Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Sustainable Design': Hot Topic for Architects

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Sustainable Design': Hot Topic for Architects

Article excerpt

`DO no harm to the environment; heal the earth," is a sort of Hippocratic oath that Donald Watson, dean of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's School of Architecture in Troy, N.Y., would like architects to take. He says "renew and sustain" should become their motto.

A panel of seven architects and teachers discussed "Sustainable Design: A Planetary Approach" at the American Institute of Architects' annual meeting here.

Jestena Boughton, a landscape-architecture instructor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her students came up with buzzwords to capsulize the growing philosophy of environmentally sound design: reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink, redesign, restore, recreate, redevelop, rehabilitate.

The panelists urged that architects pay greater heed to environmental issues - energy conservation, global warming, resource conservation, "green" building, and the consequences of third-world development. They also encouraged architects to build in a way that would reduce the drain on the earth's natural resources.

Judith Chafee, adjunct professor at the University of Arizona's College of Architecture in Tucson, Ariz., offered a presentation that included slides of beautiful homes in the desert Southwest.

Plans for these houses and communities in Arizona use irrigation water in canals to cool them at nighttime. The houses can then be left closed during the day, and they remain cool, reducing air-conditioning costs.

Ms. Boughton showed how sustainable systems can be used for landscape architecture that protects and enhances the natural environment. One of her examples was a former Navy asphalt yard in Seattle. The asphalt paving was removed and replaced with grasslands, enabling native birds to return. Not only was the natural environment restored, but the quality of the space was improved for the people who work there.

To manage resources effectively, the panelists said, architects must be able to communicate with everyone involved in the design and building process, and with people involved in managing natural resources around the world.

Pliny Fisk III, co-director of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, Inc., has developed a project to show connecting relationships between resource and resource by-product use. This project was billed as the only program to receive recognition at the 1992 Earth Summit for local-government initiatives. …

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