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Architects and the ‘S’ word: If Sustainable Development is so important, why don’t Architects fully engage with it?

Part 2 Dissertation 2014
Ian Lowe
De Montfort University Leicester UK
Sustainable Development has become a watchword for the 21st century; this is both its strength and its weakness. The vague nature of the concept of sustainability allows all parties to feel invested in the concept without necessarily committing to specifics; but the undefined nature of exactly what it is leads to difficulties in defining strategies to deliver Sustainable Development.

The preconception held by many professionals within the construction industry is that with the broad education and wide ranging knowledge that an Architect possesses, are they not best placed to mediate between the different, and often conflicting, facets of sustainable development? However, in practice it seems to be a case of “business as usual” in the UK’s mainstream construction industry, with resistance and reluctance to change thwarting efforts at each turn.

In considering this, the question must be asked, does the fault lie within the profession? Is it how Architects were and are educated? Or is it wholly external to the profession that we cannot hope to influence? Is it a multifaceted problem with elements from multiple sources, some perhaps that Architects can and should influence within the profession, and others that Architects are perfectly ready to address yet lack either tools or self-determination to exert influence?

The focus of this study is twofold. Firstly, to review exactly what has changed in an Architectural sense, in both academia and practice, since Bruntland’s first definition of Sustainable Development almost 30 years ago; and secondly, to offer a framework and a methodology that could be deployed outside of the pilot studies restricted scope in order to obtain a broader view of the concept of sustainable development and its integration into the professional realm of Architecture.

One thing is clear; Architects acting alone cannot hope to address all of the facets of sustainable development, however, Architects must embrace their role at the apex of the design and construction industry and coordinate efforts throughout building projects; bridging divides and reconciling often radically different needs and demands of clients, construction and the wider communities in which buildings reside.

Ian Lowe

Tutor(s)
Obas John Ebohon
2014
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