Every designer knows what a sh%t show is. It is that project that takes on a life of its own. You aren’t sure who is really driving the process. Ambiguity and complexity work in unison to thwart the design and to cloud the project’s original intent. Sh%tshows sometimes result in a beautiful building that defies logic. However, more often than not, the final result is representative of its procedural qualifier.
Climate change is already turning cities, buildings and landscapes into sh%tshows. Even the best-designed projects are thwarted by the environmental and social complexities inherent in climate change impacts. This isn’t because of a lack of development in the techniques and technologies shaping adaptation and resilience designs. As it turns out, we are doing a pretty good job at that.
Professional societies are mobilising education platforms and design schools, and specialised firms are regularly advancing research to support generalisable and replicable practices. The more fundamental challenge of climate change is grounded in considerations relating to professional ethics and legal liability.
Climate change challenges the conventions of who one is really designing for. While this line of thought has paralleled other progressive causes (eg 99 per cent), it now has legal and ethical consequences that are immediate and universal. Of course, there is nothing “progressive” about climate change. Its manifestation is now universally understood as a fact.
Climate change is already turning cities, buildings and landscapes into sh%tshows
In high-exposure areas, the standard of care for determining a designer’s negligence will be governed by increasingly elevated local standards that incorporate resilience and adaptation techniques, in everything from structural design to material selection in historic retrofits.
Through contract, this liability may begin to extend not just to clients, but to other users within the useful life of the project. But these legal developments – as boring as they may sound – pale in comparison to the ethical challenges facing designers.