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A personal guide
Manuel Eduardo Gines Salazar
UNIVERSITY OF HUDDERSFIELD School of Art, Design and Architecture Department of Architecture and 3D Design TMA 1502 Dissertation
Sustainable architecture for the XXI century. A personal guide
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for Diploma Architecture by Manuel Eduardo Gines Salazar U0767153
The candidate confirms that the work submitted is their own and that appropriate credit has been given where reference has been made to the work of others. 14 December 2010 ii
Humankind has reached levels of consumption far beyond the Earth’s capacity. We are reaching the limits of survival. We need a change, but what kind of change. As architecture consumes around fifty per cent of non-renewable resources, architects have a great responsibility in inverting this process and promote a change. Sustainable architecture pretends to face this challenge. But what is really sustainable architecture? Do we architects practice sustainable principles? This dissertation reflects about how architects are coping with their responsibility, and on doing so I am also reflecting about my own responsibility.
Thanks to Silvia for her patience and help. Thanks to my mother for her support. Thanks to Vijey Taheem for his advice. Thanks to Eugenia Solis Umaña and Jose Ali Porras Salazar, from the School of Architecture of Universidad de Costa Rica, for offering me their vision of sustainable architecture and Costa Rica. To Diana Crew for her help with my English. To Costa Rican people for allowing me to know them and their country. Pura Vida!
Abstract ................................................................................................................................. iii Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................... iv Contents ................................................................................................................................. v List of Illustrations ............................................................................................................... vii
Introduction ............................................................................................................................ 3
Chapter ONE: Why sustainable architecture? ....................................................................... 6 THE LIMITS TO GROWTH. ............................................................................................ 8 MANIFESTO ................................................................................................................... 12
Chapter TWO: Three aspects of sustainable architecture. ................................................... 15 ENVIRONMENT ............................................................................................................ 16 SOCIOCULTURAL ........................................................................................................ 18 BUILDING ...................................................................................................................... 22
Chapter THREE: Sustainable architects. ............................................................................. 31 EDUCATION .................................................................................................................. 31 ARCHITECTS AND SOCIETY...................................................................................... 32 ARCHITECTS AND ME ................................................................................................ 35
Conclusion. .......................................................................................................................... 37
Epilogue ............................................................................................................................... 43 v
References ............................................................................................................................ 45 Bibliography ........................................................................................................................ 48 APPENDIX A ...................................................................................................................... 49 APPENDIX B ...................................................................................................................... 52
List of Illustrations
Fig. 1. The Global City. Planet Earth. Planet Coruscant. Star Wars (1977) Directed by George Lucas [Film] Los Angeles: Universal Studios. Available at: http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100115192304/starwars/images/1/17/CoruscantAoTCW.jpg Fig. 2. The Earth from the Moon. Apollo 8 NASA. Available at: http://www.larsonsworld.com/blog/archives/cat_photos.html Fig. 3. Human perspectives. Meadows, D. H., Meadows, D. L., Randers, J. and Behrens III, W. W. (1972) The limits to growth. 1974 edn. London: Pan Books Ltd. p.19. Fig. 4. Scenario 2, 2004: More Abundant Non-renewable Resources. Meadows, D. H., Meadows, D. L. and Randers, J. (2004) A synopsis, Limits to growth, the 30-year update. p.15. [Online] Available at: http://www.sustainer.org/pubs/limitstogrowth.pdf (Accessed: 30 October 2010) Fig. 5. Scenario 9, 2004: World Seeks Stable Population and Stable Industrial Output per Person, and Adds Pollution, Resource, and Agricultural technologies from 2002. Meadows, D. H., Meadows, D. L. and Randers, J. (2004) A synopsis, Limits to growth, the 30-year update. p.20. [Online] Available at: http://www.sustainer.org/pubs/limitstogrowth.pdf (Accessed: 30 October 2010) Fig. 6. Sunset in the Global City. Planet Earth. Planet Coruscant. Star Wars (1977) Directed by George Lucas [Film] Los Angeles: Universal Studios. Available at: http://sw.motleyplayersiii.com/wp-content/gallery/views/coruscant_at_night.jpg Fig. 7. Greece (Santorini), China (Shanghai), India (Jaisalmer), Spain (Cordoba). Author’s photographs. Fig. 8. Aerial view of Tortuguero. Nadine and Bill Beard (no date) [Online] Available at: http://www.billbeardcostarica.com/php/note_detail.php?id_home=28&id_edicion=299 Fig. 9. Bryan Boyer. BalnaeNY. Ritter, A. (2007) Smart materials in architecture, interior architecture and design. Basel: Birkhauser. p.71. Fig. 10 and Fig. 11. Building structure. Façade structural subframes. Windows and insulation. Natural stone cladding. Technal Hydro Building Systems SL. (2005) Apuntes de Construccion Technal (Spanish) No 32 April. [Online] Available at: www. technal.es Fig. 12. House in Tokyo. Rael, R. (2009) Earth architecture. New York : Enfield : Princeton Architectural. pp.88-91.
Fig. 13. Responsive surface. Hensel, M. (2008) ‘Material performance’, Architectural design, Vol 78, No 2, pp.34-41 Fig. 14. We were astonished by our achievements. Blade Runner (1982) Directed by Ridley Scott [Film] United States: Warner Bros. Pictures. Available at: http://flicksided.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/blade-runner-eye.jpg Fig. 15. At the dawn of a new planet discovery. American Museum of Natural History (no date) Visions of the Cosmos. [Online] Available at: http://luminousinspiration.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/universe.jpg
Fig. 1 The Global City. Planet Earth.
Year 2210, the Earth has become a planet without resources. Any trace of an ecological cycle cannot be found. Finally the Human Race has become what they fear the most. Many years waiting an alien invasion to steal our resources never came, because the invader was at home. We have become a parasitic specie that has consumed every natural resource. Buildings have covered the entire earth. This is the result of a parasitic architecture and an unsustainable development. The universal encyclopaedia refers for first time the term “sustainable development” in the year 1987. “Meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. (Brundtland Report, 1987) 1
What has happened then? How have we got to this point? Further research on ancient documents reveals that sustainable communities existed on Earth: During a period called the Medieval Age in a region mentioned as Europe small groups of humans lived in “monasteries where they produced their own food, created buildings with local materials, captured and recycled water, developed renewable energies in so called water mills, cultivated the land according to ecological principals and farmed fish, birds and animals with humanity” (Edwards, 2001, p.10). End of universal encyclopaedia entry. Another entry referring to an indigenous group called Bribri in Costa Rica, describes how they lived there from around 900 to 2079, when their land was parasitized by new buildings for the global city. The earth's population is in seek of a new planet to parasite. How many planets does the Human Race need? Is this the collapse of civilization as we know it? Are we living or surviving?...
This is but a short story, a hypothesis about a possible future to express where our architecture might be moving towards; to reflect on the sense of sustainable architecture and the role that architects play as individuals to achieve a relationship of equilibrium with nature. During my travels around Costa Rica I discovered that sustainable architecture is not really about eco-friendly materials, CO2 emissions, recycling or embodied energy. It is about how the building contributes to the local community. Sustainable architecture has to engage the community where it settles. It has to be adapted and be adaptable to the context or future contexts. It has to reflect cultural and social matters. It has to address local issues. Different societies have different problems. In Europe one of our problems is the polluted air so we tend to focus our sustainable architecture in energy saving issues to produce less CO2. Countries like Costa Rica face problems such as polluted water, thus sustainable architecture looks at rain water collection or black water management. Hence sustainable architecture only makes sense if it looks to the local community and context of the place. Currently the architectural scene is dominated by some sort of global style of architecture, where global architects can design a building that would fit in anywhere. This style does not reflect specific contexts and is driven by a need of iconic buildings. Therefore this international style of architecture dominated by western countries, that predominates in our 3
global world it is doomed to disappear; and “social, ecological and cultural sustainability will be the measures for tomorrow’s buildings” (Edwards, 2001, p.22). This means that people will be part of a building, will be part of the architecture. Sustainable architecture implies a relation between architecture and users, there is a social dimension. Sustainable buildings should have the capacity for change; they have to be adaptable to face new challenges and new expectations from users. Sustainable architecture also sets out the question how much our cities can grow? What is the limit factor? Pollution or resources? The ecological footprint is an index that compares the human demand with Earth’s ecological capacity to regenerate. The data from 2007 (Appendix B) shows that our ecological footprint is 2.7 hectares and the biocapacity is 1.8 hectares. There is a deficit of 0.9 hectares. A report from “the Club of Rome” shows that the world cannot support the present rates of economic and population growth for more than a few decades. At this level of consumption we already need the resources of another Earth. Every living creature is part of a cycle, except us, we live in a paradox. As Brian Edwards (2001) points out, nature not only recycles; it moves upwards towards even greater complexity and beauty with the minimum use of resources; and wipes out what it is out of these parameters. On the contrary we use the maximum resources to generate the minimum richness and beauty, leaving behind a tremendous ecological footprint. Our parasitic architecture is completely opposite to ecological cycles; architecture consumes over a 50% of the planet's resources. How can this become sustainable? We have to rediscover architecture as another life form with its own ecological cycle. Can architects imagine a new renaissance of architecture? Can we imagine migratory buildings? Can we move upwards towards a symbiotic architecture? Can we design buildings with an inbuilt ecological cycle? Can we change our architecture without changing ourselves? Is our parasitic architecture ethical? This questions will be discussed in the following pages. This is a journey through my inner self, what kind of architect do I want to be? A journey to discover my own thoughts and positions on sustainable architecture. Will I be able to overcome my delusions of grandeur? As architects, we want to leave our buildings as we built them forever and get the recognition for our grand designs, but is this compatible with sustainable design? If a building has to grow and change, in just ten years, the building we 4
find will not be the one we thought up and designed. It will be the design of the new users and new contexts. What commitment do I have with myself, society and nature? Let us see if I can figure it out.
Chapter ONE: Why sustainable architecture?
When I started this dissertation it became obvious to me that I did not know why sustainable development was so important. Yes, I had the basic knowledge anybody has, but I did not know the profound roots. Why, in a very short period of time this term had become relevant to each of the human activities and why, had it become so present in architecture. I needed to justify myself as to why I was writing about sustainable architecture. Also I needed a scientific basis for my work. During my research I found different authors writing about the topic but just one publication really drew my attention. This book was published in 1972, even before the definition of sustainable development was coined, in 1987 by United Nations at the Brundtland Report. The book was referring to the term sustainable development as “state of global equilibrium”. In 1970, commissioned by the “Club of Rome”, an international research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began a study about the possible future of the Mankind according to the present patterns of growth. They simulated with a computer modelling engine (World3) the consequences of the interactions between Earth and human growth. Two years later, in 1972, they published a book titled the limits to growth where their findings were exposed:
1. If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food
and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next 100 years. The most probable result will be a sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.
2. It is possible to alter these growth trends and to establish a condition of ecological
and economic stability that is sustainable far into the future. The state of global equilibrium could be designed so that the basic needs of each person on earth are satisfied and each person has an equal opportunity to realize his or her individual human potential.
3. If the world’s people decide to strive for this second outcome rather than the first,
the sooner they begin working to attain it, the greater will be their chances of success. (Meadows et al., 1972, pp. 23-24). When you read this, you are probably more than ever aware, that there is no providence or any high mission for mankind. You realize that mankind is responsible of their own future; as Donella H. Meadows et al. cite (1992) “we intuit a kind of cosmic loneliness” (Vargish, 1980, p.179) where man has to write his own destiny.
Fig. 2 The Earth from the Moon. Apollo 8 NASA.
THE LIMITS TO GROWTH. Reading the book we are aware that every one of us tends to think and plan the near future, we think about our life in a few years and maybe we think about our old age but do we care about the future generations? Not our children or grandchildren, but beyond this. This is not only about time; it is also about space, the neighbourhood, the nation, the world. A very few have a global perspective. We are not aware of the long term problems. This situation has become evident in the last decades as our world has been moving towards globalization. Many civilizations in history have suffered a societal collapse but it did not affect the general trend of the world. Those events took place unnoticed and only affected the geographically nearby population. But now, as seen in the last financial crisis (2007-2010), a collapse would affect the entire world. Personal and national objectives can be frustrated by long-term problems or tendencies in a broader context. The authors of the book were looking at this broad context leading far into the future.
Fig.3 Human perspectives. The concerns of the limits to growth fall in the upper right hand corner of the space-time graph.
The modelling tool World3 does not make predictions, it tries to understand the behaviour, the tendencies of the world related to five aspects: population, food production, industrialization, pollution and consumption of non-renewable resources. All these elements have an exponential growth and they are interlinked. Population has been growing exponentially over the last centuries due to an unbalanced equilibrium between fertility rate and mortality rate, being the positive feedback greater 8
than the negative. When the Limits to Growth was published the world population was under 4 billion today is near to 7 billion (United States Census Bureau). And we have to emphasize that the rate of growth is greater in poor countries. The other area of exponential growth has been the world economy, industrial capital. This is not the financial capital, money; it is the real thing money stands for. The industrial capital is consumer goods and a fraction of it is more capital, investments to increase the industrial capital. This is the positive feedback. Part of the industrial capital becomes obsolete or is discarded; this is the negative feedback, analogous to the mortality rate. In this case also the positive feedback is greater than the negative which in the end is reflected in an exponential growth. But this growth is just improving wealth in rich countries widening the gap between rich and poor. More industrial growth, as believed, does not generate fairness. Population and industrialization are affected by food production, pollution and availability of resources. Consequently limits to growth are the limited resources and energy dug out from Earth, and the capacity of Earth to absorb the pollutants generated by human activities. And these two factors alter the capacity of earth for food production. “Population cannot grow without food, food production is increased by growth of capital, more capital requires more resources, discarded resources become pollution, pollution interferes with growth of both population and food” (Meadows et al., 1972, p.89). The 1972 book presented 12 possible scenarios for the future, from one keeping the present trends to different variations including optimistic views in technology improvement or increase on Earth limited resources. Most of the scenarios ended in a final collapse due to famine, industrial depletion, excessive pollution...These results have been revised over the years by the same group, first in 1994 and the latest 2004, including new technology developments and the new stocks in non-renewable resources, the results are as valid now as before, with the only one difference, the urge for change is much greater now. Let us look at the Limits to growth, the 30-year update. At the first scenario society is proceeding without any major change as long as possible but finally collapse occurs because of scarcity of non-renewable resources. Industrial capital grows to levels where the amount of resources needed requires an enormous effort so part of the capital is diverted to obtain more resources weakening industrial investment thus industry declines followed by 9
the agricultural sector. Population reaches a peak around 2030 and decreases due to lack of food and health services. At a second scenario earth resources are doubled and advances in technology reduces the extraction cost. The result is a delay of 20 years for the collapse. Pollution rises, land production declines, huge investments in agricultural recovery are needed; finally population falls because of food shortage and health problems due to high levels of pollution.
Fig. 4. Scenario 2, 2004: More Abundant Non-renewable Resources. “This table postulates that advances in resource extraction technologies are capable of postponing the onset of increasing extraction costs. Industry can grow 20 years longer. Population peaks at 8 billion in 2040, at much higher consumption levels. But pollution levels soar (outside the graph!), depressing land yields and requiring huge
investments in agricultural recovery. The population finally declines because of food shortages and negative health effects from pollution.” (Meadows et al., 2004, p.15)
Other scenarios address pollution and food shortage through technology but the collapse overcomes around 2070 due to the increasing capital needed to support these technologies and the extraction of resources, the demand is higher than what economy can provide. On the assumption that technologies become cheaper mankind can reach a stable population, living in a “high-tech” society with a high level of welfare, but by the end of the 21st century the cost of maintaining technologies, social services and investment becomes too expensive. In scenario 9 world seeks a stable population and industrial output, technologies and policies are implemented in 2002 to prevent pollution, conserve resources and agricultural land. The result is a sustainable society. In this scenario population and capital are the only quantities that need to be constant. Any other human activity that does not require a large 10
amount of non-renewable resources or generate environmental impact can grow indefinitely. A higher productivity can be translated into welfare, more education or environmental research, if these targets replace growth as the primary value of today’s society. This means qualitative development not quantitative.
Fig. 5. Scenario 9, 2004: World Seeks Stable Population and Stable Industrial Output per Person, and Adds Pollution, Resource, and Agricultural technologies from 2002. “In this scenario population and industrial output are limited, and in addition technologies are added to abate pollution, conserve resources, increase land yield, and protect agricultural land. The resulting society is sustainable: Nearly 8 billion people live with high human welfare and a continuously declining ecological footprint.” (Meadows et al., 2004, p.20)
If we look at all these scenarios (further explanation of the 1972 scenarios is given in appendix A) the common thing is that they pretend to perpetuate the manner society understands growth which is through the accumulation of goods. This goes deep into the basis of the modern concept of welfare, and requires a profound change of human values. Furthermore a sustainable society does not mean an equitable one. As Donella H. Meadow et al. cite (1972, p.179) “...The stationery state [sustainable development] would make fewer demands on our environmental resources, but much greater demands on our moral resources.” (Dr. Daly, 1971, pp.236-37). The ideas presented in the books have been object of a lot of criticism from different authors. One of the main criticisms is that the models consider growth of population and industrial capital exponential while the improvement in technologies and efficiency grows linearly. The only attempt the authors do is to double the resources on Earth. From the first publication indeed the non-renewable resources have increased but not enough for the demand; hence their assumptions are still correct.
Other criticism comes from the lack of data and the validity of the one used in 1972, but the subsequent updates have implemented this data with new findings in resources, environmental pollution, recycling technologies and the results are still the same. Dr Graham Turner, from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, published a paper titled “A comparison of the limits to growth with thirty years of reality”, where he compares recently collated and public data from 1970 to 2000 with the resulting scenarios of the limits to growth; the conclusion as he explains “...shows that 30 years of historical data compares favourably with key features of a business-asusual scenario..., which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st Century. The data does not compare well with other scenarios involving comprehensive use of technology or stabilizing behaviour and policies. The results indicate the particular importance of understanding and controlling global pollution.” (Graham Turner, 2008). On the other hand new techniques to assess the human impact on Earth have been developed by different groups and organizations. One of these is the ecological footprint developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William E. Rees in 1994. The ecological footprint is an index that compares the human demand with Earth’s ecological capacity to regenerate. The data from 2007 shows that our ecological footprint is 2.7 hectares and the Biocapacity is 1.8 hectares. There is a deficit of 0.9 hectares (ecological footprint 2007 results in appendix B). The conclusion is the same, we are overshooting Earth’s capacity. In my opinion as said by the authors of the limits to growth, we have to consider that this is a tool to understand the trends and behaviour of the world, it does not intend to make predictions, so we do not have to miss the important message here. What direction does mankind want to take?
MANIFESTO In the present world signals of earth overshooting are appearing everywhere: climate changes, water scarcity, polar glaciers are retreating, the ozone hole, ocean fisheries are exploited over their capacity… These are just symptoms of human activities adding pressure on environment. We are very naive thinking that a few changes in our life style, such as recycling waste at home, improve the insulation or use the bike, are going to 12
change the world’s course. This, is simply not going to happen! The change many experts in different fields of knowledge are proposing shakes the foundations of our system. This means to change moral values and the way we conceive the growth, this means to reject our consumer society. A lot of money and power is involved in this economic and political game, many interests are implicated, which make a profound change harder. Modifying this trend needs more than individual actions, which also make a contribution, but it requires the imprint of a bigger group. Architects are an important collective in the global world. We can make a difference! We are in the very centre of the building design and construction as coordinators of different professions and aims. We are connected through a profession that seeks human welfare and advance. We share codes of conduct and similar aspirations and values. We have a common language, but unlike other disciplines this language is materialized on a physical discourse, the built environment. We design this built environment which is a carrier of meaning. But what message are we sending? We are also gifted with a talent, creativity, an ability to connect ideas, set up new relations, and go beyond the conventions. We are on a privileged position to promote change. This implies to change architecture and ourselves, our values as citizen. We can speak of a sustainable architect. Since buildings consume around 50% of earth non-renewable resources (Edwards, 2001, p.ix), architects can make a vast contribution towards this change. Architects have a double responsibility and challenge, on one hand direct architecture as a devourer of resources and on the other hand architects as individuals, we have the responsibility of devising this change in human values which their buildings should reflect. When we design we trust blindly in our resources, that sort of design and technical guidelines we have in the back of our mind. These personal guidelines come from a set of values (aesthetics, functionality…) and they are intertwined with our moral values (integrity, fairness, sensitivity…). Our values are reflected in our designs, the design is the result of our decisions, good or bad, and the decisions are taken according to our values. It is inevitable that a change on values will result in change of architecture. This change is a challenge our generation cannot postpone or avoid.
Fig. 6. Sunset in the Global City. Planet Earth.
... for many years the population of the global city trusted in technology. Everything was solved with technology. Thanks to architecture the global city was able to spread its foundations throughout the Earth eliminating all arable land on the planet. Huge towers of hydroponic crops sustained the global population. Renewable energies supplied humanity when all fossil fuels were gone. Vertical gardens refreshed the polluted air of the planet. The lack of biodiversity was a price worth paying in order to reach higher aspirations for humankind. During years the global population relied on technology to build up the global city. We were able to keep growing and generating welfare. Finally humankind had reached a state of global welfare where...
Chapter TWO: Three aspects of sustainable architecture.
There are many design guides trying to set guidelines to achieve sustainable architecture but most of them do not consider social and cultural contexts surrounding a sustainable design, therefore they lose their validity to capture the whole picture. Many of them only asses a finished design, they do not offer a guide during the design process when decisions to achieve a sustainable design are to be taken. An example can be the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) which focuses mainly on energy efficiency, thus you can attain a technologically very efficient building but not sustainable. This reinforces the idea that a truly sustainable building has to consider a broader context. Different authors and professionals identify three aspects in sustainable architecture in an attempt to consider this broader context. These three aspects cover and answer different issues. Each author refers to these aspects with different names but the underlying idea is the same: Ecological – Social – Built Contexts (Fox, 2000, p. 225) Place – People – Stuff architect Paul Pholeros. (Williamson et al., 2003, p. 128)
I will use the terms Environment – Sociocultural – Building aspects which I think better reflect the purpose of the dissertation, and best condense the questions our values have to work on. The values that respond to a sustainable architecture. I would define these three aspects as the cornerstone of sustainable architecture, which should answer the physical, social and environmental needs of stakeholders involved. These three aspects are interrelated and they feed from each other. As Fawcett (1998, cited by Williamson et al., 2003) pointed out the current thought or question about sustainability is “what does sustainability mean for architecture?”, but maybe we should ask “what does architecture mean for sustainability?” The first question positions architecture on the forefront and sustainability as a tool for architecture. Under the second assumption sustainability is an overarching term that reformulates other disciplines such as architecture. The differentiation is a thin line, very subtle, but it makes a huge difference. How can architecture contribute to sustainability? We can do it working from a different perspective, giving a different value to the three aspects previously mentioned. Having a different approach to them. Reworking our values.
ENVIRONMENT Different currents of human thinking, philosophy and moral have had Man as centre of their theories or proposals, considering men and women as independent individuals separate from the natural world. New discoveries in physics and ecology do not support this point of view. We belong to an interconnected world where there is not supremacy of Man over Nature. The same value has human and natural, the only difference is man is able to discern a moral responsibility to allow other species to live (Williamson et al., 2003). Architecture always has established a limit between nature and building, keeping a reasonable distance. This way of building has resulted on a fracture with the environment. The only way to fit together human needs and our responsibility to Earth is designing with nature. Our buildings should expose nature to people not to keep a distance from it. We are taking our first steps, and as time passes by and new technologies emerge this relation will be closer.
Environment is the surrounding context of the architectural act. Architecture has to work with the environment, not against it, and the way of doing it is letting the environment inform our designs as Ian McHarg states “if one accepts the simple proposition that nature is the arena of life and a modicum of knowledge of her processes is indispensable for survival and rather more for existence, health and delight, it is amazing how many apparently difficult problems present a ready solution” (1969, p.7). In the same direction Sim Van Der Ryn and Stuart Cowan gave a definition of “ecological design” as “any form of design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes” (Van Der Ryn et al., 1996, p.x). Ken Yeang’s work is an expression of Ian McHarg, Van der Ryn and Cowan’s words, his skyscrapers ventilation is inspired by the termites and ant nests. “Termites design skyscrapers. The first thing you start to note is that termites are actually better engineers than we are. They can do buildings several thousand times their own height, whereas we can build skyscrapers maybe three hundred times our own height. But the other thing you should note is that there are skyscrapers built by termites in different climatic zones. Termites and ants already know to do bioclimatic skyscrapers.” (Yeang, 1998, p.110) Many practices of the world have seen in this an endless resource of inspiration, and the buildings have been a success. The environment not only has to inform technical solutions or shapes. The resources available in the environment should enlighten the material selection as Brian Edward advices. Three factors influence the decision: future availability, embodied energy and waste. Future availability relates to the exiting stock on earth of a given material in two directions, firstly we are not depleting earth of this resource, and secondly our building and future generations will be able to continue using the material. There is a long-term availability of natural materials, stone, sand, lime, woods… and they can be found locally. Usually these materials are heavy and require a light manufacturing process. The environmental impact of these materials is generated by the means of transport, due to the energy employed to carry these heavy materials. This leads us to the embodied energy. Natural materials are abundant, with very low embodied energy in production but very high in transportation. On the contrary, manufactured materials, aluminium, steel, PV panels are lighter but the embodied energy is greater in the manufacture process than in transport. This suggests that a good practice would be processing heavyweight materials 17
locally, so the energy involved in transportation is reduced, and high-tech lightweight materials globally. The third factor is waste. Buildings are a stock of embodied energy that can be reused, recycled or returned to the environment. What is going to happen to the materials is a concern we cannot leave to the next generation. (Edwards, 2001) Design with the environment requires a long term view. Now we know that climate change and sea level rise, is more than probable in a near future, this means that any building which has not been designed to overcome these changes will fail. Some of the future changes cannot be predicted but if we give our designs the possibility of adaptation their chances to survive and extend their life-expectancy will be greater. As Charles Darwin concluded not the most intelligent, not the strongest species survive but the most adaptable to change. This is a key element of a sustainable design. Sustainable architecture not only responds to today’s environment, responds to tomorrow’s environment.
SOCIOCULTURAL Since the very moment humans started to build shelters they were responding to their needs according to social and cultural requirements. Architecture has ever since served societies and civilizations to create spaces where their cultural identity has been reflected. Users have changed over time consequently uses and demands and new buildings have replaced old ones to reflect new expectations. People interact with buildings and their expectations and interactions will vary depending on place, therefore we have to work with the possibilities and limitations of the place with all his social and cultural implications. The pattern of life creates the building, and becomes a crucial element of a sustainable building. The significance is that buildings reflect social and cultural matters. We can take as example the blinds in a window from a thin curtain in British houses to a lattice work in India. Each of these windows displays a palette of resources, they are an interpretation of a world. They contain the richness of cultural and social values. This exquisite differentiation has been happening over centuries but lately a global architecture has been replacing this kind of uniqueness by systems empty of sense of place. Sustainable architecture has to rework 18
Fig. 7. Greece (Santorini), China (Shanghai), India (Jaisalmer), Spain (Cordoba).
traditional methods, be inspired by vernacular architecture; it has to avoid reproduction or imitation. It has to reinterpret and revise local architecture so new generations can feel identified with the place which is sustaining them. Sustainability has to keep this reciprocity. Sustainable architecture has to maintain and preserve the cultural and social diversity as it does with biodiversity. We have discussed that sustainable architecture reflects social and cultural matters and addresses issues. We have noted how in developed countries sustainable architecture addresses problems such as air pollution through energy saving features; and how in developing countries addresses water pollution through water management. In this case the sustainable features of architecture are just a reflection of global problems. This has to be brought to local terms too; we can take as an example the small town of Tortuguero (can be translated as Land of Turtles) in Costa Rica. Tortuguero is a coastal community which has been exploiting the natural resources of ocean and rainforest for decades, and exporting goods to the rest of Costa Rica. Two of the main products were turtles (meat, shell, eggs and bones) and tropical woods. Local and market demands of these products reached a 19
point where the depletion of both, turtle and habitat, were on the edge of collapse. Architecture for all this time was oriented to support these requirements. Around the 60’s a concern about turtles survival attracted scientists and later on, tourists. In a few years turtles through tourism were a source of income, instead a source of food. Community, scientists and government worked together to reinvent Tortuguero as a place for tourism. The local architecture that served once to exploit resources was transformed into small guest houses or little restaurants..., keeping the uniqueness which makes Tortuguero the place it is, different to any other place, with an architecture that reflected the new challenges Tortuguero was facing, without forfeiting their social and cultural identity.
Fig. 8. Aerial view of Tortuguero.
No design guide can secure you rules to face local challenges, only a profound appreciation of the local, social and cultural, context can provide specific solutions sustainable in time. It is the only way a building engages with society. We have to guarantee the continuity of the culture reflected on the buildings. The example of Tortuguero shows us how the collaboration of a community can contribute to generate sustainable architecture. We have to let the user take part of the design process and the decision making. Users become pseudo architects, in the sense they control and 20
redesign the present and the future building. Ideally a building which can vary its configuration to accommodate different programmes and uses in time would be perfect, but as in present days that is not possible, close communication with the user and an insight to future users, is essential to achieve the best possible organization of the building with social and cultural appropriateness. In a near future, technology will enable user to modify spaces with a simple touch. Users will become architects of their space. The architect Bryan Boyer has made some incursion in this field with his project BalnaeNY. He proposed neoprene membrane surfaces with electroactive polymers (EAP). These polymers are a smart material able to change their shape under electric stimulation. Electromagnetic inputs from mobiles, people, vehicles were converted into movement through sensitive kinetic surfaces. Deformable floors and walls made of neoprene were capable of changing its form to suit the user’s needs (Ritter, 2007). The scheme was receptive only to shortterm demands but the potential use for long-term circumstances would allow a building to be updated day by day.
Fig. 9. Bryan Boyer BalnaeNY. Perspective view from above the swimming emerging pool and with the
neoprene membrane. Scenario of deforming sauna walls projecting into street space. Section through swimming pool with neoprene membrane. View into interior of cave. Unwinding shower
From this conversation we can conclude that buildings should tell a story to their users, a story about where they come from and which are their aspirations. This story can only be understandable to the community if the same language is spoken. An involvement of the local people in the design process is the only way building and users can understand each other. Equally important is the adaptability of space to sociocultural changes, as much adaptable greater are the chances to keep the building vibrant without major transformations.
BUILDING The Building aspect brings together the technologies in the building, its life expectancy and the recycling possibilities. All of them are very much influenced by the first two aspects, environment and sociocultural context. The question is if we can provide the means so that a building can grow, change, develop, die and be recycled in constant relation with the environment and the sociocultural context which it serves. In the task of answering Brian Edwards gives us a clue. He thinks a building is likely to be reused if: It makes good use of natural light and ventilation Is well served by infrastructure of various kinds (public transport, utilities…) Does not contain toxic materials Is well constructed, preferably using natural materials Has attractive spaces and character Is culturally valued Has access to renewable energy resources. (Edwards, 2001, p.146) To these bullet points I would add adaptation. As I have discussed in previous paragraphs all the characteristics Brian Edwards is setting out can be held by a building, but if it is not fit for new demands the chances to be reused are little. In the quest of the adaptability of a 22
building the perfectible façade is a new approach. Developed by Technal, from an original idea of architects Ignacio Paricio and Carlos Ferrater, the proposal is to set out a light substructure able to support different façade elements from windows to cladding or shading systems. The final result is a façade of superimposed layers that can be added or removed any time, hence perfectible. This kind of façade can increase the life expectancy of a building as it can incorporate new technologies and advances into the building without any structural change and with a minimum use of energy and resources.
Fig. 10. Building structure. Façade structural subframes.
Fig.11. Windows and insulation. Natural stone cladding.
This kind of approach should be generalized in design. We usually design and build for the present, and as soon as the project is done we move on to the next scheme. The conversation we are having here completely refuses this method of work. On the contrary it demands us to design with the future in mind, it requires to leave latent in the building the 23
capacity of change. How can we do this? We can estimate the life expectancy of different parts of the building looking at statistics or at least estimate a minimum period of life. Our decisions should ensure that every part of the building will fulfil its mission for that estimated period of time, and will support the rest of parts which have a shorter life span. This method also helps to select each material and decide how they can be reused or recycled, to complete a full life cycle of the building. We fit the building with some sort of inbuilt ecological cycle. To illustrate this idea we can look at the Japanese architecture firm Manabu + Nez/Loco Architects. They have proven in a very small scale project, in the suburbs of Tokyo, this is possible. The firm proposed an open house made of rammed earth bearing walls dug out from the same site. The floor slab was made with steel plates welded on site. During the design process they had in mind the whole life cycle and provided the building with an inbuilt ecological cycle. At the end of its life cycle the steel plates were removed to reuse and the house was left to erode and be reclaimed by the surrounding vegetation (Rael, 2009).
Fig. 12. House in Tokyo.
It is clear that the variables in this project were narrower than, a real life scheme, and the future of the building was known as well as its life span, but we can still extract conclusions. We can give buildings the latent possibility of change, re-use and selfdestruction. We can give buildings the exquisiteness of being part of living processes, the connection between man and nature is tangible, there is a beauty that goes beyond the aesthetics and pursues to achieve harmony. The best is, that, architects did it reworking a traditional material in Japan as is the “rammed earth”, reinforcing the local identity. In my opinion this kind of thinking has to enlighten sustainable architecture. As by the example given and as previously discussed buildings have to promote biodiversity as a way of connecting design with nature. Brian Edwards suggests three ways in which architecture can influence: Design natural habitats as part of the development process, ponds, green roofs, grasslands... all left wild. Source construction materials from an ecological point of view, helping to maintain local and regional biodiversity. Bring nature into closer contact with people’s lives. (Edwards, 2001, p.21) Working on this theory, on the process of writing this dissertation I tried to establish a rational balance, using a ratio, between built and green spaces on a building, relating these to the minimum volume needed per person. Let us give an example, suppose the space required by a person is 1x1x3m=3m3. From this volume a space ratio of 0.7 should be built and 0.3 greenery. The result is 0.9 m3 used for green spaces and 2.1m3 for built spaces 26
on a building per person. The same idea was applied to natural light and ventilation, but as much as I analysed the idea as it did not make sense. The perspective I had was our western environments but when I tried to apply this to Tortuguero, Costa Rica, it simply did not match that environment. Green spaces are all around, and what needs to be guaranteed is decent built spaces. A systematized process only leads to universal formulas that are incompatible with the specificity that sustainable architecture requires. The same happened if we tried to apply similar methods of natural light and ventilation to a community in the Sahara desert. This discourse leads us to establish a new relation of building with the environment, the relation between interior and exterior is changing. As architect Gilles Perraudin advocates rigid limits should be broken and transitional spaces should replace, like sheltering envelopes, the building boundaries (Perraudin, 1998). Present technology allows this but in a very controlled mode. Computer controlled systems which opens or closes windows and louvers are complicated and alienate the user from the exterior. Sustainable architecture demands smarter techniques with fewer resources involved. Embedded responsiveness and mutability are the words used by Michael Hensel (2008) to describe the research project of Steffen Reichert, such description refers to a sensitive wall but can be perfectly used to describe sustainable architecture. Steffen Reichert has conducted a study of the response of given materials to changes in environment and how this can be applied to design. The result was a full-scale model of a responsive surface structure of veneer composite components with the capacity to adapt surface porosity in response to changes in relative humidity. As a pine cone does, when humidity levels raise granting favourable conditions, it opens to release the seeds. This skin reacts similarly in environmental humid conditions allowing the skin to breath, opening the building ventilation.
Fig. 13. Responsive surface.
If we imagine the examples given all together in a single building we can begin to look at sustainable buildings almost resembling life forms, with water running through arteries to water plants, facade skins breathing in close contact with the environment, facades and walls able to grow and change to incorporate new demands. Organic and inorganic balance. But we have to be realistic, at the moment it is impossible to do architecture without environmental impact. This does not mean it cannot be sustainable. We have to bear in mind that each decision we make has a ramification of consequences with its impacts. What we can do is use a thoughtful process to minimize and reduce those impacts. We have to look further for each decision we make. All three aspects, EnvironmentalSociocultural-Building, should give a reasoned response. As we have seen technology can make a great contribution to achieve sustainable buildings, but also can alienate us from the environment. We have to make building technology visible to re-established the connection with nature, “The [present] designed environment does not reveal to us how technology supports us and how in turn it is interconnected with the natural world” (Van der Ryn et al., 1996, p.161). This does not mean we have to place the change of architecture on technology, on buildings. The technology depends on who is using it, on its own does not produce changes only reflects objectives, aspirations and values. Sustainable architecture cannot change the way we think but can create the context to favor the dialogue and deliberation about sustainability and favor a change in society values. Our buildings are a carrier of a message. They have meaning. A meaning that society interprets, understands and makes its own. Now, the questions are: Who writes this message? Architects?
Fig. 14. We were astonished by our achievements.
For more than a century we lived our “belle époque”. Past times of injustice or famine weren’t known by the present global population. A feeling of endless prosperity invaded humanity. We had high hopes for our future. We were astonished by our achievements. We were already surfing beyond the limits of the milky way galaxy. We were amazed by the universe. Suddenly, in the middle of this frenzy, signals of technology shortcomings started to be evident. The solar energy was not enough for the demand, population had reached a level in which our technology was not sufficient. Pollution was rapidly becoming a problem...
Chapter THREE: Sustainable architects.
We have seen that sustainable architecture is more than reducing the environmental impact of our buildings. The proposals presented are just the surface of a change, the real change has to come from the architects, we should re-evaluate our values in order to have a different approach to the three aspects discussed, and change the way we perceive architecture. As discussed in the previous chapter the community around a sustainable development is a very important part of sustainable architecture, therefore how we deal with society has to be revised, but we cannot forget that the way we relate with society is forged at the school. Have we ever in any of our designs taken into account any ethical dilemma? They simply do not exist, we do not even discuss them at the interim reviews. The re-evaluation of the way we do architecture has to come in several directions: education, our relation with society and from ourselves.
EDUCATION In 1997 three hundred and fifty architects in Australia were asked to name the “important factors that define a good design” only 30 per cent of responses included issues concerned with environmental impact (Wittmann, 1997). When the same architects were asked about the sustainable features they included in their last five designs a very narrow notion of the issue was obvious. The most frequently features were orientation, shading, insulation and natural ventilation. The answers indicated the very short view they had about sustainable 31
architecture. Has this changed in thirteen years? I do not think much has changed. The concern is higher, but the knowledge we have has not followed it. “Air is stupid (it can’t follow arrows)” (Were, 1989). This sentence summarizes very well, referring to environmental section drawings, how we deal with environment at the schools of architecture. We think we can apply the basic knowledge we have about environment everywhere. We are convinced about the perfect functioning of our environmental strategy. Utilize an ancient wind catcher on a new design does not mean the effectiveness developed after hundreds of years is going to be transferred to the new building. Architects should practice humility in this sense. When we are asked to design a building in China, we apply the same environmental ideas and preconceptions we use in Europe, and probably the same that the above architects used thirteen years ago. The profession enables us to design globally but sustainable architecture obliges us to design locally. If we reduce our ability to add some sustainable features, our capacity of response is very limited, if is not useless. This type of thinking, of design, of sustainable architecture places the responsibility in the buildings not in society or us, architects. We tend to believe that adding some features to the building we have accomplished our environmental responsibility. The ignorance of what is a really sustainable design releases us of any dilemma regarding the issues discussed in previous chapters. Ignorance makes us happy. We have to invert this, “an emphasized human responsibility is an essential element of designing a green society” (Marko, 2005). My perception as Ian McHarg’s (1998) is that we should study the environment (hydrology, geology, climatology, ecology, sociology…) as a module at the school if we want to understand and work within it, and comprehend what is behind solar shading, ventilation and energy efficiency.
ARCHITECTS AND SOCIETY We talk about sustainable architecture, sustainable development, energy efficiency...but we hardly ever mention who designs architecture, architects. This fact is a manifestation upon who we put the responsibility. Our own life is driven by those principles that modern welfare promotes, the same principles which are destroying the planet. We want a better salary, to have a better salary we want to build more and design more; then we desire 32
higher budgets for our designs and expand our studio. We enter in a circle where the only thing that prevails is to have more quantity. A circle in which we are not able to stop to reevaluate what we do. It is this circle itself that does not allow us to see beyond. This circle is the consumer society. It is after we see the global picture that we realize we cannot forever have more. How to control this? Who talks about sustainable architects? Design thinking requires a commitment from the architect; it is easier to design a correct standard building and get paid. It is easy money. Here resides the ethical commitment of each architect. Christopher Alexander, in his Manifesto 1991, advocates for a new type of architect with enhanced duties: No matter how big the building is, the architect does some craft work on every building, with his or her own hands. The architect controls the flow of money completely: both its distribution at the outset, and the ongoing flow throughout the process. The architect assumes legal responsibility for the actual construction. The architect is leader and artist, but without pride. He or she retains the right to refuse user requests, not based on the architect’s ego, but in cases where his (her) grasp of the problem is demonstrably greater... The architect is committed to make buildings that are deeply and genuinely liked. The architect... refuses to produce artificial or mechanical repetition... The architect is committed to daily work and experimentation with techniques, forming, fabrication, and construction... The architect will recognize that the life of construction workers, and their spiritual evolution, is as important as that of architects... The architect acknowledges that all building is essentially a religious process... (Alexander, 1991, p. 112)
Are we willing to reach this level of commitment? Is it ethical to attain this level of power over society? Is sustainable architecture demanding this sort of architect? Christopher Alexander is attributing architects some sort of superior reasoning, we might like to have it but it is not the case. As we are part of society we cannot pretend to change it if we do not look to ourselves in first instance. Individuals can change society and themselves, society can change individuals but not itself. Each architect has to take a deep look at the values he or she is pursuing. Then we can have an honest dialogue with society, this is, as I see, the way to engage society with a common objective, and the way a sustainable building can arise. Alexander reveals an important issue that scares us, which is the personal commitment an architect has to have with his own work. Le Corbusier, Gropius, Wright, Mies and others had this commitment, they wanted to improve the built environment and benefit the mankind. Current architects endorse this with the same deep conviction? I think something is missing and we are trying to figure out what is. Current popular architecture is guided by forms (more related with art) they do not imply any sort of dilemma, where as social, functional, environmental issues require discernment. Somewhere along the line, we missed these great ambitions. Now the public expects stunning buildings and it is something we have provoked emptying the building of substance and giving supremacy to forms. We have forgotten that the “architect is hired to take on the ethical dilemmas of building” (Spector, 2001, p.5). Society relies on our ethical professionalism. We have to protect society from the devastating effects of bad architecture. This has not to be seen as paternalism. If you know of something that endangers others, it is your duty to say so, to protect them. It is almost an instinct. In the same direction architects have to protect society from the perils he is aware of. Maybe every architect should ask himself who is he serving, himself or society? Sustainable architecture sets out a problem to the architect, which is to reconcile personal values with societal values (Spector, 2001), an uncomfortable position, a terrible dilemma, this is the price to pay for somehow leading the future of architecture. If architects did not intervene in developing a change, what would happen? Would capitalism be able to sort out the dilemma? Some theorists mainly in USA suggest the idea of “Natural Capital” (Edwards, 2001, p.52) as a new factor in economy to invest and trade, this capital would be attached to the industrial or financial capital, as part of the benefits to balance in an investment. But how this natural capital can protect indigenous groups in the 34
rainforest? Markets self regulate but they do not differentiate between good and bad, not discern moral dilemmas. We do! As William J. Mitchell (1998, p.7) suggests our approach to sustainability is not radical enough. He advocates that we should not accept unsustainable work; but I do not think we can proceed in this line. Society, who ultimately has to embrace a change, would not understand this rhetoric. Neither it would have sense as we are imposing conditions instead reworking the conditions in which sustainable development has to be built. The ultimate question is, how each of us can do it? Tom Spector sees in Aristotle words a clue. “Aristotle entreats us to develop the “excellences of character” that will enable us to act from the best self that we can be or can imagine ourselves to be” (Spector, 2001, p.192). This would mean to act in response to our strengths and weaknesses. The result would be many different solutions to same dilemmas. This should be cause of celebration as diversity in architecture is promoted, which in the end relates to the social and cultural diversity sustainable architecture encourages.
ARCHITECTS AND ME Sustainable architecture demands new forms of expression and each architect has to find his or her own language, there are no rules. With this dissertation I am creating my own reference to guide my decision-making to generate sustainable architecture. We have to assume that sustainability is a means to design not something that can be justified or added afterwards. I began this dissertation thinking it would be possible to find a set of universal rules to create sustainable architecture, but guidelines or formulas cannot reflect all the complexity of design. After this process I have learnt there are no codes or assessments that guarantee sustainable design, the only way is learning from our own and other experiences and experiments, through a thoughtful process considering every aspect of a building. We have to persuade clients to try new ways of building, experiment with technologies. We have to feed back from our designs, come back and see how they are working, learn how they have developed. Warwick Fox (2000) describes this process as the “principle of responsive cohesion”. “The principle of responsive cohesion points the way to a built environment 35
that both coheres with living systems and is enlivening to the human spirit.” (2000, p.221) or as Terry Williamson et al. describe it: perform a “Beautiful act” (2003, p.60). As I cannot detached myself from the society I live in and I am subjected to some of the capitalism demands in result, it is difficult not to be taken along by the flow. How to combine these values, “beautiful acts” in everyday practice, with earning money is
something that I still have to figure out. I believe in us. What other hope do we have?
Today sustainable architecture, as some architects are pretending with their green buildings, is not a style per se. This green architecture or green buildings are just a cleanup of the consumer society, a “greenwash” (Woolley, T., 2000, p.44) which is not really making any change in values. A practice can be the greenest but not implement sustainable ideals. These types of buildings do not go beyond themselves, they are not inspiring, neither for architects or people. In opposition to this is the sustainable movement which would be a reflection of “Postmodernism”; the ideas of the “modern movement” and the “international style” are not valid any more. Probably we are in a process of overcoming “Postmodernism”, as a rejection and criticism to the modern movement. Sustainable architecture does not establish a doctrine regarding to forms, or rules like form follows function. Neither is it a rejection of the “modern movement”. The building feeds on the cultural and natural characteristics of the place, not by rules dictated by a predominant style or fashion. Sustainable architecture is something in between that accepts different narratives and meets common values. The fact that there is no clear style which “have assembled a coherent vocabulary of techniques, forms, and conventions so unique to be recognizable as a new style, and robust enough to encourage others to work within it” makes harder for architects to solve dilemmas following a set of values. This is, we do not have “new ways of seeing, new means of expression, new ways of coping the world and new ways of reinventing 37
community by creating new dialogue” (Spector, 2001. p.198-199); and precisely this is one of the problems sustainable architecture is able to address, devise an unparalleled architecture. The buildings of postmodern architects as Santiago Calatrava or Frank Gehry do not reflect the place, are decontextualized. Architecture like Zaha Hadid’s, Gehry’s or Calatrava’s, have diverted the attention towards an architecture of masses where what is important is the individual creative freedom. They have suggested that what matters is the form. As I see it, form or green features are personal approaches to the way each architect expresses himself/herself, but architecture has not to be seen only as something sculptural or green but as a knowledge transmitter with inspirational qualities. These practices are sending the same message, competition, to impose your vision over the rest, instead of striking up a dialogue between parties to reach the best solution. They send a message to society and other architects that ”you have to work on your own to succeed and become the only connoisseur as to what direction architecture is taking”. Architecture becomes a product image of consumer society. Sustainable architecture, in my opinion, balances Setting/Function/Form in this order, but best of all, is that on doing so, it creates good architecture and “good architecture creates context” (Spector, 2001, p.184); entering in a cycle that feeds and perpetuates itself, thereby sustainable architecture transcends the physical limits of the building, to reach a process close to the living systems, the inbuilt ecological cycle. The architect is responsible “for sowing the seed” of this ecological cycle that will enable building to grow, regenerate, be reused, recycled and create new context. Designing sustainable buildings requires time to think about the three aspects mentioned. Higher architect fees for thinking and lower building budgets would reflect sustainable architecture (Williamson et al., 2003), thus quality would take precedence over quantity. A sustainable reasoning even can lead to the decision of not to build. It can lead to designing spaces without materials, architecture without building. This would be a new responsibility for architects, defining spaces without materials. Can sustainable architecture mean virtual architecture? Virtual architecture does not consume resources; orientation, light, shading do not matter. Can a space without physical limits mean that future architects will prefer virtual architecture rather than real? Is this architecture? Yes, it is a virtual space which is 38
used by individuals to cover their needs, only the basic rules of reality are not applicable. On the other hand we do not have context. But this is the topic of another dissertation. As we see a simple reflection from a different point of view, poses new challenges. If predictions like the “Sahara” desert invading Europe as far as Paris are correct, the idea of migratory buildings is not crazy, it can be a real solution. We cannot afford to abandon our buildings leaving behind so many resources to relocate ourselves somewhere else. The simple idea of organic and inorganic balance, makes us consider plants as a building material to play with. Can we build a biodegradable building? Architects have to incorporate the technologies described, discover in depth the meanings of sustainable architecture. When we throw away a cardboard to the green bin to be recycled, we take a moral decision, but when we chose a building material we do not consider such a dilemma. Recognizing the interdependence with nature will make us feel morally obliged to protect it, which will lead to an architectural revolution. From parasitic to symbiotic architecture. Sustainable architecture does not pursue an state, but to achieve a process which is in itself sustainable. The last aim of sustainable architecture is to disappear. As every building would be sustainable the adjective will not be needed anymore. Ten thousand words are just enough to scratch the surface of sustainable architecture, but we have to keep the most important outcome in mind: a change to a sustainable architecture is not something society or buildings can do for us. It is a change which each of us architects is responsible for. “Sustainable development is intellectually more interesting, professionally more challenging, and socially more demanding than any other agenda of our age” (Edwards, 2000). We find ourselves in a situation where traditional models are no longer viable, but alternative forms are not yet developed. “Architecturally the necessity and opportunity for design and technological innovations has rarely been greater.” (Scott, 1998, p.1). With this dissertation I do not pretend to give an alternative but setting the conditions in which the alternative can be found. This is a guide to reveal where the necessity and opportunity of change is. A guide to question why things are the way they are? This is not a design guide, it is a guide to think.
I thought that at least I would be able to develop a guide for ”decision making”, but as I am concluding this dissertation I realize that it is somewhat useless. Architecture is something that is part of me, it is the way I express myself to the world, it is my day to day. It is the reflection of my values, and only a change in my values will be reflected in the way I see and make architecture. THIS, is my commitment!
Fig. 15. At the dawn of a new planet discovery.
Now, at the dawn of a new planet discovery, we think about our own existence. We are about to colonize a new world in the outer galaxy. A text found in the universal encyclopedia, written 241 years ago, has become popular among the global citizens. The global population is not in seek of a new planet but is in seek of itself: Matter, of this is cosmos, sun, earth, and life made Sun, shine that we may live. Earth - home Oceans – ancient home Atmosphere, protect and sustain us 41
Clouds, rain, rivers, and streams, replenish us from the sea Plants – live and breathe that we may breathe, eat and live Animals, kin. Decomposers, reconstitute the wastes of life and death so that life may endure. Man, seek the path of benign planetary enzyme, aspire to be the world’s physician. Heal the earth and thyself. (McHarg, 1969, p.xi)
When someone says that he is going to change his values, simply nobody believes it. It sounds like a political conclusion. As I said in the dissertation we must be honest, and I have to begin with myself. Saying that I am going to change my values sounds nice in my dissertation, but it is not a believable conclusion. My change in values has to be something assessable, applicable and possible. It has to be translated in a way of practising architecture, it has to be reflected in a method of work and thinking, in a set of principles, within a personal guide. This guide has to be comprehensible enough to pursue the values but open to cope with different situations.
Building is no longer a building. It is part of something greater, together with the context constitutes a single entity, an organism. This organism is not an object in the present, it is a life time. As the organism has a life time, it has a life cycle, which I have to uncover and reveal. I must provide the organism with an inbuilt ecological cycle, which allows growth, selfadaptation and eventually, death in the form of self-destruction or recycling. The organism has transitional spaces. Not inside, not outside. The organism always gives something in return to the place which supports it. Users also constitute the organism, their history flows alongside the organism. This history has to be discovered as well, in order to reveal the relationship between today’s and tomorrow’s organism and people. Users are architects of the building; they know best what they want. Vegetation is a building material which gives life to the organism and should be integrated. Some of the functions the organism supports do not need a building, only a context. Analyzing which functions can be developed in the organism without building is an essential task to prevent building unnecessarily. 43
There is a beauty which cannot be seen, it can be felt, goes beyond the object and is possible to create. It is the symbiosis between building, context and human being which creates this singular beauty, it is a beauty that connects us back with the Universe. My ego has no place in the organism. The organism belongs to itself and builds up itself. I must pursue the above mentioned principles in each design. I must not allow myself to conform to design a correct acceptable building, everybody deserves more than that.
The ideas presented will be tested and improved within the final thesis design, where the validity of the dissertation conclusions will be challenged.
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