UN pushes for radical sustainable building action

UN pushes for radical sustainable building action

The United Nations is pushing for a rapid drive to make the world’s buildings sustainable – aided by an international coalition centred in the Wexford town of Enniscorthy.

(above l-r) Pictured are signatories including (top row) Passive House Massachusetts president Hank Keating; A2M founder Sebastian Moreno-Vacca; AECB CEO Andy Simmonds; River Clyde Homes director Richard Orr; Passive House Pennsylvania director Dave Parker (representing Passive House Network); Building Energy Exchange executive director Richard Yancey; (bottom row) passivhausMaine executive director Naomi Beal; Enniscorthy Forum CEO Barbara-Anne Murphy; Passive House for Everyone! co-founder In Cho; and Passive House Institute head of training Susanne Winkel.

This article was originally published in issue 45 of Passive House Plus magazine. Want immediate access to all back issues and exclusive extra content? Click here to subscribe for as little as €15, or click here to receive the next issue free of charge

The Enniscorthy Forum has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on a broad collaboration to accelerate the global transition to decarbonised, high performance buildings – including the UN’s Buildings Breakthrough target of making “near zero-emission and resilient buildings the new normal by 2030.”

Founded to support the UN sustainable development agenda, the forum has launched a global network, the Buildings Action Coalition (BAC), with a membership comprising community-centric organisations, global industry players, and academia – and set to include Zero Ambitions Partners, a new sustainability communications and strategy consultancy co-founded by Passive House Plus editor Jeff Colley.

The MoU between the Enniscorthy Forum and UNEP was announced at a major ministerial summit hosted by the forum on 27-29 June in Enniscorthy. The MoU includes a collaboration with UNEP’s Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) on the Buildings Breakthrough target. Led by the French and Moroccan governments, 16 countries have signed up to date.

Mark Radka, chief of the energy and climate branch of UNEP, said: “We are delighted with our newly formalised relationship with the Enniscorthy Forum and look forward to a strong and enduring partnership that helps raise the performance of buildings and the built environment on a global scale. Experts from Ireland helped initiate the UN’s High Performance Buildings Initiative and this prompted creation of the Enniscorthy Forum. UNEP values and appreciates the Irish government's support for the Enniscorthy Forum and the activities of its Buildings Action Coalition.”

The Enniscorthy Forum is supported by the Irish government and the summit was attended by senior industry figures, government officials, community-based organisations, and leading academics from around the world. Participants called on the Irish government to endorse the Buildings Breakthrough target, and the initiative has been placed on the government’s agenda for review and consideration.

Speaking at the event, Yves-Laurent Sapoval, senior advisor to the director general of planning, housing and nature at the French ministry of ecological transition, affirmed support for the initiative: “We consider improving the performance of buildings and the built environment to be imperative if we are to achieve the objectives set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement, and we look forward to working with the Enniscorthy Forum to accelerate achievement of tangible progress through the GlobalABC towards the Buildings Breakthrough target.”

The Passive House Institute was among a number of organisations from either side of the Atlantic which formally joined the coalition to coincide with the summit, alongside Building Energy Exchange, Building Innovation Hub, Built Environment - Smarter Transformation, Onion Flats, Passive House Canada, passivhausMaine, Passive House Network, River Clyde Homes, and South West College. Meanwhile, the Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB), The Energy Coalition, Passive House for Everyone, Passive House Massachusetts, A2M, and Zero Ambitions Partners signed letters of intent to join the BAC.

The BAC aims to advance the cause of high-performance building and a more sustainable built environment, and accelerate tangible action on decarbonisation and improving quality of life everywhere, by developing a pan-continental forum to share the experience and expertise from some of the world’s foremost experts in the field. The BAC’s knowledge-sharing and anti-gatekeeping ethos is being driven by its coalition partners. By promoting and demonstrating the transformative benefits of high-performance buildings it is pushing for a quicker adoption of best practice methods in planning, design and construction across the world.

Zero Ambitions Partners co-founder Jeff Colley and Enniscorthy Forum CEO Barbara- Anne Murphy signed the letter of intent in a ceremony at Enniscorthy Castle on the occasion of the summit.

“We recognise the potential for the Buildings Action Coalition to make a major contribution to raising the performance of the world’s buildings and the built environment,” said Colley.

“There is real substance in the coalition’s approach. Strong engagement with the UN sends out a significant positive signal, but the focus on engagement with grass-roots organisations will make a real difference. “We’re excited to join the coalition to offer our help in raising awareness, recruiting, setting priorities for strategic communications, and assembling the required resources.” Enniscorthy Forum CEO Barbara-Anne Murphy said: “We look forward to welcoming Zero Ambitions Partners to the coalition. They are extremely effective at outreach and information sharing, which is precisely the kind of support this initiative needs now.

“We have a significant programme underway to mobilise resources and disseminate knowledge, experience and best practices to transition towards high performance building. Given their competence in strategic communications, Zero Ambitions Partners will have an important role to play.”

Scott Foster, an adviser to the Enniscorthy Forum and former director of the Sustainable Energy Division of the UN in Geneva, said: “Improving the performance of buildings and the built environment is the one action that can deliver integrated solutions at scale in a timely fashion to produce tangible outcomes on economic, social, and environmental resilience, quality of life, and climate, among other desirable outcomes, and in the process advance employment, innovation, and investment.

“This launch is an exciting development for the Enniscorthy Forum and is proof that small local organisations can achieve big things with the right support, the right partners and the right vision. The Buildings Action Coalition has far-reaching ambitions to help transform the built environment worldwide.”

For further information visit www.enniscorthyforum.org


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AECB (Association for Environment Conscious Building) is a network of individuals & companies with a common aim of promoting sustainable building.