We are re-entering an age of necessity and must design accordingly

Bloomberg Arcade, running through the middle of the Bloomberg building designed by Foster & Partners

Source: Nigel Young / Foster & Partners

Harriet Wennberg welcomes a timely resurgence in the use of natural materials and traditional forms

A UN global status report estimates that the next 40 years will add 230bn sq m of new construction to the planet. This is the equivalent of building a city the size of Paris every week for the next four decades. The construction industry’s contributions to global carbon emissions are well documented. So too is the fact that we are now 12 years away from what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls an irreversible and catastrophic climate tipping point. Great strides have been made by the building sector to become greener and to give real meaning to the term “sustainability” – but more needs to be done, globally and quickly.

Bloomberg’s new European headquarters in London, designed by Foster & Partners, won the RIBA’s 2018 Stirling Prize. The judges gave it the award for the year’s best new building in Britain in part for its claim to be the world’s most sustainable office building.

However, as became clear from the reactions that followed the ceremony, even a budget of £1bn and the highest possible compliance with environmental performance regulations deliver a building that continues to hurtle us headlong towards climate change that will make much of this planet uninhabitable. Simply put, the best isn’t good enough.

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