Sustainable development: The course assignment Chalmers University of Technology, Tomáš Feistner, 2012/13 First, I needed to explored what Development means and how it works, which rules it follows. Based on basic experience with today's human society I could imagine a character of people's future acting. Development Development is a linear process mainly powered by desire of better life and lifestyle. When mankind was born, it started to adapt it's world to make life more and more comfortable. We developed engines, cures, communication devices to spend energy. When we started using all our goods, we saved a lot of energy and time, but we became dependent on other sources of energy as well. But except energy, we are dependent on all our artificial background we gained by years. Our artificial world is required by society, which is simply used to it. With no background there's no further progress and without progress there can't be more improvement. Everything is connected. Managing Earth - Sustainability However we seem to be independent in our artificial environment, we are still indivisible part of nature. Our spirit still can't get rid of organic body thus it still can't break apart from biological background which our physiological basis is strongly connected with. “Nature” is very complex. Despite of it's assembled of millions of species which behave relatively simple, as a whole it's unbelievably complex and mighty. It can be compared with community of bees, when a collective intelligence is far greater than just summary of simple individuals. Each species isn't perfect but other ones works as it's complementary counterparts. This diversity sustains certain ratios and relations and the universal balance can last for millions of years then. On the other hand, human spirit is in comparison with nature ecosystem very simple. However our brain is the most complex organism developed by nature, it's thoughts, as abstract instance independent on the biological essence, are very basic. It has a logical reason – with it's approximately 10 000 years of evolution these thoughts have been developed for incomparably less time then Earth's ecosystem, which has been lasting for billions of years. With this basic knowledge we gathered force and started doing changes which simplified Earth's complexity in a too rapid way, so ecosystems didn't have a time to “neutralize” our acting anymore. We bravely named this ability “taking over the Earth”. Now, when slight imperfections and lacks appeared, we can slowly notify our mistake. But we act the same as in the history – we're trying to repair ecosystems by our basic knowledge. We know about ten percent of all biological species on our planet, the maybe only complete knowledge we have is about chemistry and physics – the processes and matters which formed our planet billion years ago – and with this we want to save the planet. We act as the children who want to repair their broken bicycle with a tape. Sustainable or development? With speed of our growth and development we've suddenly met the limited ability of our Planet's life-giving processes - we're running out of resources fueling our highly-valued artificial world. Nature is not fast enough to recover what we took and threw out unusable. There is not enough of complementary parts for humankind. “We spend more money than we can earn.” There are usually two ways how to get rid of this problem. Earning more money or decreasing expenses. Either we can continue the way of development, but without decreasing energy requirements for our worldwide community we can't get more energy of nothing. We haven't invented perpetuum mobile. Our only chance is then escaping to the space or crisis which crashes and redefines our society and reassigns values which brings us to different /new?/ life. May the economic crisis help us.
Or, If our knowledge isn't good enough to solve this problem, we can take a different way - Instead of trying to use more resources to power knowledge enhance and sustain growth, we can try saving. It actually doesn't mean only loosing our gathered comfort, loosing our chance to have product of distant countries, possibility to traveling, communicate with other people, go to the office by car and sit in our own warm nook in open space office, partying on Friday night, sitting at home in front of a television and maybe even sitting in a warm room during the wintertime, having a warm shower in the morning. The only way is decreasing energy consumption, but not based on building more passive and active houses and electric cars, but based on decreasing lifestyle requirements, leaving some of our artificial background to become closer to the nature and to start using the most expensive energy again – the human energy. “If you spend more money than you earn, you can't make it better by buying cheaper salmon, you have to eat less of salmon and work more.” For developed society it is very unnatural decision, leaving developing countries not to fulfill their dream about turning into well developed wasteful countries, skipping one of their evolutionary level, and let us forget of any dreamed lifestyle and return back to the nature slightly. Then we have start with changing society, to leave voluntary our gained values, make our life local, work harder, stop wasting. Let us acknowledge that sustainability is a way back. Thus, Sustainability and Development are becoming the opposites. Either we sustain our level of knowledge or we develop it. We can't do both. Development can't be sustained when there are limits. When you hold an explosion, it's not an explosion anymore. Architecture in the age of recession? Architecture is not going to save the world. It is not that profession which could help nature anyway. When it comes to architecture, it's about changing environment, consuming energy, creating values at the expense of other values. Here I will just mention a few rules which are probably reasonable and can be slowly accepted by our society. Anyway, the better we do the more we make society to rearrange values and follow this progress recession. 1/ Do the excellent minimum – do not waste Do only a changes which have to be done, never do more. Acquire wanted by minimum. First, when a client is to come, ask him if he really needs a house and why. Maybe you're going to loose your work, but maybe you're going to be paid for doing nothing. Building a new house should be the last option to do. We are entering the age, when there can be a dozens of unused or abandoned houses just because it's cheaper and simpler to build a new one. The same as with cars or electronics. Times ago, it was usual to live in one house for generations, inheriting the space from parents to children to grandchildren etc. Now, every other generation wants it's new one. Let us respect values which already exist. We shall not just follow a demand set up by market. For instance if we develop electric cars, which can run the clean energy, more people will buy them and more people are gonna drive a longer distance in their cars. It's the same as with transportation within a city. If there are too many cars, we don't improve situation by making more driving lanes. The same with passive houses. If we build passive house, we can make it larger, because it's clean, can't we? 2/ Do It for people At the first point, buildings are to create interior and exterior spaces which have to provide a good environment for lives of their inhabitants. From a sociological point of view, in spite of amazing technology progress, we are doing worse and worse. Our houses can now offer us slightly more of light, a little bit better temperature and much more of luxury and space. But that perfect houses are enclosing us in it's private paradise and dividing us from rest of the people, of our society. We spend more time inside buildings and we try to recompense the lack of interaction by communication on
virtual levels. Our ancestors knew how to design a public space a lot more than us, just because it was very important for them. Maybe the life would be better if we made houses simpler, smaller, and not that luxurious and we focused on the public space and exterior more. Public space is far more important than the private one. 3/ Do it simple Architecture is not a science. People are doing architecture for thousands of years. And the purpose is still the same. To create a space where fundamental processes of our life could take place. Providing basic functions like space, light, privacy and protection against weather influences. During the years, we made some progress in building technology. But the hunt for perfection leads us to doing things more and more difficult. We still have higher and higher requirements for our constructions, but as we're meeting them, new problems always appear. Then it becomes a never ending loop of solving newly generated problems. Sometimes it's better to cut this loop and do a basic solution, although it doesn't meet all requirements well, but bring us a piece of unprecedented elegance. 4/ Learn from history We shall not try to develop something new. Better improving proven systems and methods than bringing a new solution. Every new solution needs ages to be improved and still at the beginning we don't know in what it will turn into. Mankind has always used new ideas massively before figuring out all the consequences. We can always find a historical solution for problems we have, we are not designing the first house ever. 5/ Let nature inspire us Cities and buildings are living organisms. When the building passes the final approval, we leave it, for the building it's like a birth. Natural organisms are able to adapt to given conditions and reflect the changing environment. They can protect themselves against overheating or they can collect residual energies, gather the water from rain and cool themselves by evaporation. Buildings should act the same. Learn about the natural processes and utilize them maximally. But not with a help of some technical systems, but with simple systems inspired by evolution, so building may become independent. The building can open itself during the day and enclose make it's skin heatproof during the night. We don't need to have windows during the night, buildings loose heat through glass layers. We need to cool our buildings by the summer day. It can be easily reached by a natural air flow. In the second part of my work I present example of building technology, which I consider as suitable to the strategy. It’s indifferentialy mounted to It’s location at can’t be uncritically followed or translated for all situations, but can act as an inspiration even for very different constellations.
Post Office Sněžka, Martin Rajniš, 2004 Author’s description: “It’s hard to find a more difficult place for building a house than the peak of Mt. Sněžka. Wind speeds reach up to 250 km/h, winter temperatures hit record freezes, it is the most strictly protected zone of a national park. How to build in such a locality without spending excess money, and create a house that would remain in the minds of the people who visit? This building is a cousin of the storage depots of Amundsen’s or Scott’s polar expeditions, or the houses that you see in Greenland or the Spitzberg Islands. It enters on tiptoes into the national park: it is of wood and glass, standing on delicate metal supports. In the harshest winters it is completely closed off behind interior insulation slabs – shadowboxes – and exterior blinds, which protect it from flying bits of rock and ice. Its outdoor staircase reminds you that you are climbing to the highest point of the Czech lands. An environmentally friendly wooden building, respecting nature, humanity, and the
majesty of the mountains.” Mountain Sněžka is a highest point in Czech Republic. It’s not only a point of extreme height, but it’s very important place for local history. For centuries the highest point had a strong symbolical value connected with setting out territories or relationship with nature. The very top is divided by state border to Polish and Czech part, which means that both nations settled their own “outpost” – mountain hut. These huts, even when owned by private landlords, act an important role of Source: http://www.e-mrak.cz/ representation of each culture. On Czech side, before there was a hut of concrete, bricks and wood. One of the ordinary massproduction objects of late sixties. It’s relation to nature wasn’t well defined too, a lot of toxic material was used for insulation. When It’s lifetime reached end, it was very hard just to disassemble the constructions and transport them down off the mountain. The architect of new one came with his specific style of doing architecture, which he has been developing for years. The plain rectangular volume with a thin staircase tower, all made filigree construction of wooden planks, reinforced by steel cables and filled by glass plates. 1/ Do the excellent minimum – do not waste In comparison with other objects on the top of the hill, this one is quite small and subtle. However, it provides better experience for people who reach the top of the hill. In spite that the construction is a lightweight grid of planks, it can resist the most extreme weather conditions, even when during the winter it’s all covered by large layer of ice. The foundations are made by small concrete footings and it’s the only concrete used. Because the site was partially in a slope, it was flattened by gabion walls, which were shaped small storage under the main shape. 2/ Do It for people The whole roof can be accessed by a spiral staircase and works as a terrace as well, so however the post office is discreet, it heightens the highest place of Czech Republic by about three meters. 3/ Do it simple However in form the post office appears to be very difficult, it’s all based on basic way of woodwork with one size of planks and a few types of joints. 4/ Learn from history Maybe this is not a work which would be the most history-inspired one. But at least there are some archetypal attributes like the way of woodwork, which does not use any modern treatments or joint techniques, and the way in which the whole shape and concept is derived from qualities of wood may be considered as an approach similar to historical ones. 5/ Let nature inspire us The post office acts like a natural organism. It’s skin can fully adapt to given conditions, but not only during the summer, when the planks automatically provide shading, but also during the winter:
There are rotary slats allover all over the walls, which can be closed and additional insulation panels can be added, thus the house is prepared to survive tough conditions of the 1602 meters high mountain. Of course, there are not any “systems” like water or sewage treatment system or improved heating system. But I don’t consider them as necessary while the site is located in this like extreme conditions and unique place. Sources: 1/ Tillman Lyle, John 1994, Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development. John Wiley & Sons (Chapter 2) 2/ Wackernagel, Mathis. The Ecological Footprint: Accounting for a Small Planet. [Video] Prod. Bullfrog Films, 2005. 3/ http://http://www.e-mrak.cz/ Interesting links: 1/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrowth 2/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_development#Criticisms