Virtual pavilion seeks projects that showcase zero-carbon architecture at COP26 climate conference

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The UK Green Building Council is calling for projects and installations that propose solutions to the built environment’s carbon emissions in a virtual pavilion that will coincide with November’s COP26 climate conference.

Organised by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), the COP26 Built Environment Virtual Pavilion will draw attention to the sector, which is responsible for around 40 per cent of carbon emissions but which has been overlooked at previous COP climate conferences.

COP26 pavilion to showcase “playful interventions”

Intended to “give the built environment sector a voice at COP26,” the virtual pavilion has been proposed amid concerns that delegates may not be able to attend in person due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The eyes of the world will be on the host city, Glasgow,” organisers wrote in their open call for the pavilion. “Covid-19 travel restrictions may reduce the number of delegates able to attend COP in person.”

“To mitigate risk and enable maximum participation in COP26, regardless of the status of the physical conference, an unprecedented coalition of over 100 partner organisations has come together to deliver a digital presence in the form of a Built Environment Virtual Pavilion.”

Organisers are looking for “playful interventions” that convey the scale of the sector’s emissions and suggest ways to eliminate them. The competition is looking for up to 12 projects to showcase in the pavilion as well as a design for a central installation.

“The open call provides a unique opportunity to showcase how your work is helping to mitigate climate change and the associated issues,” said Katie Clemence-Jackson, who chairs the pavilion’s working group. “We are looking for projects from around the world, representing a diverse range of scales and typologies.”

COP26, or Conference of the Parties, is the 26th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference. It takes place in Glasgow from 1 to 12 November. It was originally due to be held last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Theme day to recognise buildings’ impact on climate change

For the first time, the conference will feature an official Cities, Regions & Built Environment Theme Day. This will recognise the huge contribution that buildings make to climate change for the first time at a COP conference.

UN climate champion Nigel Topping is keen to engage architects in efforts to reach net-zero emissions since they have a powerful influence over the carbon foorprint of the projects they design.

“Designers and architects making choices to specify circular, low-carbon and innovative materials on their projects can also act as a huge demand signal to industry, product manufacturers and material producers,” Topping told Dezeen in an email interview last month.

“We want the built environment to be recognised as a critical sector for unlocking the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Topping, referring to the 2015 agreement that legally binds signatories to action that will limit climate change at 1.5 degrees Celsius or lower.

However, Topping added that architects were “one of the least well-represented businesses in the Race to Zero,” referring to the United Nations initiative to get companies to commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

“By revenue, globally, we don’t think that any of the top 50 standalone architectural practices are in the Race to Zero,” he said. “We are working hard to change this so that when we reach COP26 we can really show ambition within the sector.”

Ahead of COP26, RIBA and Architects Declare will host a Built Environment Summit to alert governments to the need to reduce emissions from the built environment.

COP26 will take place at SEC Centre in Glasgow from 1 to 12 November 2021. The Built Environment Summit will take place at RIBA London from 28 to 29 October 2021.

See Dezeen Events Guide for all the latest information you need to know to attend the event, as well as a list of other architecture and design events taking place around the world.


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This article is part of Dezeen’s carbon revolution series, which explores how this miracle material could be removed from the atmosphere and put to use on earth. Read all the content at: www.dezeen.com/carbon.

The sky photograph used in the carbon revolution graphic is by Taylor van Riper via Unsplash.

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