Seratech attends UIA Word Congress of Architects 2023 to discuss Embodied Carbon

By Natasha Higgins-Schjelderup

7/22/20232 min read

Seratech was delighted to participate in the Obel Award talk on ‘Embodied Emissions’ at this year’s UIA World Congress of Architects in Copenhagen. The theme of the congress was ‘Sustainable Futures – Leave no one behind’.

Dubbed the ‘key event of 2023 for sustainable architecture’, the event was attended by 400 speakers from around the world and featured over 150 sessions on topics ranging from designing for climate adaptation to reconstructing Ukraine.

Dotted around the city itself were experimental pavilions, guided tours and social activities including an ‘Architecture Run’ through buildings, gardens, parks and grand museums. At the Bella Centre was a nature trail of soil, trees, and decaying wood - a reminder to include nature in all our actions, decisions, and plans.

Some of the big names attending the show included Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, 2022 Pritzker Prize winner Francis Kéré and world-renowned architect and humanitarian Yasmeen Lari.

Key points, central to the event, were that the construction industry alone accounts for 40% of global CO2 emissions and 35% of total waste, which calls for urgent action. Furthermore, in everything we build, carbon capture must exceed carbon footprint.

In the panel discussion to which Seratech contributed, education and awareness around embodied carbon prevailed as the main theme along with the need for more engineers and scientists to tackle the issue. The need for a cross-disciplinary approach within the industry was discussed as ‘ever more crucial’.

Seratech’s co-founder, Sam Draper, led with the theme of needing to get to net zero through lean design and by using the right materials, in the right amount, for the right job.

Alongside Seratech, the panel consisted of Kjetil Thorsen, founding partner of SnØhetta, Matthias Schuler, Founder and Managing Director at Transsolar, Henning Larsen’s Head of Materials, Martha Lewis, and Albert Taylor, Co-founder and Director at AKT II.

Parallels were drawn between the financial economy and the carbon economy as well as the challenge faced by architects needing to interweave financial and carbon considerations when dreaming up a concept.

The consensus was that architects prefer to talk about concepts rather than numbers, but that data is becoming increasingly important.

A final question thrown to the panel was: how do we truly value embodied carbon in an existing building?

Mette Lindberg, CEO of the UIA World Congress of Architects 2023 said that she hoped that a decade from now, participants of the congress will reflect on how this event in Copenhagen became the catalyst for redefining their practices: “Our mission is to encourage the built environment to discover new ways to design and build what is not only environmentally sustainable, but also socially sustainable. It’s about redefining the paradigm and building a future where the planetarian boundaries, inclusivity and biodiversity are at the core of every project”.

At the event’s closing ceremony, Natalie Mossin, President of Congress ended by saying: “Sustainable development goals define a crucial global agenda, which the built environment must contribute to. How we act on this must be bold – even radical, compared with current practice”.