Sustainability: Where are we?

Monday 12 Nov 2012

WAN asks author and architect Alan Ford AIA

We are delighted to announce that Alan Ford AIA from Denver, Colorado has joined our programme as a judge for our inaugural Sustainability category. Alan first came onto the WAN radar when his book, Designing the Sustainable School started flying off the shelves in 2007. Its success was almost certainly down to the fact that it was probably the first authoritative book to embrace the principles of sustainable design and apply them to a specific sector, delivering both theory and practice in one attractive package. Since then Alan has sat on our education awards, first in 2009 and then in 2011.

But nothing stands still and Alan is the first to admit that five years on, things have evolved. In an exclusive interview Alan points out: “Our definition of sustainability is continually evolving and it is getting more and more sophisticated in its use of technology and natural systems. Some of the more interesting trends that I am seeing are taking cues from nature, illustrated by the interest in biomimicry and the work of people such as Michael Pawlyn.”

In the area of sustainability more than most others, architects are increasingly having to work closely with other members of the project team. “Right here in Colorado we have a cross disciplinary team of architects, scientists and engineers studying the concept of a living wall applied to a high rise. The research is looking at a dynamic wall system with the aim of slashing energy consumption by 95% through the development of high tech walls that essentially breathe with the environment.”

Alan has listed below some guidelines that he believes are the cornerstones of sustainable design today.


Implemented strategies to minimise the ecological footprint of site development. That could include innovative methods for how water and waste are managed. In the past that has included the use of rain water harvesting, the use of indigenous plant material, the use of wetlands or dry wetlands for processing waste. In high rises with minimal site that has included the reuse of grey water for a variety of purposes, and creative approaches to how waste is processed on site and recycled etc…

Sustainable site strategies might also include restoration of the natural ecological system to a regenerative state.


The project demonstrates unique uses of technology or natural systems as a means of achieving sustainable outcomes.

The project establishes innovative (or benchmark) approaches to:

• Holistic thinking, architecture, site, technology, environment
• Achieving net-zero energy consumption
• The use of durable materials and systems technologies
• The implementation of sustainable strategies in the operations of the facility
• Utilisation of the building/site as a teaching tool for sustainability
• The project has made significant strides in meeting the 2030 Challenge
• Improved indoor/outdoor health for the occupants and the environment

Alan’s enthusiasm for this technology is boundless and in closing, he said of the ECOWAN Award programme: “This competition is a terrific opportunity to highlight where we are and where we might be headed with sustainability.”

Click here for more information about the Sustainable Building of the Year Award, part of the ECOWAN Award programme.

Michael Hammond
Editor in Chief at WAN

Key Facts:

Sustainable Buildings

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