Alison Brooks on Architecture and Sustainability
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How do you imagine a future in which sustainability pervades all forms of architecture and design, where it is unquestioned, and the norm?
Future is starting to happen in a lot of cities in Europe and in North America, especially Northern Europe like Denmark and Sweden and Norway and Germany have been at the forefront of sustainable design and architects really since the 1970’s have been doing eco-architecture. More in more in the developed world sustainability is the norm and the field that I work in, in housing and urban regeneration and public buildings in the UK; we have to fulfill so many criteria for sustainability, just as the baseline. The bigger problem is in the developing world; to chive the standards of sustainability is very expensive and there’s going to be a long time through bringing the world’s entire built environment to a base standard of sustainability. It’s a long project but I think in Europe it’s becoming the norm.
In recent years attention turns to green urban regeneration. Do you think that it is imperative for the city or it’s just a new fashion with economic outcomes and covertly interests?
Urban regeneration is essential at this time, not just for improving the way the city looks, but it’s really a fundamental part of improving the economic and the social quality of life for people who are often in the lowest economic circumstances, and who live in sort of deprived environment. A lot of this is the legacy of the post- war reconstruction period, where the sort of urban planning principals were in a big experiment, and a lot of urban failures it back into the city so that became part of a regular number of streets and neighborhoods and communities that are in diverse. That’s what the kind of projects or the estates, built in the post- war period, don’t do. For example, on London today there are many regeneration projects that are really restoring and heeling kind of gaping wounds that were made in the urban fabric in the last 50 years and it’s a really important issue.
Does Architecture as a profession need empowerment? In which ways should this be done?
Definitely architecture as a profession needs empowerment; it should be self- empowering somehow. We have to become better at proving to our clients and to our society that design adds value, like huge economic value and sustainability, beautifully designed, well designed, sustainable, long-lasting, timeless architecture is part of our culture, is part of our society and generally when things are well designed and well made they can come and add more value. So we should communicate the value that we add better, and start to be a little bit more business minded in the way we have to describe the real value that it brings to people’s lives more effectively.
Is the world financial crisis an opportunity for everyone to reconsider the ways that we design and construct the buildings and the urban environment?
The financial crisis is a good wake-up call to a kind of attitude of unlimited possibility in a way; sort of example is Dubai where every building is iconic, everything tries to rival the World Trade Centre, a kind of globalised image of success that is not responsive to the cultures, to the climate, to the societies where these sort of icons and buildings are being built. Now there’s a kid of understanding that we need to just be more responsible as a society and responsible to the environment to subsequent generations. So, for example, building zero carbon buildings is something that completely has to take over things like commercial office building. I don’t think that commercial office buildings at the moment really are anymore near zero carbon sustainable, most of them that are built. And there’s a kind of disconnect between regeneration and public buildings. There are two such of rules that there is a need to be a more powerful voice that makes everybody dancing to the same tune when it comes to environmental responsibility.
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