Version 1: August 2022
Architects have moved the world forward, but all that we have learned will have to change if we are to continue to move the world forward.
Architectural design has a far-reaching impact on our planet, and architects have a moral obligation to cause no harm to our only home—planet Earth. Causing no harm is not a far-off dream achievable in the distant future. It is an actionable desire through imagination and design ingenuity—through sustainable, resilient, equitable buildings based on a circular economy using the tools with which we are already familiar.
Buildings, home to one species on a planet of 8.7 million, should not impede or negate natural systems and should positively impact their natural environment.
Buildings should be able to generate 100% of their energy usage. Any building that cannot generate its own energy harms the planet and its surrounding environment and is likely not to a scale fitting for human occupation.
Considering the entire lifespan and life cycle of a building’s design should be essential to a successful design. A building should have the ability to be repurposed; an architect should have the knowledge and skills to use assemblies and design details that allow a building to be reconfigured for a different use or deconstructed at the end of its useful life into reusable parts. Demolition should remain in history books, and all building materials should have life after a building’s lifespan.
All architects should be able to integrate natural elements into the design, not by sticking a tree on top of a building, but by real integration that allows natural systems to flourish and enhance a design and the surrounding conditions.
There is never a need to use toxic materials in the design and construction of a building. We can do better.
A design must consider the natural hydrological cycle of its site. All buildings should be able to emulate the natural hydrological cycle upon the land where they are situated and recycle and reuse water on site.
Water-ready for drinking (potable) should only be used for human consumption. Process water should never be drinking water.
There should never be impervious ground cover.
Priority should be given to regional materials.
Building methods should always be questioned if there are alternative methods that use less embodied energy and may be appropriate to the climatic needs of a building’s site.
Historical precedent may have to be re-examined for the harm that it has caused to the planet. Architecture schools may have to reconsider what makes a good design. Yesteryear’s architects may be reclassified compared to the harm their designs have done to the environment and the planet.
There is enough vacant or underdeveloped land already available to meet the planet’s population’s needs without destroying the natural habitat which supports our own life on this planet. It just requires rethinking and intelligent design to repurpose what we have already destroyed into productive and positive habitations for humans that can begin to restore the planet’s natural system.
There must be a price for taking from the planet’s natural systems. They can no longer be free. Pollution from any part of the planet affects the entire planet and does not stop at borders. A price has to be paid for the abuse.
The end-user of architectural designs should not have the entire burden of maintaining a sustainable building. It begins at the source, and product manufacturers need to determine the lifecycle of a building product and have a means of taking that product back and recycling it if an end user requests it.
We may have to rethink the entire design industry’s structure. An architect should be part of a building’s life, guiding and designing solutions for its changing environment. A whole different structure of licensing that considers the entire building’s lifecycle.
Building owners should be responsible for any ‘cleanup’ required if a building is not recycled. For example, the cleanup required of a building built in a flood zone (or area of potential sea level rise) and destroyed by a flood, including any environmental cleanup, should be factored in. Insurance should be mandatory to reverse the damage. This will encourage building on appropriate sites, use of non-toxic or environmentally damaging materials, and forethought about the end life of a building from causing unintended harm to the environment.
Change is the status quo. We must redefine growth. We can no longer afford building-as-usual.