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The Sustainability Principle

Posted on Mar 10, 2016

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By Cymon Allfrey

There are many definitions of sustainability, but architecturally it is about minimising the negative environmental impact of buildings – a concept that is achieved through a conscious approach to energy, efficiency and ecology.

As a younger version of myself, I wrote a discourse on sustainability for my registration and took a strong position that it was the only way to construct; that you couldn’t design a building without considering it.

It’s a position I still firmly believe in however, my view now is more about sustainability by stealth and as a result, it has become a value set and standard practise for every project and client who walks through our door – all projects should benefit.

There is however a difference between being ‘environmentally sensible’ and being ‘green’.  My approach to sustainable design is about making good decisions for the right purpose, not just about straw bales, recycled materials and hemp.

Decisions around sustainability in the home need to be made in a socially responsible manner to ensure we are managing the way we use and impact the environment. Buildings that don’t consider the environment are fundamentally flawed and we are now more likely to measure the success of a building around the impact that it has on the environment than its consumeristic features.

When discussing new buildings there is no escaping the questions around how sustainability has been incorporated. There is now more awareness around the impact of negative environmental or sustainable decisions, and more education and focus on the lifecycle, savings and benefits of these decisions when it comes to our buildings.

While there are basics such as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the translation of this into a tangible reality which also meets the needs of the homeowner, and the unique properties of the site,
in a sustainable design solution sees the value of the architect as immeasurable.

Designers are able to unbundle the way in which people live. Ensuring energy and sunlight are going to places where they will be, creating sunny living areas, cooler and more comfortable bedrooms and assisting with the orientation of the home to capture the best of the site, and combat the worst. They understand the questions to ask and the considerations that need to be made to ensure your home adherently performs better.

While many clients now understand the cost savings that can be achieved through sustainable design, it is the role of the architect that ensures these savings are a reality and not simply a pie in the sky promise. We want more from our buildings and the systems and technologies to achieve this are becoming more and more within reach as the barriers around the affordability of sustainability are broken down.

Sustainability in our design practice is part of the service.  It is a baseline. Now the challenge is about educating homeowners around better decisions when it comes to material choice and so forth. It is about aiding homebuilders to invest in performance and longevity; not a short term solution.

Visit: www.caarc.co.nz

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