Sunand Prasad, RIBA President 2007-09

RIBA members were warning of the consequences of global warming back in the 1990s. Even earlier, the ecology movement of the 1970s, which was later to rally around the banner of sustainability, had many architect participants. However, with a few exceptions such as the report ‘Sustainable Communities: Quality with Quantity’ the Institute has not made much of an impression. Climate change is now big mainstream news and is already a high priority in the RIBA. I believe that we need to distinguish between climate change and sustainability and plan responses appropriately. Sustainability – environmental, social and economic - is more complex and less tractable a subject than climate change, which is palpably a matter of survival. That said, the solutions to arrest climate change themselves need to be sustainable. Energy - its generation, conservation and use - is the big issue and the built environment is the biggest single component of the picture. I want the RIBA to act as a key knowledge centre for architects on climate change, equipping them with an understanding of greenhouse gas targets and the appropriate tools for meeting them. One example of the particular role for the RIBA and members: what to do about the existing built stock? Is it possible to preserve the character of historic environments while reducing associated emissions by 75%?