How architecture can tackle the carbon crisis

Nille Juul Sorensen Nille Juul-Sørensen Director,Berlin
28 September 2021

World Architecture Day, celebrated on the first Monday of every October, was set up by the Union International des Architects (UIA) in 2005 to “remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat”, coinciding with UN World Habitat Day. 

To mark the day, and with COP26 on the horizon, Arup architects discuss the role that architecture plays in the decarbonisation and resilience of the built environment and cities. 

Dennis Ho, East Asia Architecture & Urban Design Leader

"I believe that through the understanding of and working closely with nature, our buildings and cities will become more resilient and only through innovative and intelligent design that we will be able to meet our targets on decarbonization.”


Dennis Ho, East Asia Architecture & Urban Design Leader
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Lena Raizberg, Associate Director

"I believe that encouraging a creative reuse of existing buildings is one of the most essential things architects can do if they want to contribute to decarbonization and higher resilience of our built environments."

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Filippo Cefis, Senior Architect

"It is our responsibility as architects to understand the impact of our work on the environment and how decarbonization and resilience must be at the top of our design brief."

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Projects pushing the boundaries

1 Triton Square 

Our architectural redevelopment of the recently completed 1 Triton Square demonstrates that refurbishment can be exciting, attractive and incredibly sustainable. It’s an example of our marginal gains approach whereby every possible system, component and strategy is analysed and refined to improve performance and deliver the most sustainable outcome. 

Key sustainability achievements: 

  • The BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ commercial building has saved more carbon in design and construction than it will produce in operation during its 20-year lease.  

  • 40,000 tonnes carbon saving, enough to offset energy consumption in over 9,900 London homes (55% embodied carbon saving vs typical new build)   

  • One of the largest examples of implemented circular economy practices in the industry to date - the removal, refurbishment and reinstallation of over 3,500 sqm of façade comprising over 25,000 separate part

Timber station study 

When it comes to decarbonising our transport networks, we need to challenge traditional assumptions about the design of sustainable infrastructure. Our study with Copenhagen Metro shows that the increased use of timber in rail station design could cut embodied carbon by up to 50%, helping to create sustainable rail options and help decarbonise our transport networks. 

Key sustainability achievements: 

  • The inclusion of timber reduced embedded carbon by as much as 50%, a saving of up to 150,000kg CO2e