Architecture, like many professions based within the realm of
social responsibility, is constantly undergoing a process of
self-criticism and reflection, one that looks to build on the
mistakes of the past and create a built form that can be applicable
to today’s standard as well as for generations down the road.
Sustainable design is one of many topics being analyzed.

With the coming of the industrial revolution, buildings became
detached from their immediate environments, using mechanized
systems instead of passive means to keep their inhabitants
comfortable. A vast majority of today’s built environment is
designed to rely on mechanized systems of heating, cooling and
ventilation as well as mass production. The exploding automobile
industry allowed people to live farther and farther from where they
worked, increasing urban and suburban sprawl. The standardization
of building and zoning codes — regardless of where the
building was being built — saw wasteful and inefficient
building methods become the norm.

Often dubbed “green architecture” because of the
balances it shares with the natural environment, sustainable design
seems like a logical ideology: designing built form based upon
climatic and cultural predispositions while reducing or eliminating
harmful environmental impacts such as ozone depletion, global
warming and expanding landfills.

The 1970s, in part due to the oil crisis, saw a rising of public
awareness for the need to build more efficiently, focusing
specifically on energy conservation such as passive solar design.
The movement has continued into the present day but has increased
in scope and intensity, looking at ways to create livable
communities, improve water quality and conservation, research
alternate and reusable materials for building and bolster public
awareness.

Kyle Schertzing, systems manager for the MiSo project, has seen
the benefits that sustainable design can have toward society.
“When you use solar power or renewableenergies for needs, you
reduce the need from large and wasteful power plants. If you
recycle existing building materials which are inherently safe for
the environment, you then eliminate the need to outsource so much
energy from machines and people to get those materials. This is
where sustainability begins to work its way into the whole
picture.” He sees sustainable design as a “smart
investment” in both an environmental and financial sense,
reducing long-term costs to both the natural and fiscal worlds.

The U.S. Green Building Council has adopted a system dubbed
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design to help implement
sustainable methods in all forms of construction through a
universal measurement system. Governmental incentives for research
and implementation of alternate fuels and building methods are also
in place and beginning to gain ground. Schertzing, while he
doesn’t agree with all of the design considerations LEED
proposes, considers it a step in the right direction. “It
starts something that needs to happen in order to enact
change,” he says.

Schertzing describes sustainability as a way of “critical
thinking,” a look at the entire process of construction and
not just the final product. “Sustainability is the ability to
meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of
future generations to meet their own needs,” he says. With
the depletion of natural resources and sprawl expanding across the
nation, the need for a responsible and forward-thinking approach to
design is essential. “When thinking of the overall impact of
what you’re producing does to everything around it now and
forever,” Schertzing comments, “you really begin to
develop your design as a sustaining implementation into
society.”

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