News Brief

‘Architects Declare’ Pairs Climate Commitments with Social Justice

More than 150 U.S architecture firms have signed on to fight a triple threat: climate, biodiversity, and justice emergencies.

The logo of the Architects Declare movement

Architects Declare focuses on “meeting the needs of our society without breaching the earth's ecological boundaries." 

Image: Architects Declare
A movement started in the United Kingdom called Architects Declare is now spreading globally and has picked up steam in the U.S. In addition to biodiversity and climate, the U.S. chapter has added justice to the list of issues it’s declaring as emergencies and hoping to address.

Architecture firms are asked to recognize the “interlinked crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and societal inequity” and commit to several actions, including:

  • performing life-cycle costing, whole-life carbon modeling, and post-occupancy evaluation within their basic scope of work
  • upgrading existing buildings rather than building new whenever viable
  • employing just labor practices and ensuring that all climate mitigation and adaptation efforts address the needs of disadvantaged people

U.S. Architects Declare currently has 161 signatories.

Stephanie Carlisle, one of the steering committee members for the U.S. chapter of Architects Declare and principal at KieranTimberlake, told BuildingGreen that what separates this initiative from others is that it seeks to be “radically accessible.”

“There are a lot of architects that are really interested in climate but don’t currently operate in the very technical spaces occupied by the Architecture 2030 or Design Data Exchange (DDx),” said Carlisle. Architects Declare wants all types of architects to be able to participate—including solo practitioners, residential architects, and architects focused on public housing.

Architects Declare also plans to organize several working groups, the structure of which will intentionally remain welcoming and non-hierarchical. “These will be open to anyone who wants to join,” said Carlisle. “Younger people, older people, anyone who is currently being left out of the conversation. We want radical, systemic change so we need to focus on how we can pursue a different practice of architecture.” The fact that this organization is so new offers space to tackle social justice in a way that older institutions might struggle with, according to Carlisle. 

Firms can become signatories on the Architects Declare website.

Published August 3, 2020

Pearson, C. (2020, July 27). ‘Architects Declare’ Pairs Climate Commitments with Social Justice. Retrieved from

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August 19, 2020 - 12:24 pm

Glad to see this picking up steam in the U.S. and glad to see reuse of existing buildings called out as a climate strategy. It is also a community, equity and justce strategy. I would like to see even more explict connections drawn between the climate crisis and the justice and equity crisis. I encourage architects to expand and deepen their committment to address  disproportionate impacts on disadvantaged communities, to go beyond Just hiring practices and address impacts on the communities served.  Ask yourself, your clients and your community these questions:  Who benefits and who is harmed by this project? Who hasn't been heard? Who get's to make the decisons about what gets built? How does/can this project make the community more resilient and equitable. Listen to the answers (particularly from the community) and respond with creativity, compassion and resolve.

August 19, 2020 - 1:55 pm

Thanks Larry, good point that there's a real opportunity for creativity and leadership here. I especially appreciate the sampling of questions you provided.  

February 19, 2021 - 5:22 pm

Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) withdrew from the UK branch of Architects Declare last fall, amid pressure from other signatories. 

First, Foster + Partners was called out by the Architects Climate Action Network for working on large-scale airport projects--a carbon intense industry. The Architects Declare steering committee then released a statement not naming Foster + Partners but saying, “We have a principle of not naming and shaming our colleagues in the industry,” the steering group said in a recent statement. “However, we believe that it is a success of this movement that the media and signatories are holding each other to account and pushing each other to do better.” Doubling down, Lord Foster released a statement saying, “We believe that the hallmark of our age, and the future of our globally connected world, is mobility,” and then quit the group, according to the Guardian

ZHA withdrew after the Architects Declare Steering Committee specifically challenged Patrik Schumacher's statement warning against ‘those voices who are too quick to demand radical changes’ and the need for 'continuous growth.' 

Architects Declare has since said that it "regrets not having sought further dialogue with ZHA before suggesting that they withdraw from the declaration" and "would like to encourage both Foster + Partners and ZHA to consider signing the declaration again soon."