#DearArchitect chapter 3: TECHNICAL+TRANSFORMATIONAL
#DearArchitect is an open-letter from Talina Edwards to the architecture/built-environment profession, in response to the #ArchitectsDeclare movement. What started as a call-to-action, ended up being more of a mini-manifesto, so is now presented as four easily digestible chapters.
chapter 3 TECHNICAL+TRANSFORMATIONAL
(*Engineer/Building-Designer/Draftsperson/Builder/Interior-Designer/Student/Educator contributor to our built-environment – this is a letter to all of you)
Is that it?
No, I think these are just the starting point to “stop doing harm”; to have a ’sustainable’ built environment. But the word ‘sustainable’ is no longer necessarily a good thing…we don’t just want to ‘sustain’ the status quo. ‘Sustaining’ is survival mode…but surely we all want to not only survive, but thrive!
To go beyond sustainability, we need to transition towards a more holistically regenerative approach too and understanding each individual building as part of an interconnected whole – as this is the way we start to actually do “more good” by regenerating the earth for a thriving future (instead of just focusing on “less bad” outcomes).
More holistic approaches like the Living Building Challenge (LBC) can be implemented together with the Passive House standard – it is not a matter of choosing one or the other. Passive House is really just a tool to understand the building-envelope, and in my opinion should be our building code standard (like many other places in the world). Then the LBC is a more holistic next step beyond just “net-zero” and energy-efficiency, taking into account much broader ideals and aims to strive for our built environment, in terms of place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity, beauty, etc. There’s a couple of examples we know of that are under construction that are aiming to achieve both Passive House and Living Building Challenge, including John Wardle Architects Lime Stone House in Melbourne-Australia, Green Point project in British Columbia-Canada.
What might be stopping me from doing this?
Good question! You tell me!
Fear of the unknown? Beyond your expertise?
False stories you tell yourself about how you ‘don’t do numbers’ or that this nerdy building-science-stuff is boring/not relevant/hard to understand…?
Acknowledging the resistance is a helpful step in the right direction, and it may also be beneficial to explore where any resistance is coming from.
It could be considered negligent of architects NOT to understand how their buildings perform…but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be become a Building-Science expert any more than you are expected to become a Structural Engineer. You only need to understand the basics, and the design implications, and then you collaborate with a consultant who is passionate about the data (we know a bunch of them!) and will help you integrate solutions to achieve the best outcome.
Will it kill creativity? No! “Applying knowledge, scientific or otherwise, is an art. An artist is somebody who knows what to put where and when to put it”. -Wendell Berry
If you’re a fatalist and believe the end is nigh and there’s nothing anyone can do to help, then you are free to believe that…but what if that’s not the case?
Don’t you want to at least try to make a better future for the next generations? Or do you just give up now?
Any other skills we might need to learn?
Of course science and technology doesn’t have ALL the answers to all the world’s problems. I’m advocating for sound building science as a good base foundation to get right. The pioneers in the Passive House community do love their numbers…but if you dig a bit deeper, there are other characteristics that are inherent which I feel contribute to the success and spread of this way of designing and building.
So, here’s a different strategy to consider: start in the heart.
Humans make decisions based on our feelings and instincts…usually fear or desire.
Our feelings inform our thoughts. And our thoughts inform our behaviour.
If we only speak to the fear and the negative messages of doom and gloom, then we start to shut down and disengage and ignore what is in plain sight.
However, if we consider taking a heart-centred approach, and engage from a place of truth, then our positive energy can be contagious. Deep listening, genuine connections, common goals, and collaboration are key.
Passionate people are inspiring and motivating!
I’m not comfortable with the term eco-warrior. I don’t like the etymology that suggests that this is a battle that needs to be won. I am not here to ‘fight’ climate change. This attitude is part of the problem. I’m choosing to show up because I care about healing nature.
Biophilia is considered a bit of a ‘trend’ at the moment, but I think this is also really fundamental. I don’t mean just filling our interiors with indoor plants (as lovely as they are – and we certainly embrace our indoor jungle in our studio!), but going to the core of what biophilia means:
bio = life (all living things – humans, animals, plants, earth…)
philia = love (kinship, affection, deep friendship)
I’m proud to say “I’m a biophile” as I do love life (don’t you?).
A deeper understanding of this concept is both poetic and profound in its essence.
We are all connected to life on this planet, and if we remember that connection and choose compassion, understanding and love instead of fear, then magic happens. (Footnote: The Path Made Clear – Oprah Winfrey)
Trust life. With trust there is also hope.” (Footnote: The Path Made Clear – Oprah Winfrey p115 Brother David Steindl-Rast)
I’ve learnt that I share the values of an ecological worldview – responsibility, integrity and positive reciprocity. Understanding these values can help us transform to become agents for positive evolution.
(footnote: Designing For Hope, University of Melbourne’s Dr Dominique Hes and University of Pretoria associate professor Chrisna Du Plessis)
I’ve also learnt to embrace a benefit mindset. This means going beyond understanding just what to do, and how to do it – to focusing instead on why to do it. (footnote: Simon Sinek, Start With Why). This mindset is not just about developing yourself for higher levels of achievement, but in developing your strengths towards a more meaningful contribution to a future of greater possibility. (footnote: https://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/05/better-off-with-a-benefit-mindset/ )
Is there another option?
Well, I guess the most ethical/sustainable/responsible development would of course be no development at all. Civilisation has historically been all about power, progress and conquering earth.
Stopping all development doesn’t seem like a plausible option, so let’s rethink how we develop instead.
Read more: #DearArchitect