in capital cost when we can do our part to save the planet?
Without sounding too blunt, those who have the power to make these crucial decisions will not be around to suffer consequences of them. It will be future generations who will be left to pick up the pieces. It is vital to get the message across to the final owners and tenants of the properties that sustainable development can cut their day-to-day running and long-term maintenance costs. Once this is realised, their demand for more sustainable properties will have a great impact on the market, and one that developers will have to respond to if they want to make a profit.
It seems to me that the government is concentrating on the big issues, reflected in legislation like the new Part L, but has overlooked the little things that can help us all to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It is great news that a growing number of local governments are participating in the scheme to provide recycling bins to households, but it surprises me that there are still areas, such as Westminster and Kingston-upon-Thames, that do not offer this service. The government should start the changes from within and force the issue with local councils. In Hackney, each household is provided with recycling bins and a fine of £1000 is used to encourage the public to use the system appropriately. This could be set as a national standard.
With the help of designers, the government should set a standard size for household recycling bins, one that is a better fit for modern-day housing design than those currently supplied. Designers can then integrate this storage area into the design. If the facility is provided appropriately, it is far more likely to be used by the occupiers and recycling is therefore more likely to become a habit.
Architects and designers can play a great part in influencing the way people live, work and interact within a space through the way they lay out its interior; in the same way, I think our industry has an excellent opportunity to encourage people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Standardising recycling storage in households is only one of the many things that designers can do to help achieve a more sustainable development. Most new-builds in the Far East provide the homebuyers with a fully equipped kitchen, which can ensure that all the electrical appliances are the most energy efficient of their kind. In this country, perhaps, with the amount of rain we endure, we can start collecting rainwater from roofs and use it to contribute to the water that flushes toilets.
Without sounding too blunt, those who have the power to make these crucial decisions will not see the impact on the environment that we have caused
Unfortunately, the chances are that designers will carry on fighting a one-sided battle until we can get everyone on board to work towards a more sustainable future.
Laws and regulations are required to educate, to reinforce and sometimes punish people, but the law can also encourage designers to push the boundaries of a more environment-friendly method.
A minimum of 10% of energy from renewable sources is required for new-builds in London, so why not reward buildings that can achieve, say, 20% or more? And these regulations should also be expanded into all area of the UK, not just the capital. Not until clients realise that there are financial implications for not providing this service will we see a change in attitude in the industry.
London has always been considered a creative city, setting trends that are soon picked up by other countries, so let's make sustainability trendy and maybe we can lead our friends across the globe to be more sustainable, too.
Carolina Lameiras is a design engineer at Adams Kara Taylor and one of the 10 young professionals on Building's graduate advisory board