Sustainable Architecture

Buildings have a long life and, while much of the building’s secondary fabric can be changed and up-graded there are basic aspects such as location/orientation, thermal mass, underslab or encapsulated thermal & acoustic insulation, etc., which cannot be changed or only with much difficulty and expense.  If proper forward-thinking exploration and consideration is given to alternatives and options at the Preliminary and Developed Design stages then long-term economic value can be maintained and enhanced.


During my time in Britain I was involved in re-purposing Victorian buildings which was feasible due to their ‘good bones’.  For the future, ‘good thermal bones’ need to be clearly included as a requirement in today’s Client Design Briefs from the Clients.  As an illustration; good ‘structural bones’ are also needed.


Due to the rapidly increasing understanding of the subtlety of earthquake behaviours the standards for the resilience of built structures are continually improving, even to the extent that what was sufficient yesterday will be insufficient tomorrow.  A building up-graded today to ‘100% of Standard’ will in a decade or so be ‘below standard’.  The same progression of base-line standards will also apply to the passive thermal performance of dwellings, ie., before any heating, cooling or ventilation appliances are considered to moderate the interior environment.


With the exponential growth in climate-change temperatures the ‘thermal bones’ of our housing already need a similar resilience as that for the structure.  If ease of future adaption is given serious consideration in the design stage then the inevitable future thermal alterations that will arise will be more efficient and effective as well as being less costly.  Already a lack of forward and holistic thinking has resulted in over-heating of the new terrace housing developments being built to cater for the densification of suburbs.


The greatest impediment to incorporating ‘Good Thermal Bones’ in a building is the reality that buildings are static objects which are very difficult to alter without varying degrees of demolition.  Society is still at the stage where it is considered better to knock-down and build anew rather than apply some intelligent thought to how the ‘old’ can be incorporated into the ‘future new’.  Felling a mature tree to accommodate the standard layout for medium density housing is a classic example whereby a little intelligent thought could have made the retained tree an asset.

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