I joined Arup in 2006 and have developed a small...
It is fashionable these days – in the UK at least – to rubbish green building standards and moan that LEED and BREEAM® are stifling good design. But is all the carping an indication that environmental sustainability is finally – and, at times, painfully - becoming integrated into architecture and engineering?
I believe that green building standards are forcing us to move beyond concept designs of pretty eco-buildings that then degenerate into business-as-usual designs as projects progress. The likes of LEED and BREEAM® are pushing us to engage in the nitty-gritty of designing lower-impact buildings that really will get built and used.
What we’re finding is that this isn’t always an easy process. For a start, green building certification programmes are not perfect. From Australia’s Green Star to Germany's DGNB, every one of the increasing number of accreditation schemes has its own flaws.
That is why certification bodies must accept constructive feedback from people who are using tools such as LEED and BREEAM® day in, day out. They cannot afford to be complacent. They need to revise their standards every few years and ensure that revisions encourage greater environmental innovation, rather than forcing designers down routes that result in buildings no one wants to occupy.
Equally, architects and engineers need to accept that green building standards are here to stay and are powerful precisely because they add rigour to the process. Ask yourself: “Am I blaming a green building standard simply because it is pushing me beyond my comfort zone?”
Architects and engineers used to propose environmentally sound solutions that clients would then abandon in the face of realities of cost and logistics. We now have methodologies for holding onto the ‘green’ stuff all the way through to completion.
Yes, this requires spreadsheets. That’s how we allocate responsibilities and document the process. It also demands that architects and engineers keep green building standards in mind from the outset of a project.
Adopt this tack and architectural visions are not compromised. Do the opposite - try to slap on a ‘green’ accreditation at the end of the design process - and you’ll end up cursing. You’ll find yourself boxed into a corner and you’ll have to accept painful design compromises.
Green building standards are not going to disappear. They will be refined and improved – and we need to push this process forward. The rigour that green standards bring to building design encourages communication and collaboration within design teams and with our clients.