Understanding Sustainable Architecture

Understanding Sustainable Architecture

Understanding Sustainable Architecture

Understanding Sustainable Architecture


Understanding Sustainable Architecture is a review of the assumptions, beliefs, goals and bodies of knowledge that underlie the endeavour to design (more) sustainable buildings and other built developments. Much of the available advice and rhetoric about sustainable architecture begins from positions where important ethical, cultural and conceptual issues are simply assumed. If sustainable architecture is to be a truly meaningful pursuit then it must be grounded in a coherent theoretical framework. This book sets out to provide that framework. Through a series of self-reflective questions for designers, the authors argue the ultimate importance of reasoned argument in ecological, social and built contexts, including clarity in the problem framing and linking this framing to demonstrably effective actions. Sustainable architecture, then, is seen as a revised conceptualisation of architecture in response to a myriad of contemporary concerns about the effects of human activity. The aim of this book is to be transformative by promoting understanding and discussion of commonly ignored assumptions behind the search for a more environmentally sustainable approach to development. It is argued that design decisions must be based on both an ethical position and a coherent understanding of the objectives and systems involved. The actions of individual designers and appropriate broader policy settings both follow from this understanding.


Towards the end of the twentieth century the word sustainable (and sustainability) entered into the consciousness of architects and became an essential concern in the discourse of architecture.

Our decision to write this book stemmed from two sources: research on how architects conceptualized sustainability in the design of houses, and the teaching of a course called Issues in Urban and Landscape Sustainability to students of architecture and landscape architecture. in both cases we found that although there is much written about the urgency of taking sustainability seriously, and much advice about building techniques to adopt, there was little which addressed the interrelated issues of the sociocultural, ethical, professional and technological complexities of 'sustainable architecture'. the following chapters record our understanding of these complexities. They are relatively self-contained, so that each chapter can be read alone.

Sustainable architecture is a revised conceptualization of architecture in response to a myriad of contemporary concerns about the effects of human activity. in this book we review the assumptions, beliefs, goals, processes and knowledge sources that underlie the endeavour to design buildings that address sustainability in environmental, sociocultural, and economic terms. Rather than providing 'how to' building advice or critically reviewing existing projects that claim to be examples of sustainable architecture, we aim to bring to the forefront some components of the milieu in which other books that do address these topics are positioned. We argue that the design of sustainable architecture must be grounded in an inclusive view of the scope of sustainability in each situation, and without such an approach attempts to use available published advice may in many ways be counterproductive.

In the core chapters of the book we address approaches to architectural sustainability. First, we consider the ways that sustainability is conceptualized in architecture. We then turn to questions about the ethical or moral bases of our decision-making and different perceptions of stakeholders, from anthropocentric 'human rights' or 'consequentialist' positions to a 'deep ecology' position in which humans have no more rights than other stakeholders in our planet. We suggest that sustainable architecture is most likely to result from the inclination of architects to perform beautiful acts. How this might be brought about leads to

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