Yesterday was Earth Day. The one day a year when people all gather round, plant trees, pick up trash
that they themselves threw on the ground just the day before and generally get all “green” and junk. Even my son, who is 4, announced to me, when I asked what he did at school, that he saved the world from the litter bugs. I love my boy. He has such a simple and profound way of stating things.
But what I wonder is why is this not a part of our daily routine? I myself try and take a biblical perspective on “saving” the earth. We were put here on earth as stewards, as caretakers. God said for us to “go into the earth and subdue it”. We are meant to be lord and master over all. With this comes great responsibility, with which we have failed miserably in my opinion.
I recently read a tag line for another blog that “sustainability” as a term is dead and now considered redundant in architecture. Meaning that “of course” we’re designing to a higher “green” standard…..But the reality, I think, does not match the sentiment. In generations past there was no choice but to be “green” and “sustainable”. Buildings HAD to last more than a lifetime. Building HAD to be constructed of local materials. Buildings HAD to respond effectively to their surroundings and climate. Buildings HAD to work WITH nature, not against it.
Today, our buildings are disposable. Today, our buildings are lucky to last 50 years. Today our buildings still consume more fossil fuel energy in construction and operation than most any other source. This is a gross failure on our part. If you’re not, at minimum, designing each and every one of your projects in response to site specific conditions, you’ve failed. You’ve failed your client, your project and your community.
Even a strip mall can respond to site specific conditions to take advantage of daylighting, cross breezes, rainwater collection for toilet flushing, etc. These are inexpensive, or even free, ways to allow a building to work with it’s site rather than against it. On top of this we need to add better quality materials and more thoughtful construction detailing. The point is not to make sure water and air stay out, but rather to deal with the certainty that when air and water get in, how do we deal with it.
Buildings used to breathe. Let them breathe again.