As designers we should understand the consequences of our actions on the future. Often it can be difficult to visualise the lifespan of our work in relation to climate change, the materials and our own lives. This diagram started from one of many conversations with Apparata in preparation for the Architecture Foundations 100 Day Studio presentation.

Making this, highlights just how little time we have to design and build something that will be around for the next 60 to 100 years, or even longer. Those practicing or studying now, will likely live through the time we have to limit climate change and live in the world we have created.

It made me ask, who actually cares for the buildings that we make? That it will change owners, it may have many tenants, it will no longer be the responsibility of those who designed and built it and policy will change many times to tell us if it is a good building. On the smaller timescale of the climate emergency, home ownership in the UK is within the time we have to make change, so at least they need to care about reducing the buildings impact.

Looking backwards, I hadn’t appreciated just how different the time taken for materials to form is. Some have been created over millions or billions of years, while others grow in the same time that we’ve understood climate change.

It is hard to predict how long a material will last, if left uncared and unmaintained it is only a few hundred years. Some buildings have lasted over 6,000 years due to care or sheer force of will and I wonder how many of mine might last. One of the most striking things you can see is that carbon emitted now, will be in the atmosphere for the next 300 to 1,000 years. Longer than all the discarded materials and long after the 100 year life of the building they were released for.