Patrik Magnusson and Oskar Tagesson, what's up?

Published 2019-07-05

The issue on everyone's lips: How will the emission heavy construction industry manage to move towards a more sustainable future? Semrén & Månsson's annual Sustainability Week is launching, and we give the floor to two who themselves have turned words into actions: architects Patrik Magnusson and Oskar Tagesson.

You are both active in Semrén & Månsson's quality and sustainability work. Tell us a bit about that!

Patrik: I'm in charge of the company's quality and environmental management system, meaning our overall work with quality assurance and environmental matters, while the company's sustainability group, which Oskar is part of, are working more hands-on with sustainability. 

Oskar: We're also working closely together with these questions, and are both driving forces in the company's - and industry's - transition to sustainable and fossil-free alternatives. For instance, we've jointly developed a sustainability analysis based on the UN's global goals for sustainable development, which now becomes part of the quality assurance of each project. In the sustainability group, we pursue interoperability matters such as the membership in Fossil Free Sweden and Sweden Green Building Council, as well as organise vocational training activities in the office, like the annual Sustainability Week that starts today. 

So what's going on during the Sustainability Week? 

Oskar: This week, we are engaging the entire office in the sustainability questions, and our agenda will overtake some of the internal routines, like studio meetings and Infood (the internal lunch seminars). This year we'll learn more about nudging for sustainable choices, and we're also hosting Sweden Green Building Councils general assembly with the theme "Time for transition - but how". 

The awareness of climate concern has increased rapidly. Still, many might feel frustrated that 'nothing is changing' in the construction industry specifically. What do you believe it takes to make more companies take the leap and invest? 

Oskar: I think a crucial determinant is political instruments, like Boverket's climate declarations that have been initiated to calculate CO2 equivalents per square meter built. There also needs to be a financial incentive to build in a sustainable way. That is something us architects can argue by demonstrating the advantages and explaining the relationship between initial cost and long-term value. Since we are building on our own behalf, we can set an example while learning about the reality of the developer. 

Patrik: You also shouldn't underestimate the power of the consumer when it comes to creating incentives for sustainable construction. It’s already clear that offices with an environmental certification are rented out in no time, while newly produced offices without an environmental profile run the risk of not being occupied. There are also attempts being made with so-called green loans, where banks are issuing loans with an attractive interest to those who choose to buy an environmentally certified resident.  

And what can and should you do on a personal level?

Oskar: For someone who's come pretty far in their own transition, I focus a lot on inspiring others to follow. For example, suggesting recreational activities that are entertaining and climate-smart, like taking the train to go hiking instead of flying to a major city for a weekend of shopping. You can also use apps like Svalna and Klimatkollen to find out the carbon footprint you leave, which can motivate change.  

Patrik: Once you are aware of the problem, it might seem as if the process of change in society as a whole is slow. One way to speed things up is networking, both privately and in the workplace or industry. Oskar is, for instance, an active member in the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, and we are both active in the movement #ArchitectsForFuture. Strength in numbers makes it easier to reach out and influence decision-makers. On a private level, I've made changes little by little; revised my diet, my travelling and my saving. It hasn't happened overnight - but the most important thing is to start somewhere.