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Repurpose existing amenities to tackle the climate crisis, says study

Words: Laura Edgar
Recycle and reuse / iStock-694076680

A report by Architecture and Design Scotland recommends the retrofitting of existing structures and development of brownfield sites first in order to tackle the climate crisis and improve quality of life.

To support site decarbonisation, planting should be added to hard infrastructure; structures should be viewed as “material banks” with components that are demountable, rebuildable,  reusable and resaleable; and the cost of the entire life cycle of a structure should be considered – rather than just its initial capital costs.

This is just one of eight “carbon-conscious” place principles outlined in Designing for a Changing Climate. The report suggests that this principle could be achieved by undertaking an audit of existing land and structures to identify what can be utilised.

The report collates the findings and lessons learned during a one-year pilot study, which was supported by the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Division. It considers what changes can be made to tackle the climate crisis and cites examples for communities of various sizes. It also sets out how the principles can be achieved.

The other principles include:

  • A place-led approach: Understanding, appreciating and working with existing assets, the surrounding landscape and the place identity. Using the right type of intervention, at the right stage, scale and location.
  • A place of small distances: Creating complete and self-sufficient neighbourhoods with everyday/night services and facilities within a short walking or cycling distance (e.g. 15-minute place concept).
  • A place designed for and with local people: Placing people’s needs at the centre of decision-making, service provision and investment in our places and ensuring that they are actively involved in key stages of the design process.
  • A place designed in time: Ensuring the place planning and delivery process considers the dimension of time. This includes creating long-term visions as well as using short-term approaches to test out interventions.

As part of the pilot programme Architecture and Design Scotland collaborated with four communities across Scotland and what was learned is set out in the report. It also looks at what Scotland might look like in 2050 to allow it to reduce, repurpose and absorb carbon and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  

Jim MacDonald, chief executive of Architecture and Design Scotland, said: “This report has been written during the Covid-19 pandemic. This experience has brought into focus the need for the local provision of services, improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure and the need for quality open space. The ideas offered in this report align strongly with the emerging thinking of a green recovery following the pandemic.  

“Over the last decade, A&DS has collected intelligence on sustainable design. However, with the introduction of a target to be a net-zero carbon society by 2045, we recognised we could both support and gain more understanding of the practical and creative ways places can help achieve this ambition.”  

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, said: “I am extremely impressed by Architecture and Design Scotland leading the way nationally in regards to addressing the global climate emergency, driving forward a whole place approach with the ambitious carbon-conscious places initiative. I strongly support your ongoing exploration of how we design, plan and deliver places and how that relates to our national response to climate change, decarbonisation and health inequalities.”

Image credit | iStock