Literature review: Assessing sustainability in architecture  

A key issue in integrating sustainable design into architecture is few perceive sustainability as a means of innovation and as a new interesting way of designing successful buildings (Van Hinte, Neelen, Vink and Vollaard, 2003). It appears that most perceive it as an expensive add on to tick government regulation boxes. Often design teams do not have a collaborative approach to design and therefore cause problems and badly resolved issues. Sustainability is often one of these issues and it is usually solved with a ground/ air source heat pump and solar panels (Mclennan, 2004). Therefore if sustainability and architecture were not perceived separately this argument would not exist and buildings today would be both beautiful and efficient. Sustainable building can be combined with modern architectural statement.

Mclennan, (2004) asks “What is sustainability other than a poorly used misunderstood word that is hindering itself with misconceptions?” Ingels, (2012) believes too that there is a common misconception about sustainability, that of how much of our current life style are we willing to sacrifice? This common misconception is ingrained into the public mind, a negative view on a positive design change. As Ingels, (2012) agrees stating that sustainability shouldn’t be a moral sacrifice or political dilemma, but similarly to Van Der Ryn, (1996) it has to be a design challenge. A challenge that architects should embrace as an exciting way to solve design issues with the environment in mind. However, “Almost every architectural and engineering firm today claims, to some extent, that it practices sustainable design or at least has done a few ‘green’ buildings, while in reality, most have little true understanding of the subject” (Mclennan, 2004, p. 2).


Mclennan, (2004) considers that “Most of the barriers to a sustainable future are not technological but are fear and ignorance based.” Which may stem from the misconception Ingles, (2012) depicts. Or architects may have become overwhelmed by Van der Ryn’s, (1996) concept that sustainable design is a whole new way of thinking. Mclennan, (2004) agrees saying that, “Sustainable design is expanding the definition of good design.” Explaining that sustainability looks at a wider set of factors compared to traditional design could be another reason why architects have suppressed the subject for so long (Mclennan, 2004). RIBA similarly has identified that sustainable design addresses a wider set of principles, and they are currently working on the green overlay that applies to the plan of work. It is a proposal of a design procedure that works with the current plan of work, as an overlay to make sure that at every step in the design process sustainability has been consulted (Peel 2011). Therefore the green overlay may be seen as a break through as it has established that sustainable design expands and betters traditional design and that also it should be considered throughout the whole design process by all professions involved as something that informs the design. In turn it can erase the fear of a whole new design process and make architects realise that sustainable design is an enhanced process. It might encourage architects to recognise the current environmental social and economical needs mean that architects should be designing with the environment in mind, and that it is achievable for all practices.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s