Architecture will forever be linked to humans; it is part of our cultivation of the earth. And when we cultivate that earth we are driven by market forces, mainstream notions of sustainable architecture and housing are mostly focused on energy efficient measures, as in, ‘in addition to” what an architect/builder conventionally does, not on how people live. In Reinterpreting Sustainable Architecture: The Place of Technology, Guy and Farmer write, “typical are suggestions that if we are to achieve sustainable buildings then architecture should become more ‘objective,’ and ‘until a consensus is attained, the ability of the architectural community to adopt a coherent environmental strategy, across all building types and styles of development, will remain elusive.” 4
Attaining a consensus will take time, but I reckon that an overall environmental strategy will come from the need to increase the earth’s ability to process our pollution and impact rather than only conserving resources (energy efficiency). It will also require humans to be stewards of the earth, propagating nature rather than only being consumers. The choices in the way we live will carry heavy weight in the health of our biosphere, the ecosystems in it, and the well being of humans and non-humans.
The choice of greater ecological health versus hermetically sealed boxes, seems like a simple choice. Make buildings more green, with nature not marketing. More and more of our built environments are becoming hermetically sealed boxes rather than integrating connections between people and the natural environment. Most of these choices are guided by standards to avoid sick building syndrome and create boxes that are energy efficient, due to a mindset of resource scarcity.
Kenneth Framton agrees on such reductionism on our non-place cities/suburbs, where we make spaces and not places, “outside the ‘mass’ engineered somnambulism of the television, we still indulge in the proliferation of roadside kitsch—in the fabricated mirage of ‘somewhere’ made out of billboard facades and token theatrical paraphernalia the fantasmagoria of an escape clause from the landscape of alienation…with ‘newspeak’ overtones, they testify to a fundamental break in our rapport with nature (including our own), they speak of a laying waste that can only find its ultimate end in ourselves.” 5
4. Simon Guy and Graham Farmer, “Re-Interpreting Sustainable Architecture:
The Place of Technology,” in Journal of Architectural Education 54:3, p 140-148.