Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Constructing Green: The Social Structures of Sustainability

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Constructing Green: The Social Structures of Sustainability

Article excerpt

Henn, Rebecca L. & Hoffman, Andrew J. (Eds). Constructing Green: The Social Structures of Sustainability. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013. 368 pp. ISBN: 9780262519625 US$ 27.00, paperback, illustrated.

Think about 50-year-old car engines. Only a few of them still exist and their use is improbable if not for motor shows or other eccentric exhibitions because of their low efficiency, smoky wastes and costs. In the 1970s, car producers turned their attention to more efficient engines when the energy crisis compelled them to replace older models and adopt continuous technical enhancement practices.

Now think of a 50-year-old building, including all the boilers, pipes, and power devices it contains. Although efficiency has largely improved in construction technologies, 50 years are not so many to dismiss or entirely refurbish houses; thus, their continued inefficient use is regrettably certain. Consequently, residential and commercial buildings are now the major energy consumers in the industrialized world, employing forty percent of available power for heating, cooling, lighting, and household appliances of their inhabitants.

There is space to further efficiency implementation in construction, but the editors of the book Constructing Green warn that technological and financial benefits are not enough to make buildings sustainable. Contributors to this collection properly consider economics and technology in terms of first costs savings, reduced operating charges, and health and productivity benefits, including surveys of convenient market structures. Rebecca L. Henn (Assistant Professor of Architecture, Pennsylvania State University) and Andrew J. Hoffman (Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan), however, look beyond the technological and material aspects of ecological construction, focusing instead on the cultural, social, and structural changes required by sustainable building. Technical and economic aspects are essentials - they admit - but cannot grant for energy and nature saving. What is required is a new attitude of building that is inclusive of social and cultural dimensions. Otherwise, energy gains from efficient tools only result in rebound effects so that instead of decreasing, consumption simply shifts towards new, varied uses.

Essays in the collection share awareness of the harm built sites create for the natural and social environments and scrutinize the experimental contest that green building represents, recuperating in some cases, or leaving behind more usually, centurieslong traditions in architectural design. …

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