Monday, January 18, 2010

Sustainable Architecture


I recently toured a home on the Kohala coast under construction and was amazed at the amount of Burmese teak being installed. Moreover how the firm’s website espouses sustainability. I understand that architecture is a service industry and the architect is hired to realize the client’s needs and wishes, however there is also an implicit responsibility in recommending material options. More and more I am seeing architects, especially Hawaiian Architects, market their sustainable approach to design without having a single sustainable project. It is even more egregious when they actively produce work that is as unsustainable as possible.

To be fair, it is difficult to convince clients to incorporate sustainable principles that may sacrifice their level of comfort or increase their budget. I have seen this first hand while working for my previous firm; however the principal in charge of these jobs never really educated the client of the real options and glossed over the benefits. It seemed that he did not want to complicate the process that may have affected his profit margin as it takes a lot more planning, coordination and time to realize sustainability over traditional building methods.

As a LEED AP, I have never had a client opt to register their project for certification, but I make sure to put forth the options for consideration. In most cases, I have been able to incorporate several sustainable elements into the projects without increasing the overall budgets. I feel many principals of sustainable architecture can be introduced as a “best practice” and become part of our standard design approaches.

Sending your junior partner to get his or her LEED certification and adding a page on sustainability to your web site is not a responsible approach to an industry in rapid change. Sustainable architects need to be at the forefront, using their expertise and guidance to do their part in the transition…

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