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Will Sustainable Development 'Shake Up' Architecture?

<p>In an interview with French architect Françoise-Hélène Jourda, the newspaper <em>Le Monde</em> asks about sustainable development and the future of architecture.</p>
October 4, 2007, 2pm PDT | Michael Dudley
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"How to promote 'green' architecture? During the environment "Grenelle," [French] Ecology and Sustainable Planning and Development Minister Jean-Louis Borloo consulted architect Françoise-Hélène Jourda. At 52, this figure of French architecture is one of the Hexagon's few specialists in ecological construction. She has just completed a botanical museum in Bordeaux equipped with photovoltaic greenhouses and is about to start construction in December on an office building in Saint-Denis that should become France's first passive energy building.

What is "sustainable architecture?"

The expression doesn't really mean much. I prefer responsible architecture. That implies responding to present needs without harming future generations' ability to respond to their needs. To do that, one must preserve the means available to them. We have been irresponsible for a very long time.

What does that imply so far as construction materials are concerned?

Good management of five resources: the soil, materials themselves, water, air and energy. One must use the least land possible, increasing the density of and satisfaction to be derived from existing infrastructures. Renewable, recoverable and recyclable materials should be favored. Water needs must be minimized: Use rain. Don't pollute the air outside with waste like that from air conditioners. Finally, there comes the energy question, the most complex one.


The energy consumed by the building and its maintenance must be limited, through insulation and by producing complementary and renewable energies, solar especially. But one must also take into account what is called "gray" energy, consumed by the materials themselves from their production up to their treatment after use. Wood has very minor gray energy; aluminum is very bad. Concrete comes somewhere between the two, but it is not recyclable, which is a big handicap.

Is responsible construction changing the face of architecture?

Sustainable development is going to shake up architectural composition as much as the industrial revolution did. We can no longer refer to the same aesthetic. Buildings will have to be more compact, but it's up to us to assure that that compactness becomes beautiful. Many buffer spaces will have to be created. Buildings will also be less widely glassed-in. In short, exactly the opposite of the offices shooting up in Paris's new neighborhoods! Many architects are going to have to stop contemplating their navels and produce new forms."

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Published on Tuesday, October 2, 2007 in Truthout
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