EcoPerspective's Blog

Building strong business reputation through environmental credentials

Sustainable buildings – the dress rehearsal

Sitting listening to a conference on green buildings, reminded me that what most people mean by sustainable buildings are buildings  designed to be sustainable not buildings that are actually sustainable.  This is not a criticism of designs, more that the focus needs to shift to looking at how buildings actually perform.

I was at a dress rehearsal at the royal hall for a show recently and even after weeks of preparation things still went wrong, it was only when the performers were actually performing on stage with all the lights and costumes could you see what worked and what didn’t.  And so it is with buildings.

The big question is how can we get actual buildings to be sustainable, fulfilling the aspirations of the design team and clients alike?  This is the elephant in the sustainable building agenda and not many people are really tackling it.  It’s not easy, partly because of the way the whole industry is set up.  Site visits to completed buildings are now the norm but what if design teams knew they would be visiting the building five years later. Or, I am not suggesting this as a workable solution but what if design and construction teams were accountable for a building’s actual performance five years after completion. 

Happily the show went well but not without changes to props and running orders.  We don’t have dress rehearsals for buildings but we do have more and more buildings out there that were designed as low carbon.  We urgently need to have an open and honest look at what really works and what doesn’t, it’s only then can we be sure that when a building is built it has the best possible chances of being sustainable in its lifetime.

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