What Green Architecture Really Means

Architect David Cook looks at the sustainability craze in building and architecture and warns that calling something "green" doesn't necessarily make it so.

"Increasingly misused in architecture, the term sustainability is in danger of becoming a mere label. In man's relatively short occupation of the Earth, we have succeeded in acutely threatening its future and our habitat. However, we now appear to be gaining a common understanding of the urgency of these matters. Perhaps, for whatever reason, we have finally reached a "tipping point," where we cannot remain in denial. For us sustainability is less a political issue than a humanistic issue; for qualities are just as important as quantities and a "sustainable," or indeed "green," architecture must not solely focus on environmental constraints or pre-defined performance criteria, but also celebrate the wealth and diversity of nature.

Buildings can only be spoken of in sustainable terms if they suit their purpose and are efficient to operate. Otherwise they consume unnecessary resources, are a burden to the owners and risk premature replacement. The process of design requires the consideration of the whole life cycle cost of a building, both in terms of economics and environmental impact; for buildings with a design life of 60 years, the cost of ownership and operation actually far exceeds the cost of construction. Therefore the design approach for any new construction should seek to maximize the efficiency of the building fabric in order to conserve resources in future operation. For us, sustainability in architecture is really about acknowledging the diversity of patterns of use and promoting the wide range of quite subtle, often conflicting, qualities in our built environment. In each project we seek to adopt design strategies which recognize that the building's occupants and their response to their immediate environment as an integral part of these systems."

Full Story: Exclusive: David Cook — No, Not the American Idol — Explains What Green Architecture Really Means

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