Is green architecture worthwhile? : LUSENET : Green & Sustainable Building Design : One Thread

Is green architecture worthwhile? Or are we kidding ourselves?

-- christopher schaffner (, April 30, 2001


I think we'd all agree that the current state of the art in green architecture is still pretty far away from the ideal of sustainability. Some would argue that a fundamental leap is required, that incremental progress is waste of our time, and to fool ourselves into believing that green architecture will save the world does more harm than good. To some extent I agree with this position. The key issues are population growth and consumption. So long as the world's population continues to grow at its present rate we are in trouble. So long as the western world continues to consume at its present rate we are in trouble. Without a change of these two factors, green architecture is not going to save the human race, but rather merely postpone our demise by a few minutes. Recently, I was asked to give sustainable design advice for a 46,000 sf single family home. Anyone who feels they can justify a home of this size as being somehow good for the earth, humankind, etc., is certainly kidding themselves. Designing huge energy efficient buildings is not the answer. Furthermore, many technologies seen as part of green design are perhaps too complicated and too expensive, and end up doing more harm than good. At the same time, we can't simply crawl under a log and stop consuming things. So I think incremental progress is a good thing. I can become politically involved and work for sweeping changes, but the places where I can make the most impact are in my own life, and in the buildings I design. If I design buildings which are more energy efficient, resulting in reduced need for more fossil-fuel power plants, I have done something good. If my buildings have good air quality, and don't make people sick, I have done something worthwhile. If my work allows others to be more productive in their own lives I have made a difference. If my work makes others more aware of environmental issues, and helps to motivate them toward change, I have made a great impact.

So is green architecture worthwhile? Yes.

-- christopher schaffner (, April 30, 2001.

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