By mid 2007 when the first carbon credits began trading on TradeMe it was clear there were going to be problems. Meridian was selling credits representing a theoretical reduction in potential carbon emissions rather than any actual reduction in carbon emissions. Nothing changed and there was money to be made.
The current situation
There was a time when we just had building. Now we have a building industry. There was a time when everyone was involved with building and it was a cultural tradition for everyone in New Zealand to build their own house, cook their own meals and grow most of their own food. The traditional New Zealand bach had much more than a small and joyful carbon footprint. It also created a surplus. The bach was a spiritual journey rather than a consumer object. There was joy and laughter, sharing and community. Experience of place was more important than architectural awards. This egalitarian architectural democracy has now gone as people have been disempowered. Councils and developers now control the built-environment, with money and profit as the sole driving forces. This new built-environment consumerism is consuming the life of the planet. Profit-driven consumer architecture has an enormous carbon footprint, and triple glazing or insulation only makes it worse.
Vision for 2020
Building is a verb not a noun. Building is a process and by 2020 the whole community could once again be involved in that process, creating with love, giving form to whakapapa, and telling stories. Architectural democracy could replace architectural dictatorship. Environmentally responsible urban design could make it possible for any cell of the city to be gently and seamlessly renewed. Cities and buildings could once again become living entities contributing in a positive way to the life of the planet. Buildings could enhance our relationship to place. Buildings could embrace nature and become timeless. Rather than being just carbon-neutral the new built environment could make everyone fitter, healthier and more alive.
Strategies to achieve vision
As a first move everyone involved with building needs to take an oath to sustain the life of the planet and to do no harm. This new ethic would then support healthy architecture rather than fast architecture. It would support and encourage owner-building. Everyone could then build less while at the same time having a lot more fun. Getting it right the first time around would mean that buildings would not need to be demolished, and this long-life built environment could make a carbon-neutral life-style possible through eliminating travel demands. To ensure that everyone has the skill, knowledge and understanding necessary for this built-form democracy to happen architecture and building would need to be integrated into the secondary school curriculum.