Among the experts expected to participate in the charter’s creation is Karan Grover, an internationally acclaimed Indian architect who has been called the greenest architect in the world. The organizers hope to present the Birmingham Charter to the world during the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen in December of this year.
Plans to create the Birmingham Charter — which James Smith, CEO of Birmingham-based Green Building Focus, announced last week — are an outgrowth of discussions held in Birmingham in late July, when Smith’s firm staged the 2009 Green Building Focus Conference & Expo at the BJCC. Many of the experts involved in crafting the Birmingham Charter took part in that conference, including Grover and Charles Kibert, a professor at the University of Florida who helped coin the term “sustainable development.”
“The intent is that Karan and Charles will invite the most relevant and highly respected people to come to Birmingham for an intensive three-day summit,” Smith tells Birmingham Weekly. “They will create a framework [for the charter].” According to Smith, no venue has been chosen, though he said he expected to have that information soon.
The Birmingham Charter would replace the Athens Charter of 1933, which was created by European architects who, according to Smith, did not take sustainability into account and helped encourage the building of the typical modern city, with far-flung suburbs and transportation networks based on automobiles. “We are facing an imminent crisis,” Smith says. “If the cities of today cannot support their current populations, how they can support a billion more? There was an agreement that we need a new charter that defines the sustainable city of the future.”
Smith also mentioned another outgrowth of the July conference, a plan by the Birmingham chapter of the American Institute of Architects to create a set of sustainability guidelines for their profession called “the Birmingham Manifesto.”