Sustainability: Where are we going?

Monday 26 Nov 2012

How sustainability is going to change the architectural industry over the next few years

I think an issue that Sofie Pelsmakers brings up in her article is very interesting; the concept that all good architecture should be sustainable architecture. Until this thinking becomes the mainstream we will still need to have a sustainability award to highlight and communicate forward-thinking projects.

The opportunity when judging a project for a sustainability award must be the integration of a low environmental impact with the core design concept. As a profession we are facing a clear challenge; the reduction of resource consumption whilst meeting the demands of inevitable global growth. We do however have a significant advantage over previous generations of architects; that is our ability to gather and analyse data and our connection to an extensive communication network. The Sustainable Building of the Year Award can build on these advantages, providing a global snapshot which will act as an inspiration for all those working within the building industry.

It is this inspiration that can be the most effective tool to help us move forwards. ‘Sustainable’ as a description can sound at best dull and at worst negative; selling a future where we use less resources is very difficult. But if this is described as lowering your energy bills, reducing wasted water, improving your local ecology or using local materials and craftsmen, then potentially clear outcomes frame the concept in a much more positive light.

For example as Alan Ford has observed, biomimicry is one of the most interesting trends in sustainable design, and whilst it is clearly not the only strategy available, it is a great example of a positive vision of our future. Buildings such as Mick Pearce’s Eastgate Centre in Harare, based on the idea of a Termite Mound for climate control, have had a huge global impact in demonstrating how a strategic concept can follow through to an extremely successful development.

In the end without a vision a building cannot be delivered and as a profession it is our job to provide this.

Jerry Tate is the principal of Jerry Tate Architects and will be a judge for the inaugural WAN Sustainable Building of the Year Award. He has extensive experience delivering residential, arts, education, commercial and sustainability projects.

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