WHY do sustainable design?

Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions, and this post is one in our series of informative articles about environmental design.

The first (and most important question) is:

WHY do sustainable design?

(We’ll also be covering what, where, when, who, and how…)


This is where we need to take a step back, and look at the BIG picture. I think this quote says it all…

”We have not inherited the earth from our fathers, we have borrowed it from our children.”


So we want our children and grandchildren to live on a planet with fresh air, plentiful supply of clean drinking water, an abundance of wholesome and healthy food, with comfortable living conditions and shelter throughout all the seasons. I talk about this in my Elemental Design Philosophy.

It is now an undisputed fact that climate-change (or global-warming) is happening, and while some politicians and members of the community remain skeptical about the cause, scientists are more certain than ever that human activities are the primary cause for climate change. The burning of coal, oil and gas produces carbon (CO2 or “greenhouse gas”) emissions. So our planet is getting hotter and moister, extreme weather events are going to occur more often, sea levels are rising… which means more flooding and other a greater occurrence of other natural disasters and consequently problems with future food production.  These facts came from the latest research by The Climate Council – follow them to be kept up to date with the latest Australian research.

So how do we help reduce the effects (and speed of) climate-change? Emit less CO2. Use less of earth’s finite resources (coal/gas), use energy from renewable resources (solar/ wind). Use energy more efficiently and use less energy. We all recycle our household waste, we all try to avoid plastic shopping bags, we’re all switching to CFL/LED lights, we might try to use public-transport or ride a bike instead of relying on the car…”It’s good for the environment”… all these little steps do help make a difference, but sometimes we can forget what it all really means and WHY we’re doing it in the first place.

The construction industry has a LOT to answer for in terms of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Figures in the US show that buildings are responsible for almost HALF of all energy consumption (and I’m sure that Australia’s figures aren’t that far behind). See the stats here.

As far as our situation here, “Ecological Footprinting analysis shows that if everyone in the world lived like an Australian (or Victorian) then we would need 4 planets to sustain us”. Clearly that is NOT sustainable. 

So architects, building-designers and all those in the construction industry have a responsibility to ensure that buildings are sensitively designed with sustainability in mind. We will answer more about who, what, when, how next time.

So hope this has helped to answer WHY do sustainable design?

Do you have questions about sustainable design? Please ask away in the comments below!

We’ll aim to answer more questions about sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes, also with reference to our local climate (Regional Ballarat area and Melbourne) in future posts.




1 Comment

  1. Susan Nethercote on March 17, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Very informative as always! I feel a bit guilty after reading that us Aussies use such an incredible amount of energy. But then I feel good about the fact that we spent a fortune yesterday on replacing all the down lights in our house with LED’s. For anyone else interested in doing the same, Beacon lighting just started a 30% off sale this week! Thanks Talina for keeping us on track with what we need to do for our kids :-)