Correlation of Affect, Verbal Commitment, Knowledge, Locus of Control and Attitude to Environmentally Responsible Behavior in Designers of the Built Environment: Is Knowledge Enough?

Article excerpt


The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that buildings are responsible for nearly half (48%) of all greenhouse gas emissions annually. Seventy-six percent of all electricity generated by US power plants goes to supply the building sector. Edward Mazria, architect, environmentalist, and founder of Architecture 2030, a non-profit organization dedicated to research and providing innovative solutions in architecture and planning to address global climate change, said, "We know from our research that the building industry is the largest energy-consuming and greenhouse gas emitting sector; close to double any other sector, it's important for us to understand that we (architects and designers) are a large part of the problem, but we are also a large part of the solution." (1)

It has been nearly four decades since the state of the natural environment began being framed as a "problem"--something of negative consequence requiring a solution. Today, we see the escalation of what was once defined as a problem, now being referred to as a global environmental crisis. Much has been done, but there is still much to do to reduce the human impact on the environment.

Technology, population growth, and increasing consumption have all been identified as the root causes for the deterioration of the natural environment. There is an increasingly desperate need for both human response and human action to initiate the necessary changes to stop the escalating damage set in motion by the behaviors of the human race.

In the early seventies, psychologists, social scientists, educators and other researchers began efforts to clearly define the problem of poor human response and, hence, initiate studies to unlock the mystery of human disregard. Some of these researchers have framed the problem of poor human response and environmental irresponsibility as caused by simple lack of knowledge. (2) Still others have offered theories which look at the cause as attitude-based (3) or grounded in values and beliefs systems. (4)

The research conducted in this study used, as a basis, the results of past research on the characteristics of individuals found to be correlated with environmentally responsible behavior. However, this research focused on a population of individuals who have a significant potential for dramatic change in the current state of environmental crisis. These individuals are the designers and planners of the built environment (i.e., architects, designers, and engineers, herein simply referred to as designers.) These professionals have a great deal of influence on the degree to which the building industry impacts the natural environment. Designers specify building materials and processes that can and do contribute to the destruction of the natural environment by pollution and depletion of nonrenewable natural resources.

Even though there is overwhelming evidence that environmentally responsible design and building practices can have a dramatic impact on a variety of local, regional, and global environmental problems, many design professionals are still failing to adopt practices that could significantly improve environmental conditions at all levels.

Based on past research, several factors have been identified that might explain this resistance to adopt environmentally responsible behaviors. This research has attempted to determine which of these factors are most closely correlated with environmentally responsible behaviors. When we know which of these factors have the greatest influence on ERB, education and training programs can be created to influence designers to employ such behaviors in their professional practices.

Summary of Past Research

Maloney and Ward, in 1973, and again in 1975 (5), attempted to conceptualize the problem of environmental irresponsibility as one of maladaptive behavior and proposed that it was purely a problem that could be treated psychologically. …