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Architecture students feel ill prepared to tackle the climate crisis

Architecture students feel ill prepared to tackle the climate crisis in their future jobs, according to research from UK climate activist groups. Calls are now urgent to bring sustainability to the forefront of the curriculum.

If we’re to ensure the long-term prosperity of our planet, the next generation of architects will have to make sustainability a keystone of the construction industry.

In terms of meeting that requirement, however, it appears we’ve yet to start preparing in any meaningful way. Despite the delicate situation we find ourselves in, aesthetics are still valued over sustainability according to those studying structural design modules.

UK research conducted by climate activist group Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) has revealed that many student architects in the region feel ‘ill equipped to mitigate the effects of the climate and ecological emergency.’

With the construction industry currently accounting for around 42% of the nation’s carbon emissions, students and climate NGOs are rightly demanding wholesale changes to course curriculums.

ACAN’s survey, which pulled together architecture students from across the country, worryingly showed that 76.9% of the sample felt unprepared for their future work, while 69.2% pointed to a distinct lack of climate consideration from their tutors.

‘Fundamentally, students feel they are currently being let down by their architectural education,’ explained Megan Coe, a coordinator at ACAN.

With 70% of participants claiming they either weren’t aware, or had nowhere to voice their concerns within their institutions, she is driving to galvanise independent student action at universities across the country.

Launching StuCAN in 2020, a dedicated campaign to lead a cultural revolution around ‘climate literacy’ in construction courses, Coe aims to instil a sense of optimism in Gen Z architects and their future ambitions.

We are the most eco-conscious demographic ever, after all.

Speaking on the power of student bodies, Coe highlighted: ‘These groups allow students to discover they have more agency than they are told, help them to gain confidence in addressing the inadequacies of their education, and through collective action, are providing a multitude of mental health benefits, particularly in a time of uncertainty and isolation.’

In the last month alone, we’ve written about a multitude of sustainable projects with the potential to shake up the construction industry in the future.

Whether we’re talking 3D printed houses made from recycled materials, art installations created using plant waste, clever solutions for Covid friendly venues, or even Stefano Boeri’s bold vision for an entire ‘smart forest city’ in the heart of Cancun, there is promise to suggest we can cut the industry’s carbon footprint down if we champion new ideas.

If you’re currently studying at an institution failing to bring about climate literacy in its modules, you can download template letters created by ACAN here, and request to form your own student body.