Born in 1999, I’ve always lived in the shadow of what was first Global Warming, then Climate Change and now Climate Crisis. This meant that before I’d even left primary school, I was lecturing my parents about recycling and drawing houses with wind turbines on the roof. I’d been taught the simple truth; that things have to change, or they’ll get much worse. Over 10 years on, I’m not designing Net Zero homes, but I am part of a team that champions them. However, the change we need has still not materialised.

For those my age or younger, this isn’t for want of trying. One of the most astonishing Climate movements of the last decade has been Fridays for Future. Famously started by Greta Thunberg, these strikes give school children and students a way to voice their concerns, that a reckless approach to Climate Crisis mitigation is destroying their futures. The movement has grown from just one girl to a super active international coalition.

UKGBC joined Fridays for Future’s September global strike in London, along with Architects Declare, LETI and other sustainably minded built environment professionals. The student protestors held some signs grieving the losses of Climate Change and others asking for a better world. You might think a group of architects and construction professionals would stand out with our signs asking for National Retrofit or Net Zero homes. However, the role the built environment can play is filtering through to popular climate activism. That’s to say, we all enthusiastically joined in when there was a chorus of, ‘What do we want? Housing Insultation. When do we want it? Now!’

I write this blog post over a month later, on day 5 of the COP26 Conference that’s been dedicated to Youth and Public Empowerment. Again today, the Fridays for Future movement will take to the streets to raise their concerns. Once again, I’ll be attending the strike as a member of UKGBC. However, I’ll be there after a week of representing our cause across Glasgow and various COP26 events. I’m acutely aware that different stakeholders from across the world – including many young activists – who have been restricted from attending COP26 and I feel the weight of that on my shoulders. As a young person who’s been given an opportunity to be in this space, what do I want to say?

We need action. No more targets, but action that will accelerate Net Zero, increase biodiversity and ensure the resilience of our communities against Climate Crisis. More specifically, we need to implement meaningful plans so we can create sustainable buildings and better cities. In the UK specifically, a disappointing Heat and Buildings Strategy mean it’s more imperative than ever that we Build Better Now. It’s clear there is public interest and demand for this transition – ranging from positive survey results to recent high profile direct action.

Here at UKGBC we’re excited to see this shift in the public’s understanding of the impact of our built environment has as well as the solutions it can provide. However, there can be a disconnect for youth activists. Unlikely to own a home until much later than our parents, installing a heat pump or insulating our roof are far less tangible actions than sustainable transport or a vegan diet . This is not to say youth activists are not engaging in the issues of housing and the built environment, as we found at the September Climate March, they are despite the barriers. But we need to do more as an industry to raise a voice for just how important sustainable buildings are in the transition to net zero as 42% of UK emissions can be attributed to the built environment alone, if you include the related vehicle emissions. It’s a simple truth that the homes we live in and the buildings we use are some of the biggest impacts we have on the Climate.

Personally, I hope that my peers, and youth climate activists particularly, meaningfully engage in the work needed to transform our homes, cities and infrastructure. As it’s imperative everyone understands that the transformation of our buildings is a central tenet to a just and sustainable world.