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25 July 2007


Mel Starrs

Great article Phil - thanks for pulling together the arguments here. The fundamental problem with sustainability is the breadth and scope of it - simply focusing on zero carbon or green add-on status symbols is not enough.

Nor are there any 'right' answers - just shades of grey and subjectivity. For instance, is it better to build solid monumental buildings that will last for all time? Or lightweight, flexible buildings that will be redesigned or repurposed in a matter of years? It depends on context. For instance, in some locations, housing should have a short lifetime to keep it as flexible as the demographics demand. However public buildings should probably be of the more permanent type.

Human behaviour and psychology are a massive part of the equation here and in our world of ever increasing specialisms (know anyone who is a specialist in low energy buildings, psychology, economics, politics and devlopment? No, me neither), the key to getting all this right will be communication between parties. The ability to debate and reach concensus on sustainability may be a much greater skill to develop than say, a zero carbon house.

Phil Clark

I particularly like your last point. This is where construction has consistently fallen down, so the challenge is a steep one given how much wider this communication will need to stretch to. Good luck everyone.

Jon Goodbun

There is some interesting material here. Coincidentally I have recently posted a review of a review (!) of Monbiot'd book on http://www.thepolytechnic.org which touched inevitably on some similar questions regarding the whether it is just wrong to expect climate change to be solved through consumer choice, and whether the problems raised amount to a full blown critique of consumerism whether we like it or not.

Regarding the other comments raised above I agree that there is clearly a growing need for a new kind of professional.. an Urban Ecologist perhaps. In terms of training I would imagine this as an extention of architectural training (or what architectural training should be), but including more economics, planning, engineering etc.. a real modern master built environment consultant... rather than reducing the length of architecture courses (as the current thinking seems to be), perhaps the entire professional remit needs to expand into planning, policy, engineering...

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