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  • Writer's picturePete Ward

An Anonymous Degrowth Manifesto for Architecture

Degrowth is a divisive topic. It is also inevitable given the finite resources of the planet and the rate at which we are burning through them. Faced with this inconvenient truth, it is better we design our way out of our current system than wait for its inevitable collapse. Aware of the potential response to the declaration of such perceivably idealistic, radical, and revolutionary demands on the current mode of operation, it is no wonder the author chose to make it anonymous. However, it not only serves as a guide for the urgency of action, but is indicative of the growing frustration of those with awareness and deep concern of the path we are on.


1. We refuse to accept the dominant response of the AEC [architecture, engineering, construction] industry to urgent environmental and human rights injustices, which we see as inadequate, accommodationist, diversionary, and, in some cases, opportunistic.

2. (This is inclusive of Canon VI of the AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, "Obligations to the Environment.") The AIA is the American Institute of Architects, which has a code of ethics for architects.

3. We believe current governmental regulations and industry standards constitute insufficient ethical guidelines for architects as they pertain to climate and the exploitation of workers worldwide.

4. As it relies, at its base, upon global extraction and exploitation, we refuse to advocate for the growth of, or expansion of, the design and construction industry in its present dominant form.

5. In light of impending climate catastrophe, we refuse to recommend the use of energy, contribution of emissions, or extraction of raw materials by the building industry for any reason unless it is absolutely necessary, and demonstrably will benefit the public ...

6. ( ... in accordance with AIA ethics oath to "enhance and facilitate human dignity and health safety and welfare.") The determination of what is necessary varies between core and periphery economies.

7. We pledge to recommend the most minimal architectural interventions only, and to discourage clients from building at all whenever possible.

8. We refuse to participate in projects that benefit from the transfer of costs from present generations to future generations, from core economies to periphery economies, or from private actors to the public commons...

9. ... This is nonnegotiable, irrespective of clients' goals. ( ... in accordance with AIA ethics oath to "enhance and facilitate human dignity and health safety and welfare.")

10. We refuse to work on projects we consider unnecessary or undesirable.

11. We refuse to call for the demolition of buildings without a complete accounting of the full lifecycle decommissioning of assemblies and materials.

12. We demand clients adopt ethical climate and fair labor practices.

13. We refuse to specify or approve any product, material, or assembly having improper, unknown, or incomplete labor and emissions provenance...

14. We will not accept the status quo in this regard, even in anticipation of promised future technological fixes such as supply chain tracking, improved product declaration oversight, or satellite surveillance.

15. We refuse to assume responsibility for convincing clients to voluntarily adopt principles of ethical procurement. We refuse to bear the burden of responsibility for curating sustainable and fair trade materials, products, and assemblies...

16.  We refuse to contribute to the framing of these as voluntary, ethical, or aesthetic options.

17. We refuse to assume responsibility for convincing clients to adopt principles of ethical procurement in the interest of "good business" or that it may prove advantageous in their marketing, or that it may "advance the building industry"...

18. We simply refuse to specify products which cannot demonstrably be proven to be free of forced labor or environmental criminality embedded in their supply chain.

19. We refuse to act as moral repositories for, or arbiters of, the moral choices of clients. We refuse to provide free emotional work, or sell indulgences.

20. We refuse to trust, or participate in, voluntary commitments by industry to gradually "phase out" carbon emissions or human rights abuses in the AEC supply chain, or to rely on the power of international organizations or governmental regulatory bodies to compel industry to do so.

21. We refuse to patronize the professional accreditation industry which minimizes, obfuscates, and exploits the urgent threats of climate degradation, unfair labor practices, and public health in the guise of professional development.

22. We refuse to serve as "emissions accountants" for clients. We refuse to obfuscate the urgency of climate destruction in an avalanche of questionable metrics and technical minutia [sic].

23. We refuse to rely on metrics such as building lifecycle analysis (LCA) which we consider a grossly inadequate and diversionary response by the design and construction industry to the climate emergency.

24. We advocate for ethical climate and fair labor practices in their own right and refuse to justify them on the basis of stimulating commerce or otherwise returning value to an owner, or creating jobs.

25. We refuse to market our work, or our clients' projects as sustainable, green, or zero-carbon. Zero carbon does not exist. It is a misleading marketing ploy.


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