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Develop low carbon design skills to prosper in architecture

The recession had a substantial impact on the architectural industry: activity ground to a halt and many firms cut staff numbers or closed down entirely. The market is slowly returning, but organisations are still under pressure to keep costs down to remain competitive.

At the same time, architectural firms must create more energy-efficient commercial and residential buildings to meet minimum energy ratings set out by building regulations. This is driving demand for architectural professionals with low carbon design skills, so while competition for jobs remains fierce, architects who have maintained their training and learnt new skills are more likely to find work.

According to RIBA, architects with low-carbon design skills have a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. Even without a qualification, those who have developed a good awareness of the issues around climate change and low carbon design are in a stronger position when discussing such issues with clients.

Gary Sheldrake of Hays Architecture, says, “Whilst having low carbon design skills is not something that is vital in today’s market, it will serve as another skill architects with it can display to potential employers. As the market picks up, it’s increasingly likely to become a key differentiator between the architect that does have the skills and one that doesn’t.

“Whilst we recognise that there is a greater focus on costs within organisations developing new buildings, there are still sustainability targets in place that buildings need to reach. As such, demand for architects with a strong understanding of this area is only likely to increase.”

The previous government set targets for new homes to be carbon neutral by 2016 and new non-commercial buildings to be carbon-neutral by 2019 / 2020. Architects with low-carbon design skills will have a significant role to play to achieve this, ensuring not only that the new buildings fulfil the emission targets set, but also that the methods and tools used are cost-effective.

Buildings that are being refurbished will also need the expertise of an architect with a good understanding of the challenges faced when having to take into account reducing carbon emissions whilst refitting an existing building.

“It’s likely that having low carbon design skills will become a standard requirement in the middle to long term for architectural professionals, so it’s worth putting time in now to pick up such vital skills for the future”, says Sheldrake.

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