The Australian Institute of Architects has summoned the construction of mandatory net-zero-emissions structures in the widescale reconstruction effort underway in the wake of the traumatic 2019-20 bushfire season.

In a report to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (also called the Bushfires Royal Commission), the Institute stated that climate change is a chief factor leading to the disruption of humanistic societies through extreme weather occurrences and natural disasters. The impact of these events are likely to get worse in the future; therefore, immediate action must be taken to lessen greenhouse gas emissions to limit the seriousness of climate change and to prepare for the onset of a more hostile climate.

The report also specified that the process of reconstruction offers the chance to decrease vulnerability to future natural disasters and to enhance community resilience in physical, societal, environmental and financial terms.

The report concludes that in the future, the manner in which we live and plan our communities and handle our housing situation will play a vital role in how we manage tomorrow’s natural disasters.

The report ultimately demands action that will shift the manner in which we navigate the design and maintenance of the built environment, with a constant eye to the continual improvement of building efficiency by way of design, progressing toward the achievement of a built environment that enhances natural systems and alleviates the impact of natural disasters.

The Institute put forth 24 recommendations to the royal commission, including the idea that the Australian government could sponsor reconstruction projects in the wake of natural disasters and as stimulus in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic—with the ultimate goal of achieving net-zero emissions.

The Institute also advised that government initiatives should empower citizens to upgrade the energy efficiency of their houses and enhance infrastructure and housing in remote cities in particular.

Other recommendations advised that building industry professionals should be encouraged to design sustainable buildings that take into consideration impacts of extreme weather events and whose designs respond to regional conditions and supply local solutions, and that the National Construction Code should be altered to guarantee that energy efficiency is balanced with an essential need for heat-resistant designs.

The Institute also promoted a “build back better” approach to reconstruction in the wake of natural disasters, which would entail the building of fire-resistant, resilient, sustainable and climate responsive residences.

At outlying, at-risk settlements, the Institute advised that remote locations with a single access point, enshrouded by bush without infrastructure or potential fire break should be deemed unsuitable as rebuilding sites.

The Bushfires Royal Commission was instituted by the federal government in the wake of the 2019-20 bushfire season. The Institute’s submission intends to spotlight the vital critical role of built environment professionals in enhancing the resilience and adaptation of Australian society in morphing climate conditions. The royal commission will deliver its final report at the end of August 2020.