Written by Will Chan 22nd October 2021
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it?
There has been much discussion about the need for us to work towards Net Zero. Net Zero aims to reduce the production of carbon in the atmosphere and reduce the rise in earth’s temperature. Net Zero, can be achieved through methods and techniques within the production of energy for consumption or through the reduction of wasted energy such as heating and cooling. The consideration of working towards Net Zero is often a difficult proposition as cost often remains at the forefront of decision making. At Archiworks, optimization, increased efficiency and making the most of what have is at the heart of a sustainable design.
Our best chance towards Net Zero can be discovered with two simple tools; cost reduction and optimisation. I propose, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, improve it!”
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it? On the surface the system does not appear to be broken. In 2021, there is still an abundance of; materials, energy and valuable resources to provide for our current consumption and pleasantries. In our developed world, the luxuriousness of modern technologies is the cornerstone of a high quality life in comparison to previous generations. Personally, the microwave is one of my most cherished inventions. Furthermore, for example there is so much existing built infrastructure; fuel stations, power plants and building materials, built over time to provide the means to an end. By virtue of our humanity, we have mastered and fine tuned the current system of production. For example, we have perfected plastic and its application, currently it appears to be the most optimal way to quickly and easily preserve food and make food suitable for mass transport. In comparison, the alternative methods will require additional costs to deliver what might on the surface have the same result. For example, energy production through either fossil fuel (coal fired power station) or sustainable renewables (hydro electric) would produce the same product; electricity, to power the laptop I am using. So why the fuss?
Perhaps nobody cares. We are detached from impact. We are not immediately affected by what we do, perhaps it is generational. Nonetheless, it feels likely that the impact through consumption will someday catch up with us and perhaps it might be too late to pull any meaningful lever? Don’t get me wrong, I love consumption and there is scope to optimise the way in which we consume. We must continue to evolve and improve.
Between Jan 2020- early/mid 2022 the world is hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, our way of life has been shaken to the core and tested beyond expectations, we are forced to live and work differently. Divisions between people can be seen, differences are erupted based on a strong position of opinions. The fabric of our lives have forever been changed by the pandemic. Together, we have endured and found a way to work between remote working, improvising and adapting. Meanwhile, face to face businesses that have been adversely affected and health care pushed to exhaustion. That is even before we add the collective mental fatigue and most importantly the unfair loss of life from this relentless horrible epidemic. Naturally, as humans we took to innovations and optimised the way we can function and co-exist. We have click and collect, we embrace QR code, we collectively use social media and video conferences to stay connected. Science so far has offered the best solution through mass vaccination to help build a bridge back to normality, it has worked.
Covid-19 has tested our belief. This pandemic should not have happened! How can it happen? Surely this only exists in the movies where we see where the protagonist undergoes the hero’s to save the day and we continue to thrive. The horror is that it has in reality happened and as predicted by science. There is some merit to science after all.
Reaching Net Zero is important because innovation is at the heart of human creativity. This push for Net Zero and various Environmental awareness is driven and championed by unique brave individuals, social and private enterprise.
We can do things more cost effectively and more intelligently to create new opportunities. We must focus on the new opportunities unyet discovered as a beautiful by-product of this journey. Private enterprise can drive more creative solutions to drive down costs to create Net Zero. For example, how can we drive down the cost of thermally efficient buildings which require less energy over its lifetime?
As part of this consideration and movement, money is a valuable resource and a store of potential energy. As part of the Net Zero movement, we should also be mindful of how to best allocate this precious resource. With money, it enables us to act with velocity to scale to make impactful changes. Having said that, abundance of money does not necessarily correlate to an optimal result. Good design and decision making has the greatest impact on making more meaningful changes. For example, if you design a dwelling with a south facing living area, you can throw huge sums of money but it will never ever receive direct sunlight, warmth and cannot easily achieve thermal comfort.
Good design is vital to the equation so we can reduce waste, improve efficiency and stack our decks towards Net Zero. No more blame, you can take ownership to push for improvements to get to Net Zero. What if we can actually do this?
Of course, it is much easier talking about it than doing it.
This is an important issue because at the heart, the solution is innovation. Through which requires optimisation and cost reduction. Political bi partisanship is vital to accelerate the process of improvements. We still have time to design out of this problem, the human race is remarkable and we have endured countless challenges throughout history. Through tackling the environmental impacts head on, we will discover new opportunities, technologies, jobs and security for our society giving us purpose and connection.
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, improve it.