• Richard Davignon

Sustainable Architecture: Design with Lasting Power – Part I

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

If someone were to tell you that the house you are buying is going to be torn down in 40 or 50 years, you’d think they were crazy. Yet this reality is being played out in countless Calgary communities as many, not-so-old, homes are being replaced by new builds. Think about it, parts of Calgary are currently being redeveloped where the homes were built in the 1960’s or 1970’s – Varsity Estates, Willow Park Estates, University Heights, Collingwood, Canyon Meadows, Lakeview Village, Eagle Ridge, and Lake Bonavista Estates to name a few.

We want to spend some time over the next few blogs to explore how sustainability in architecture is typically regarded and more importantly how we choose to approach it. It’s a word tossed around a lot in architectural and building circles, usually as a selling point of a project. A good starting point might be in trying to define just what sustainability means.

When used in relationship to housing, the conversation regarding sustainability is usually a metric one. The Canada Green Building Council utilizes a number of measures and standards to qualify so-called “Green Homes” or “Green Buildings”. They may use “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) standards to rate the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of these so-called green buildings. When someone today says a house is sustainably built, they likely mean its construction was environmentally responsible and that it uses its resources efficiently. For example, were the materials used to build the house recycled? How much energy does the home use? Is there a double flush toilet? These are the kinds of measures commonly used and understood to define sustainability within the housing industry today.

The concept of sustainable development, in general, has broadened significantly over the course of the last 50 years and now includes other sub disciplines like “social sustainability” as a way to better understand its dynamics. Further to this thinking, we would like to suggest another way to measure sustainability in architecture – one that incorporates a social element – one that is experienced based. In short, for a building to be sustainable it has to make people care about it, love it and engage with it, make it precious to them – and that can be achieved by good design.

In our next blog, we will explore examples of this design orientation – in action, in an effort to expand what is currently a metric based system of values and approach to sustainability in architecture. Stay tuned!

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