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.: specials --> christopher sullivan --> notes on conservation in architecture

notes on conservation in architecture

Christopher Sullivan
15 January 2002

In Architecture school, we are taught that lighting, heating and cooling buildings accounts for 38% of the total energy consumption in the US. The percentage rises as we incorporate more electrically-reliant technology into them--mainly computers.

It's very important to remember that we can still serve our desires for thermal comfort at home and at work while reducing our reliance on any fuel source by using sustainable design techniques. To wit, the desire for comfort and the desire for sustainability are not mutually exclusive. But most property-owners (especially owners of very large buildings) are against "greening" their buildings, either with a new project or as a retrofit, because of the large initial investments that are typical of some of the technologies.

However, history has shown that most investments in sustainable technology, specifically those that provide more light or heat to a space, pay for themselves in savings within 4 years. This is typically way under the turnover threshold for any landowner. PLUS, the technologies employed often raise the market value of the property, if well-maintained. Finally, the savings do not stop after the 4-year mark. By incorporating passive heating and cooling into our designs, we could very easily reduce reliance on electricity and fossils for energy.

There are a number of techniques: light shelves, trombe walls, unbroken thermal envelopes and thermal massing etc. There are solutions at a large scale and at the level of the construction detial. However, Architects are either 1. ignorant of these solutions (rare) 2. unwilling to, or unskilled in implementing them (common) 3, facing a client who is unwilling to spend on, or ignorant of, the returns on the investment in these techniques or technologies (usually the case). This begs that Architects learn how to illustrate the advantages of sustainability in design and learn to implement them as second-nature in their design work. It could be as simple as orienting a building in a certain way so the glass side faces south....

Sustainable technology or design strategy exists at a paradigmatic level - that is, it can be modified to fit almost any situation. If Architects aren't paid to be at least marginally creative and professional, then what the hell are they doing? Rhetoric aside, all this is important because the revenue generated by taxing the import of fossil fuels is minimal compared to the money saved by using passive strategies and sustainable design on a large scale - money that could be reinvested by the individual consumer instead of the federeal government, which most will appreciate.

Sustainable design = better quality of life, across the board.

Online resources for sustainability in architecture.

Christopher Sullivan
January 2002
copyright 2002, Christopher Sullivan

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