Pragmatic ecologies:situating sustainable building

Guy, Simon (2010) Pragmatic ecologies:situating sustainable building. Architectural Science Review, 53 (1). pp. 21-28. ISSN 0003-8628

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Debates about sustainable architecture and cities are shaped by different social interests and diverse agendas, based on different interpretations of the environmental challenge and characterized by different pathways, each pointing towards a range of sustainable futures. The related analytical framework of sociotechnical theory presented here responds to the contingent and contextual nature of technological innovation and building design. This analysis recognizes both the contested nature of the sustainability concept and the need to encompass the differing contextual values of the design process across cultures when understanding buildings. In order to more fully understand the heterogeneity of sustainable architecture we therefore have to account for the multiple ways environmental problems are identified, defined, translated, valued and then embodied in built forms through diverse design and development pathways. Exploring debates and mapping practices of sustainable architecture involves tracing the interplay of competing environmental values and practices through the enactment of alternative design logics as they shape the technonatural profiles of green building development. While acknowledging how a technical, performance-based approach to understanding environmental design has brought undoubted benefits in terms of highlighting the issues of energy efficiency in buildings, the article argues that we must fundamentally revise the focus and scope of the debate about sustainable architecture and reconnect issues of appropriate technological change to the social and cultural processes and practices within which a specific design is situated. Drawing upon more critical, interpretative, participative and pragmatic approaches sustainable design would involve researchers both in defining the nature of the environmental challenge while encouraging a wider range of context-specific responses. By exploring sustainable architectures, in the plural, as competing interpretation's of our environmental futures, we can begin to ask new questions, introduce some fresh thinking, and find new 'socially viable' solutions to the mounting challenges associated with climate change.

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Journal Article
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Architectural Science Review
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07 Aug 2015 10:52
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22 Sep 2023 00:25